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The last we saw Roane Grantham, he had willingly surrendered to the Earl of Radford (his own brother in-law) and was on his way to the penal colonies in Australia. Roane is back and ready to start over, but, first, he must locate the stash of gold that he and his friend, James Gladstone, buried many years before. He isn't the first person searching for the treasure: when he arrives at the location, he finds a young woman with a hundred holes dug up around her already.
When her brother was alive, Helen never gave a second thought to his story of buried treasure, but desperate times call for desperate measures and she is desperate enough not only to believe the story, but also desperate enough to go digging for it. With her brother's death, and her second brother's own dissipation, it falls unto Helen to come up with a solution to their financial problems.
When I found out this was another journey story, I was a bit worried. I'm not fond of the trope because of all the traveling and stopping at inns and such, but, Leigh LaValle's The Rogue Returns has opened my heart up a little bit. The story begins with the hero and heroine finding the X and the treasure chest -- but the treasure isn't there! Helen's brother (and Roane's friend) moved sixteen thousand pounds-worth of gold without them knowing it, and all he left behind was a cryptic poem telling where he buried it.
I loved the poem that LaValle wrote and thought it foreshadowed the relationship that would result from Helen and Roane searching for the treasure together. Did James intend for his sister and Roane to go off on an adventure and find the treasure together? I know it is not possible because of Roane's incarceration, but the romantic in me likes to think that the treasure is both literal (sixteen thousand pounds in gold) and figurative (love!).
For that, there's this, a game to end and begin
You, a new start, me, a laugh, and all of us a sin.
You will find the end of your rainbow, that I do swear
And mine as well, for my kin, but I will not say where.
- loc 379
Character growth is very clear in this story, especially in Helen's case. She started out as a bit of a spoiled London lady, cringing at the idea of sleeping in a cave or riding wearing inappropriate attire. But Helen is not a one-note character: from the very first chapter, we see that this is a lady who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. She single-handedly found the treasure site and had been digging, albeit unsuccessfully, for the treasure. It's so easy to hate her and her behaviour in the early part of the book gives us a reason to: when she starts complaining about her lack of dresses and her insistence on keeping her reticule -- but I feel sorry for her instead.
It's a heartbreaking side to Helen's character and story, because she's clearly used to more comfortable circumstances but she has fallen from her stellar position and is reduced to following her brother's tale about treasure and hoping, hoping that it would be true. It is not her job to save the family, but, if she doesn't, then who will?
"And who shall keep me safe in Cromford? The servants who abandoned me for fear they'd never be paid? Or shall I return to London, and the ruffians stalking my front door? Oh no," she held up her hand, "of course, my brother Harry shall keep me safe. Harry, who looks for every answer in a bottle. Indeed, it has been some time since I have been safe. I think I shall take my chances and protect my half of the gold."
- loc 214
Roane is an unusual hero. We've read about convicts being shipped off to Australia and we never hear about them again, but Roane has returned to England -- scarred and changed. His body contains the story of the past three years -- the hard labor and difficult circumstances that he was in while serving time. He's brooding and mysterious, but Roane is innately kind and it shows in how he deals with Helen. There's also a bit of reflection in having an ex-convict be the hero of the story. In Roane's case, he was not wrongfully-accused and innocent all along. He truly did the crime he was convicted of and actually voluntarily surrendered himself for his sister's sake. What I like about Roane is that his change was not a result of falling in love with Helen -- he had made the choice to live his life differently even before he met her, and this was the reason why he has returned to England and is seeking out the treasure. He needs the money to start his new life.
LaValle planned, wrote and paced this story so well. I actually lost track of time reading about Roane and Helen and enjoyed their interaction. I was worried when they were getting closer and closer to finding the treasure, because I didn't want their journey to end! They were learning so much of each other and of themselves and I wondered how they would be when they find the treasure and returned to their normal lives.
Their parting was inevitable. They were from different worlds, had different futures ahead of them. He wanted to build a life for himself in the hills, to breed and train horses and ride carefree across the sunlit meadows.
- loc 3050
When I finished reading this, I really wanted to read more of Leigh LaValle, so I downloaded The Misbehaving Marquess and will be reading it soon!
My one small, small complaint? Pallet is the small bed. Palate is what's inside your mouth. ^_^
To find out more about Leigh LaValle, click below:
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the author. Yes, this is an honest review.
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Leigh LaValle's The Misbehaving Marquess is book 1.5 in the Naughty in Nottinghamshire series and is FREE!
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