Baron. Physician. Smuggler. Sir Harland Hayward is living a double life as an aristocrat by day and a criminal by night. As a doctor, Harland has the perfect cover to appear in odd places in the dead of night, a cover he uses to his advantage to bring in all sorts of illicit cargo from across the English Channel. He's chosen this life to save his family from financial ruin, but he draws the line at taking advantage of the honest and trustworthy Katherine Wright.
Katherine has returned to Dover to find that her family is working for a mysterious new crime boss. Growing up in a family of smugglers, she knows it's only a matter of time before they are caught—and killed. So, after her brother is shot, she convinces her family to move away and start over. After they honor their last contract, of course. With her injured brother and elderly father unable to work, Katherine reluctantly steps back into the life she had left behind. And straight into the path of the merciless Harland Hayward.
Kelly Bowen is one of AAR's go-to authors for historical romance, and staffers Em Wittmann, Caroline Russomanno, Shannon Dyer and Kristen Donnelly got together to discuss her latest book, A Rogue in the Night.
Em: Hi ladies! I'm excited to talk about Kelly Bowen's latest with you. A bit of background for our readers first - the Devils of Dover series centers around three siblings: Clara, Rose, and Harland, raised by progressive parents to pursue their passions (academia, art, and medicine, respectively) regardless of society’s views. Their lives abruptly change when their parents die, and they discover the fortune they expected to inherit is a figment of their imaginations. Instead, the trio is left with a crippling amount of debt and a foundering shipping concern.
Over the course of the series, Ms. Bowen revealed the hard choices the siblings had to make to restore the family coffers and save the shipping company. Readers know Harland has somehow erased their debt and kept the shipping company afloat (ha!), and Ms. Bowen alluded to his involvement in a smuggling ring based on the Dover coast, but his level of involvement remained a mystery. He's an aristocrat, a doctor... and maybe a smuggler too.
I loved the first book, A Duke in the Night, liked the second, (Last Night With the Earl) but I'm on the fence with this one. I admit to a weakness for beta-heroes - especially only sons who are good to their sisters, so I was predisposed to like Harland. He's a dream, just as I hoped. And so is Katherine Wright, the women he falls in love with. But although I enjoyed the story overall and the principal characters are lovely, I thought the romance (especially in the early stages) was underdeveloped. There's quite a bit going on here - he's a doctor, she's a doctor, he might be a smuggler, she comes from a family of smugglers, they have heaps of personal baggage between them - and I wished the author hadn’t leapt so quickly from the opening sequence (and their first meeting) to their being soul mates. Am I the only one who felt this way?
Caroline: I didn’t see it that way. For me, too many books use artificial emotional obstacles (My parents had a bad marriage! My ex was a tramp!) to keep characters apart and then declare them resolved on an unrealistic timetable. I liked that Katherine and Harland felt connected and had to sort through external obstacles. Bonus for the fact that Harland’s ex WAS a tramp and he didn’t turn into a horrible misogynist over it.
Shannon: I really loved the romance between Harland and Katherine. It was refreshing not to deal with a bunch of unnecessary angst and melodrama. Our leads behaved like adults, and I loved watching them come to terms with their feelings for one another.
Em: Let me clarify - I'm glad they liked each other and that's established from the get-go - I don't like gimmicks either. I had an issue with the how quickly they segued from strangers to soul mates. I didn't think they knew each other well enough to know they were meant for each other quite so soon.
Caroline: I can see that. Harland was all-in pretty quickly (which I like in a hero!) and by the second half of the book, it’s clear Katherine loves him but is resisting only for external reasons, which makes the second half more of an adventure story than a romance. What about that main source of tension - Katherine's issues with nobility and desire to leave the smuggling life?
Shannon: I was 100% behind Katherine's desire to get out of the smuggling life, but I also understand why her father and brother were less than thrilled at the prospect of giving it up. Ms. Bowen did a fantastic job showing both sides of a complex issue.
Kristen: I also liked that Harland was all-in, but that did make me lose patience a bit with Katherine. The balance of dedication came off as... I can't quite find the right word. Like, if she was my friend, I would have sat her down and said, "okay girl, let's make a pros and cons list and get this over with." Am I being too harsh on her?
Em: I don’t think you’re being too harsh – I think perhaps we needed to know more of her backstory sooner so that we could understand WHY SHE WAS INSANE AND DIDN’T FALL MADLY IN LOVE with sexy, sweet, super-hot doc Harland. Girl. He makes you shiver. He’s smart. He likes your family and is an excellent secret keeper. It’s clear she has her reasons – and they’re good ones – but he’s in love with her before he knows anything about her. That’s a problem.
How did you feel about the circumstance that brings these two into regular orbit with one another? King – my current favorite crime lord – asks them to help out on a rescue mission of sorts. He totally steals every scene he’s in, but he also provides opportunity for them to be alone together and, inadvertently, exactly what Katherine needs to heal and fix her future. I thought it was ingenious plotting. Did you?
Shannon: I completely agree with you. Not only was I thrilled to see King again, his presence in the novel served to put Harland and Katherine into an extremely dangerous situation that required them to trust one another completely. That trust felt natural to me, and I'm not sure it could have if the stakes hadn't been quite so high.
Caroline: Yeah, I also found King a scene-stealer. I actually wish that he’d been toned down a bit, because I began falling for him instead of Harland!
Kristen: King is easily the most fascinating character in Ms. Bowen’s repertoire company – as it were – and I seem to always gravitate towards him and also expect his machinations within her works. I won’t go so far as to fall for him, Caroline, but zero shade if you ever did!
I’m giving it a B+. My summary is that I’d recommend this for sure for fans of historical romance in general and Ms. Bowen in particular, and from our chat here, I think you’d all agree. Yes?
Em: This isn't quite the story I expected it to be; I felt like it was less romance and more romantic suspense-ish, and while I think it worked, when I pick up a Bowen book I expect to feel the love. I liked the story, the principals, and the clever ending, but I didn't feel emotionally connected to these two and it's why I can’t go higher than a B for this one. Good, but not great. AND WHEN WILL WE GET KING'S BOOK????!!
Caroline: I loved the meticulous historical detail around smuggling, like goods and techniques. I liked that Katherine felt believable as a heroine who could hold her own in the smuggling world and society both, and that Harland felt like someone who could make a match with her on both levels. The plot held my attention, but I think there were some balance issues and pacing issues around when the plot was focused on the relationship and when it was focused on adventure. I'd give it a B+.
Shannon: It gets an A- from me. The romance made me super happy, and I absolutely adored the smuggling storyline. It reminded me of the historical romances I fell in love with back in the 90s, and I loved every minute I spent with the leads.
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