Source: we received an e-ARC of the book through Edelweiss for review purposes.
It took one book, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, for Ms. MacLean to become one of my favorite Historical Romance writers. It was one of those books that you knew were special after reading the first pages. Then she continued to awe me with her following books to the point of becoming some of my favorite books of the year. Sadly, I’m afraid to say that we have hit a bump in the road, because A Rogue by Any Other Name didn’t work for me as well as her previous novels.
The book opens with the ruin of the Marquess of Bourne, who loses everything but his title in a card game. Ten years later he is richer than he ever was and infamous for owning London’s most exclusive gaming hell. Everyone fears him and he wants revenge, part of his plan is taking back his inheritance, which includes his childhood home, a place that’s now part of Lady Penelope Marbury’s dowry.
Penelope and Bourne used to be best friends, but they haven’t seen each other in over ten years. They know of each other, meaning that he knows that after a humiliating and public broken engagement she never married, and she knows that he owns the gaming hell, but that’s pretty much it. So Bourne, who is blinded by vengeance, decides to compromise Penelope to force her to marry him; and Penelope, who even if she doesn’t admit it to herself has been waiting for him, accepts because even though she wishes for true love, she thinks that the next best thing, and marrying Bourne will be the ultimate adventure. So a relationship that started as a marriage of convenience quickly develops into something more, but vengeance, pain and resentment are huge obstacles to overcome, so the happy ending won’t be easy to obtain.
There’s no denying that Ms. MacLean is a talented writer. Her voice is beautiful and her books are fast-paced and enthralling. Some of that is present in this book. I read it in one day because regardless of the issues I had with it, I wanted to know how it ended. The story is never boring and overall it was an interesting book. However there were many things that bothered me about the book.
First, it lacks a certain magic that was certainly present in her previous books. I think part of the problem was that there was nothing new about the plot. How many books have we read where the hero is a vengeful rake using the heroine to fulfill his personal vendetta, and then in the process finds love and redemption? And how many heroines fall for the rake just to be disappointed when their love doesn’t cure him? One of the reasons I loved her other series was because there was something unique about all of her characters and that was refreshing. There was nothing new here.
Second, the hero was an idiot. Don’t get me wrong, I like mean, vengeful heroes, even if they are assholes. I don’t care about it as long as they have a good reason, Bourne did not have a reason besides his own immaturity and cockiness. Yes, someone took advantage of him and that someone was a villain, fine, but no one forced him to be there, let alone bet his entire legacy. This guy was mad at everyone, even at his best friend, a friend who actually tried to help him, but the only person he should have been angry at was himself. He behaves this way the entire book and never acknowledges that he was in part to blame for what happened. By the time he has a change of heart was too little too late for me, I couldn’t see him as anything but an idiot.
Finally, we have the heroine. I liked her just fine, but why put up with this guy? I get it, she wanted true love and adventure, impossible not to get it since she repeats it over, and over and over again. She was in love with the idea of the hero, with her childhood friend, and since she couldn’t have that, she settled for the new Bourne, this did not endear her to me at all. I liked her, but not enough to save the book.
Having said that, I think the next book is going to be awesome. The secondary characters were way more interesting than the main couple, Penelope’s sister in particular, and Bourne’s gaming hell co-owners in a lesser degree. They all have unique personalities and mysterious pasts, which added to Ms. MacLean talent, should make for great books. Regardless of how I felt about this story, I can’t wait to read what’s next.
Overall it wasn’t a bad book, but it was seriously flawed. I think if you like historical romance and friend-to-lovers stories, then you should give this one a chance, but if this is your first time reading this author I recommend you to start with a different book.
Review by Brie
What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets. . .
A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London's most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.
A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to an unexplored world of pleasures.
Bourne may be a prince of London's illicit underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . .even her heart.
Avon. February 28, 2012