Wicked Designs (The League of Rogues) by Lauren Smith

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The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?
For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.

It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.

Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.

Publisher and Release Date: Samhain Publishing, January 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Maggi

I have to say that an abducted heroine is not a premise that appeals to me because it’s hard to make a story about an abducted heroine a sympathetic work. Especially when the hero, Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, is ruthless and acting purely in his own interests, while the heroine, Emily Parr engenders quite a bit of sympathy for her plight. But I was caught by the quality of Smith’s writing and the compassionate note she injects into the story.

Emily Parr lives in London with her uncle after the death of her parents. He has control of her inheritance and is in debt. Emily learns he intends to marry her off to his obnoxious business partner, but before he can put his dastardly plan into action, Emily is kidnapped by Godric, who wishes to use her as a pawn in his fight with her uncle who has swindled him. Along with his friends, the three other rogues, he carries her away to his country seat. I did wonder why a duke couldn’t appoint the best lawyers at his disposal to fight for him instead.

Keeping Emily captive at his ancestral home, Godric becomes bewitched by the young woman, the likes of which he has never encountered. Feisty Emily fights to keep her dignity and her chastity while being restrained by the four big rogues. She is determined to escape, but she is also aware that she was in a worse place before Godric kidnapped her. Her future is bleak indeed, with her reputation sullied by a duke who doesn’t seem to care. But she gives as good as she gets, challenging them all at every turn.

A duke would have more power than Godric displays at times, especially when he allows his home to be searched. I didn’t get a sense of that, as a duke he had valuable connections and enormous wealth.

Although Emily wishes to have nothing to do with domineering men and plans to outwit them to escape at the earliest opportunity, it becomes harder when she learns more about Godric’s past from the other rogues. Not such a villain after all, Godric has had a lonely and painful past. When forced to come to grips with his own behavior, he reveals a gentle, compassionate side to his nature. But he was also unpredictable and hard to fathom at times.

Emily is resilient, especially in her handling of the other rogues who inhabit the house. A smart woman with a good deal of common sense, she treats the three other rogues like boys at times, despite their size and looming masculinity. I loved how she charms them and brings out the best in them.

While the story was too long and a bit uneven at times, the loves scenes were tastefully done, the villains well drawn and the story ended neatly. The best thing for me was the quality of Lauren Smith’s writing. I will read her again. She is a fresh voice to watch out for.

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