Once she spurned the man…
When the Duke of Lennox hires Sir Brook Derring, England’s best investigator, to find his daughter, Brook intends only to rescue the lady and return to his solitary life. He deals with London’s roughest criminals every day of the week; surely he should be able to endure seeing his first love again—the perfect girl who broke his heart…
Now her life depends on him
Lady Lillian-Anne Lennox has always done her best to live up to her father’s standards of perfection—at the cost of following her heart. When she’s kidnapped and her perfect life is shattered, Lila has another chance. Together, Lila and Brook navigate not only the dark and deadly side of London, but the chasm of pride and prejudice that divides them.
She had to escape. She couldn’t die down here, in the rank dark, alone. She might deserve such a death, but she’d fight it with every last ounce of strength. She’d almost freed her hands by twisting and working the rope against her chafed wrists until it slackened. Her captors hadn’t tied it very tightly, but that was the only mistake they’d made.
Lila had no idea how long she’d been in the dank, cold cellar, but she knew the moment her life went completely astray. The carriage had raced along the dark streets of London, the familiar clip-clop of the horses’ hooves almost like music in her ears. She’d pulled her thick pelisse more tightly around her bare shoulders and rested her dancing slippers on the warm brick at her feet.
All she’d wanted was her cozy bed and a cup of tea. She hadn’t even cared that by leaving her cousin Rose’s betrothal ball early, she risked her father’s wrath in the morning. She’d attended the betrothal tea, the betrothal dinner, and now the betrothal ball. Would that Rose marry and be done with it. It was during that uncharitable line of thinking that she heard John Coachman call out and the carriage slowed.
Lila had parted the curtains in an effort to see what was the matter, but all she’d seen was the swirl of London fog and the amorphous shapes of the outriders moving to stand protectively in front of the carriage door. She’d sighed with impatient annoyance.
“Now wh—?” She’d clamped her mouth shut at the sound of a thump and an unfamiliar man’s voice. The carriage rocked as the horses danced with fear. She waited for John Coachman’s reassuring words and heard only a muffled shout and the pop of what sounded like her father’s rifle.
Her heart pounding in fear, she’d slid one lock into place and was reaching for the other when and a tall, lanky man yanked the door open.
He’d smiled, his thin lips and cheeks stretching over his facial bones. “Hello, Lady Lillian-Anne.”
From there, everything was a blur. She’d been dragged from the carriage, hooded, and pushed against the conveyance, her hands roughly bound. Lila had been so shocked at her mistreatment, she hadn’t even screamed, and then she’d been lifted and tossed over a man’s shoulders. She hadn’t been carried far before she’d heard the squeak and squeal of a door being pried open and the echo of boots on slatted wood floors. Another door and then another and her captor had carried her down a flight of stairs and dropped her on her bottom.
She’d screamed then and scurried backward, only to run up against a pair of hard boots. A voice, much like the one who’d greeted her, hissed in her ear. “Shut yer potato hole. Keep quiet or I stuff my drawers down yer throat. You hear me, Duchess?”
She’d nodded and closed her mouth. She’d pulled her legs in and hunched her shoulders, making herself small, waiting for what seemed an eternity for what was to happen next. Would they rob her? Rape her?
She was not a duchess, only the daughter of one. She had the wild thought that perhaps the men wanted her stepmother, the Duchess of Lennox. But, no. They’d called her Lady Lillian-Anne. They knew who she was. They’d planned the abduction and whatever was to come next.
Lila had shivered, her body shaking uncontrollably with fear and cold. Finally, the man moved away. At his word, the others followed, and she heard their boots on the stairs and then the thud as the door closed.
She’d sat on the hard floor, the small pebbles and rocks digging into her skin through her silk ballgown and the pelisse. She jumped at the creaks and pops of the building settling, fearing each minute sound was the men returning for her. Gradually, she grew accustomed to the sounds but not the smell, never the smell. Something had died down here—many somethings—and with the hood over her face, she could only imagine. Lila envisioned rat corpses responsible for the sharp, sickly fragrance that burned her nostrils. When she began to imagine human bodies, she bit her lip hard to stop the rising panic.
Strange that in the middle of London, all was silent but for her teeth chattering.
They’d stopped chattering now—after too many hours to count. Lila was too numb to feel the cold any longer. The rope around her wrists was all she cared about. She twisted and pulled until finally she managed to squeeze one hand free. She bit her raw lip against the pain of the rough rope sliding against her bare skin. The gloves she’d painstakingly inched off might have protected her bare skin, but they were one more layer between her and freedom.
With a wince, her wrists slid apart, and she exhaled softly, hugging her arms around her chest. Her shoulders throbbed, and the simple act of rotating them in the opposite direction was sheer bliss. She felt for the opening of the hood she wore and quickly tore it off. Charcoal gray replaced the blackness. If the cellar had openings of any kind, she couldn’t spot them in the dark of night. She prayed it was still night and that morning would show her some sort of escape.
And not a stack of rotting bodies.
She had to find a way out. By now her father must have realized she’d been abducted. He would be frantic with worry. Had her captors sent a ransom note? Was that what this was about? Colin would make the duke pay it. Colin and Lila had grown closer since their mother’s death. He wouldn’t allow their father to ignore a ransom note.
If there was a ransom note.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, March 2016
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Caz
I’ve enjoyed the previous entries in Shana Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series (Earls Just Want to Have Fun and The Rogue You Know), and have been looking forward to this, in which the hero is Sir Brook Derring, an important secondary character in the earlier books. Brook is a detective – a most unsuitable profession for the brother of an earl – but even so, he has acquired a fearsome reputation and is widely known – by both the criminal and upper classes – to be the best of the best at what he does.
I Kissed a Rogue opens In Media Res, with our heroine, Lady Lila, having been kidnapped on her way home from a society event and desperately seeking a way to escape. Unfortunately, however, her evening is about to get even worse when she witnesses the murder of a man she later learns is a prominent MP; the murderer isn’t about to leave alive someone who could identify him.
Upon learning of her abduction, Lila’s father, the Duke of Lennox, immediately sends for Brook and charges him with finding his daughter. Brook is simultaneously worried for Lila and annoyed with the duke who, seven years ago, had refused his offer for Lila’s hand and had him more or less thrown out of the house. But Brook is a professional and isn’t about to allow any personal feelings to get in the way of his doing his job. Lila is found, rescued and returned home, but that is not the end of the matter. Brook tells the duke that Lila’s life is in danger because of what she’s seen, that he needs to arrange extra protection for her and, ideally, the whole family needs to leave London.
The duke, however is not convinced the danger is that great, and besides, this Season is Lila’s last chance to find a husband. His young wife – Lila’s stepmother – will certainly not countenance the idea of leaving London at this time, especially not considering her determination to get Lila married off and out of the house for good.
Lennox demands that Brook be the one to guard Lila, but he declines, saying that isn’t what he does, and in any case, his being seen everywhere with an unmarried lady will lead to gossip and damage her reputation. But the duke is a wily old fox; he inveigles Brook into marrying Lila so that he can stay with her without compromising her and promises an easy annulment once the murderer is found and dealt with. For the first few days of his marriage, Brook manages to convince himself it hasn’t happened, staying away from his flat and working hard to discover the identity of the killer. But when Lila’s location is discovered and she is attacked, it’s clear that she can’t remain in London and Brook whisks her away to a tumbledown cottage on one of his family’s country estates.
It’s here that the couple finally has some breathing space in which to address the acrimony that lies between them. Seven years ago when she was in her first season, Lila was the feted beauty of the day, dazzling the men, stealing other débutantes’ suitors, starting and feeding gossip about the girls she didn’t like: she was a prototype Mean Girl. Then in his early twenties, Brook was just one of the many young men who were captivated by her, but even though she flirted with him, she didn’t really think of him as a person, just as one of the long line of young man ready to lay themselves at her feet. When he proposed marriage, she didn’t believe him to be serious and laughed it off, wounding him deeply and then forgetting him almost entirely.
The premise is a mix up of several tropes I generally like; forced/arranged marriage, second-chance romance, and friends-to-lovers – but while those elements work well together, I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I’d hoped to. The pacing around the middle slows considerably and that section is little more than a succession of sex scenes which, while undoubtedly well-written, don’t add much to the development of the characters or the story. Lila and Brook are attractive individuals, but the way Brook insists on holding on to his resentment for so long didn’t sit quite right with me. He’s dashing, handsome and terribly competent, and no matter his insistence that he doesn’t care about Lila, it’s clear through his actions that he does still care, very much. He is understandably bitter over her past treatment of him and treats her badly as a result, which made it difficult for me to completely believe that he was in love with her by the end of the book.
On the other hand, Ms Galen does a terrific job with Lila’s character, especially when it comes to showing how she has matured into a thoughtful, self-aware woman who knows that she is now reaping the seeds sown by her younger, thoughtless self. I really felt for her in the early stages of the book when it was revealed that she was more or less unwelcome in her own home and when she realises how badly she had treated Brook all those years ago.
I enjoyed the book in spite of those reservations and the large numbers of Americanisms that kept popping up (someone in 19th century England would never say “do it, already”, for example, and it’s not “I could care less”, but “I COULDN’T care less”), but I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed overall. However, there’s no question that I Kissed a Rogue is a well-written and very readable story, and I’m sure that fans of this author will enjoy it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shana Galen is the national bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She is a happily married wife and mother of a daughter and a spoiled cat and lives in Houston, Texas.