Wednesday, January 8, 2014

ARC Review: When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries


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Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

When the Rogue Returns is the second book in Sabrina Jeffries's new series about The Duke's Men, detectives from Manton's Investigation, who, at one point, worked for the Duke of Lyons on a very important mission.

This is Victor Cale's story.

In the first book of the series, Victor discovers that he is related to the Duke of Lyons and his status was elevated overnight: from lowly soldier to noble cousin. It's a transition that hasn't sat well with Victor, who still feels the burden of his past weighing down on his shoulders. He also doesn't like the idleness of his new life and has sought out work at Manton's Investigation. His first assignment: to investigate Sophie Franke, a Belgian immigrant who designs jewelry in Scotland. When he hears about Sophie's background, Victor has a sinking feeling that he knows who this woman is ... intimately.

Ten years ago, Victor Cale was married to Isabella and, while their lives were simple, and they were content. But the theft of some royal jewelry from the shop that both Isa and Victor work at, and the subsequent disappearance and separation of the two, leads to so many doubts and questions for the two of them -- add to this, Isa's sister and brother-in-law have fanned the flames of distrust with their untruths and deception. For ten years, our hero and heroine believed the worst in the other -- but, now, finally, the truth can come out.

I have mixed feelings about this latest instalment from Sabrina Jeffries. On one hand, here are some things that I loved about this book:

1. The characters aren't British and have working class backgrounds.
Victor and Isa are from Belgium and their beginnings are very humble: Isa is the daughter of a clockmaker who has an extraordinary gift for designing jewelry and can create imitation diamonds that can pass off as real. Victor's story is tied to Dom's (first book) and he isn't proud of his past. He hid it from Isa when they were newly-married because he was worried that she might reject him if she knew about his mad father and about his father's terrible deed against the Duke's older brother. Their relationship isn't easy and has an added dimension of struggle: they have no maids or deep pockets to soften their falls. They must rely on their own two hands to make things work.

It's refreshing to see a non-titled hero and heroine searching for the happily-ever-after and, because of their backgrounds, the story's setting isn't in any ballroom or country house -- but in the everyday workplace and their conversations aren't about which party or ball to attend and what to wear -- but of regular day-to-day things.

2. Isa's talent and the trouble it leads to.
It's interesting how one's gift becomes a curse when used for the wrong reasons. All Isa wanted to do was to make beautiful things with the knowledge she had gained from working with her father, but her sister and brother-in-law saw it as a means to a nefarious end and used Isa's goodness and innocence against her.

What amazed me about Isa, though, was how dedicated she was to her craft and how driven she was to succeed in it. It was clear that Isa, in her youth and naiveté, could not handle her relatives but, as the story developed, Isa grew into a very capable and self-sufficient woman.

"I'm beginning to miss the old Isa," he grumbled, "the one who deferred to her husband."

She grew solemn. "I hope not. She was the one who didn't believe in you when she should have. Who didn't stand up for herself."
- loc 1645

3. Truth and Trust
Victor and Isa had to live ten years before being able to confront each other about that once incident that changed all of their lives forever. Isa has always believed that Victor was the villain in this story and Victor has believed that Isa had deceived him all those years. It is a powerful moment when the two of them are finally able to sort through the lies and find the truth -- but, ten years have taken their toll on each other and there is a strain of distrust that still exists between them.

There is tension with each conversation as each one decides whether the other is speaking the truth or not.

"All of it matters!" She grabbed him by the arm. "It's still a thorn in your heart, making you wary of me, making you do things like call your friends without consulting me, and refuse to let me take the diamonds, Because deep down, you're afraid it will happen again -- Jacoba and Gerhart and I destroying your life, fooling you--"
- loc 2917

4. Our hero and heroine's reunion

I really wish the author focused more on this aspect of the story. She built up the longing and resentment very well and I held my breath when I was reading about the confrontation between Isa and Victor. What would they say? What would they do? What happens next?

There was so many things that hadn't been said between Victor and Isa and so much emotion, misplaced and otherwise. I wanted to step into the eye of this particular tempest and see how the hero and heroine would weather through it now that they were finally together.

"...And you're right -- you aren't the same woman. But I'm not the same man, either."

Sadness spread over her face. "No, you're not." She seized his hands as her eyes met his. "There was always a darkness in you, and I accepted that because i knew it came from your service in the war. But you were never hard, as you are now. What happened to make you so hard?"

He stiffened. "My wife deserted me, that's what happened. I was left to pick up the pieces and be accused of--"
- loc 1356

My enjoyment of the book was hampered by the number of "telling" instead of showing in the story: Isa and Victor both say and think that sex between them is phenomenal, but we never see it. The actual scenes feel a bit impersonal and felt like a token gesture rather than something very important between the two. I was actually expecting more from two people who have remained celibate for ten years, especially when they have admitted to themselves (and to the other) how sexually attracted they have remained to each other.

The existence of multiple conflicts took the focus off the love story: I would have loved to see Victor and Isa work through their trust issues now that they have reunited and that would have made a very powerful story ...


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... but the author chose to bring back old villains (Isa's sister and brother-in-law), which muddles Victor and Isa's relationship again. I could not help but feel it was a convenient device to quickly resolve the problem between Victor and Isa since they now have to focus their attention and energies to defeating a common enemy.

I also didn't really like how "talky" this part was (Chapter 21) and lost track of their plan to entrap Gerhart but, when the investigators from Manton finally arrived in Scotland, I also felt a spark of excitement and enjoyed seeing them work together.


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Was I satisfied with how our hero and heroine handled their marital issues? Not really. Did Jeffries resolve the story well? In a sense.

Would I continue reading this series? Yes. While I feel this isn't Jeffries's best work, I see the promise of this series and characters.

When the Rogue Returns is book 2 in Sabrina Jeffries's The Duke's Men series and will be released on January 21, 2014. To find out more about Sabrina Jeffries and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this review copy from Netgalley. Thank you to Sabrina Jeffries and Pocket Books for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review of this newest Jeffries book. I have my copy on pre-order and will have to wait until the end of the month to get it. I love Sabrina's writing and I'm looking forward to this latest endeavor.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Karen!

    Thank you for your comment! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book. It's coming very soon! ^_^

    Have a great day!

    ReplyDelete

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