A Rogue by Any Other Name, by Sarah MacLean

maclean

Title: A Rogue by Any Other Name: The First Rule of Scoundrels

Author: MacLean, Sarah (Author’s Website)

Genre: Romance, Regency Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Bibliographic: Avon Romance, 400 pages, Hardcover/Large Print $30.99 List Price, Mass Market Paperback $7.99 List Price, Ebook $7.99 List Price, Audiobook $24.99 List Price, ISBNs 9780062065384, 9781410449474 , 9780062068521

Publication Date: February 28, 2012

Rating: ★★★☆☆/♥♥♥♡♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Steamy, engaging

Why I picked it up: I used to belong to a surprise book subscription box, and this came in a shipment whose theme was reading outside of your comfort zone. It was my first romance novel, and it got me absolutely hooked.

S.I.A.S.:  Is the love of his childhood friend enough to save the tortured Maruqess of Bourne?

Summary: Nine years ago, the Marquess of Bourne lost his entire fortune — everything that wasn’t entailed — on one bad hand of cards, to Lord Langford, the man who took him in and helped raise him after his parents died. Since then, he’s given up gambling, rebuilt his fortune ten times over, and become a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell. All the while, he’s been focusing on revenge, waiting for the opportunity to win everything back and to destroy Langford’s life. As the novel opens, Bourne discovers that he finally has the chance to get his land back: Langford has gambled it away to his next-door neighbor, the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, who has in turn attached it to his spinster daughter Penelope’s dowry.

Meanwhile, Penelope Marbury is twenty-eight years old and unmarried, after a broken engagement eight years ago. She has turned down several offers of marriage since then, but something in her has been waiting for more than a marriage of convenience. When Bourne compromises her reputation, she agrees to marry him — but insists that they pretend to have married for love, so as not to ruin her younger sisters’ chances of marrying well.

Since this is a romance novel, you get your HEA, but I’m not going to spoil how they get there.

Evaluation:  This book is well-written — I wouldn’t go so far as to call the prose lyrical, but it is highly functional and gets the point across without too many of the awkward euphemisms you sometimes see in romance novels. The plot is compelling; even though you know the book will end happily, the author has done a good job of creating suspense about how it will get there.

The characters were fairly well-developed. Penelope is very well fleshed-out and sympathetic, which is contrast from the way she was shown as a minor character in Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart — in that book, she is described only as being plain and dull. Here, she is still plain and timid and a little dull at the beginning, but you can very easily see why she is the way she is, and her character development feels believable.

Bourne is a fairly typical hero and has a fairly stark moment of transformation, where he realizes abruptly that he  loves Penelope and doesn’t care about revenge — it’s a bit awkward, given how single-minded he was for the rest of the novel, but because of the genre the reader isn’t taken by surprise, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call it unbelievable.

The one thing this book does exceptionally well is set up the minor characters — this is the first in a series, and the hero and heroine of the second book (Penelope’s sister Pippa and Bourne’s business partner Cross) are developed well, and when they meet each other in the epilogue it does make you want to read the second book (at least it did for me).

While this book does have enough sex that I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending it to people who want clean stories, it isn’t quite steamy.  The amorous moments are all relevant to the plot, and you never feel like you’re reading smut for the sake of smut.

Significance: A Rogue by Any Other Name is significant primarily because of where it falls in relation to Sarah MacLean’s other works — Penelope, the heroine of this book, is a minor character in MacLean’s Scandal by Number series, and all of the heroes (and all but one of the heroines) for the rest of the Rules of Scoundrels series are introduced here.

Readalikes: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean, And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake by Elizabeth Boyle, To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Throughout the time they were separated, Penelope continued to write letters to Michael, even those she never signed and clearly never intended to send. Do you think this shows that she was waiting to marry him, specifically? Do you think she would have continued writing had the Duke of Leighton never broken their engagement?
  2. At the beginning of the novel, Penelope has made peace with her spinsterhood. Is this, in itself, a radical act? Does it show that Penelope is perhaps made of sterner stuff than we are initially led to believe?
  3. A Rogue by Any Other Name contains several classical allusions — two to Shakespeare, plus the title, and one to the Odyssey. Do you think that the high number of classical allusions in romance novels can be  a way to raise the perception of the genre in general public perception? Does the public’s opinion of romance novels matter, or have any bearing on their individual value?

Lists and Awards:  RITA Award for Best Historical Romance 2013

Reviews: Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Publishers Weekly. Booklist.

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