Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review: The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen


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Lady Susanna Derring is suffocating under her mother's hovering, and she longs to break free of the strictures of society. Because of her brother's scandalous marriage, Susanna is now being pressured to marry and marry well in order to restore her family's reputation in society -- but, invitations have been scarce, and Susanna's mother is more and more desperate for Susanna to find a good match: to the point of micro-managing her daughter's life.

Gideon Harrow is tired of the life he leads and wants out, but the price of his release from London's underworld is a necklace, which Gideon successfully steals -- only to lose control of it to Susanna. Gideon needs Susanna to return the necklace, and Susanna needs Gideon to help her see more of the world.

An agreement is struck, and the two embark on an adventure to Vauxhall Gardens, which sounds safe and fashionable enough -- except that it happens in the middle of the night, and with neither our hero or heroine possessing funds or resources to get them to their destination.

Fellow readers who follow Shana Galen on Facebook know that she has a soft spot for Disney's Tangled, and she has finally adapted themes from the movie to a historical romance novel. Like the movie, Susanne and Gideon encounter danger and hijinks -- and conquer every obstacle with a mix of head, heart and a lot of laughter -- it helps as well that Gideon has the gift of a silver tongue, and Susanna is charming in her naivete.

I love the idea of the heroine venturing outside of her safe and comfortable world to discover the world beyond -- I think there is always a disparity between the dream and reality, and it's always interesting to see how characters come to terms with the wide gap. But, in Susanna's case, while she does experience the difference, I thought it was nice that she was still able to walk away from the adventure with her idealism and optimism intact.

Which are two things that Gideon lacks in his life: Gideon is the epitome of what truly happens in the outside world -- where he's had to fight for every scrap and space, and where safety and stability are luxuries he cannot afford. Our hero is tired of being constantly watchful, and he wants to experience a different kind of life.

But how do you connect these two very unlikely paths? How does a thief end up loving and marrying the sister of an earl? It's difficult, but not impossible -- but, where Marlowe gets a Cinderella moment (where she discovers she is the daughter of a marquess), there's, sadly, no such magic for Gideon -- it raises a challenge for our heroine, whose family is already tainted by her older brother's marriage to Marlowe, a former thief. Would she sacrifice her family for the sake of her personal happiness?

What I thought was missing from this novel is deeper characterization: the author does a good job of presenting Susanna's motivations for "escaping" at the start of the novel, but her personality is limited to that moment. Yes, she's determined to see Vauxhall Gardens, and, yes, she doesn't really have a sense of what truly happens outside of her home and the ballroom -- but, that's about it. The same is true for Gideon -- in truth, I thought he was more interesting and more nuanced in Marlowe's story than his own.

I also didn't like the scene in the tavern (read: Chapter 4), which felt too similar to a scene in Tangled. Granted it's an important scene in the movie and in this book, because it show's that Susanna is a force of goodness, and she's able to draw people in because of her freshness -- I just wished the author found another way to do it.

Shana Galen's dialogue is amazing, though -- and she captures, perfectly, the difference between how Gideon's mind works and how Susanna thinks -- the banter is witty and funny, and also very sweet.

"How much farther to your conveyance?" she asked.

"What?"

Her head jerked up. No way could she see anything in the dark, but she had her left foot raised for inspection. "Hasn't anyone ever told you it is rude to answer what? The correct phrase is either pardon or excuse me."

...

"Listen, Strawberry." He bent close to her pretty face and those large brown eyes. "I don't give a damn about your rules. I'm in this for the goddamn necklace, not your lessons on ... deportment."

Her body flinched in surprise. He had a few surprises left.

"Your language is deplorable. I must assume since you know words like deportment, you use profanities intentionally."

"Assume whatever the hell you want."

She made a sound of complete and utter disgust. He knew the feeling. "Take me to the conveyance. I want this night over forthwith."

God save him.

"I don't forthwith have a conveyance."

"What?"

He smirked. "You mean pardon?"
- page 57 - 58

The Rogue You Know is Book 2 in Shana Galen's Covent Garden Cubs series. To find out more about Shana Galen and her books, click below:

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