Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean



Sixteen years ago, Michael, Marquess of Bourne, lost everything to a game of cards. Betrayed by his guardian and stripped of his wealth, name and reputation, Michael retreats to the hells of London and finds his fortune there.

He has never forgotten or forgiven Viscount Langford, the man he lost it all to. And Michael has had one goal in mind all these years: revenge.

Fate throws a wrench in Michael's well-laid plans: the land he sought to regain has transferred hands once again, ironically in another game of cards -- and the new owner of Falconwell happens to be Penelope Marbury.

Penelope doesn't want the additional dowry. She's done with the marriage mart and wants nothing more than to quietly and peacefully sit on the shelf -- but as the eldest daughter of the double Marquess of Needham and Dolby, she knows she has a responsibility towards her sisters.

But fate throws a wrench in the Marbury marriage plans when Michael kidnaps and compromises Penelope --

Needing to protect her family's name and her sisters' reputations, Penelope and Michael agree to the pretense of a love match. It seems harmless and innocent enough in the beginning but, as the charade continues, both Michael and Penelope realize that something inconvenient is growing between them -- are they willing to risk it all for love?

Penelope Marbury is a cross-over character from Sarah MacLean's previous series, Love by Numbers (see Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart) -- I'm glad she finally has her own story.

It's been eight years since she and the Duke of Leighton broke off their engagement and Penelope is still feeling the repercussions of that failed engagement and wary of the whispers that still follow her about her inadequacies. Now her father has gifted her with a burdensome present -- Falconwell has been added to her dowry -- while most girls (like her sister Olivia) would jump at the chance of adding to her "market value," poor Penelope just sees it as confirmation that her character and person aren't enough to entice a man.

She knows her duty to her family and to her sisters and she's willing to play the puppet one last time but the appearance of an old friend changes all that.

Michael wants Falconwell back and the only way he can get it back is by marrying Penelope. He forces Penelope into a compromising situation, leaving himself and her no choice but to marry. He wants a marriage of convenience, of a wife that will give him no trouble; a wife who will stay out of his way while he continues with his plans of revenge --

It grates at Penelope that she can never have the kind of love that the Duke of Leighton has for his duchess; it grates at her even more to pretend to be in love with Michael (and knowing in her heart that she is nothing more than a pawn and necessary means to Michael's end) -- she knows she can never have love with Michael but she's determined to have the next best thing: adventure, excitement and a chance to live a life free of restriction.

I like Penelope. I like that she finally found her voice and the courage to stand up for herself.

"As you care not a bit for my wishes, I have decided to take my own pleasues in hand. As long as I receive invitations to adventure, I shall accept them."
- p. 319

I didn't like Michael's reason for revenge -- he wagered his entire heritage and lost ... and he blames the other player for his own folly? Granted the Viscount Langford really intended to take Bourne's inheritance but, in a game of cards, no one can predict the outcome. Then I found it contrary that he would be in the business of ruining other gentlemen the same way he was ruined. Granted he doesn't gamble, but he is still party to the ruination of other men.

Also, why doesn't he want Penelope calling him Michael? Why does he insist on being called just Bourne and not Lord Bourne?

My one problem with this story is the narrative time -- things seem to happen within hours/days of each other and the changes that happen to our hero and heroine seem too sudden, too abrupt, too convenient and too unbelievable.

She was starting to fall in love with her husband.

The startling realization came as he handed her up into the carriage...

She was falling in love with the part of him that ice-skated, played charades, teased her with wordplay, and smiled at her as though she were the only woman in the world. She was falling in love with the kindness that lurked beneath his exterior.
- p. 287

(Note: They had only just finished playing charades and they went ice skating the day before.)

While this story had flaws, it also had a lot of attractive qualities: the secondary characters are all very interesting: Penelope's two sisters, Philippa and Olivia are interesting and I am curious about Bourne's friends, Cross, Chase, and Temple.

I also loved the letters that P and M exchanged throughout the course of their childhood.

A Rogue by Any Other Name is the first book in Sarah MacLean's new series, The First Rule of Scoundrels.

The second book, One Good Earl Deserves A Lover features Cross and Philippa Marbury and is due out late 2012. (Based on the preview at the end of this book, it promises to be a very, very interesting story.)

Sarah MacLean has a great blog entry on her favorite Historical Romance reads. Click here to read it.

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