About a Rogue
I love the premise of this series – an ailing duke suddenly without a successor, the search for potential heirs on a sparse family tree and the challenge to the heirs from the elderly duchess to start acting like ‘duke material’.
In book one of the series, About a Rogue, Maximilian St. James is one of the potential heirs called to Carlyle Castle by the aging Duchess of Carlyle. Two of the three candidates for the next Duke of Carlyle have been located and the Duchess admonishes them to change their ways and start behaving as a future duke should, and she offers to fund their transitions. Max has always lived on the fringes of society, supporting himself through his talent at gambling, but he has been making plans for the past few years to become completely respectable and financially stable. Now, with the funds provided by the Duchess, he is able to act on his plans. He travels to Marslip Hill in Stafforshire where the Tate family owns a very successful pottery manufactory. His plan is to marry the beautiful, dutiful younger Tate daughter Cathy and become a successful businessman. With Cathy in Marslip and Max spending most of his time in London showcasing and selling the wares from Tate’s business, Max figures he can still indulge his roguish side and also enjoy the benefits of financial security.
That’s exactly what Cathy’s sister Bianca is worried about. Cathy, while feeling obligated to abide by her father’s wishes and marry the cousin of a duke, is already in love with the local vicar Mr. Mayne. Bianca is convinced that Max is a scoundrel so when Bianca discovers Cathy’s plan to elope with Mayne, she supports the plan and, the night before Cathy’s marriage to Max, aids in the couple’s elopement. The following morning, in an attempt to placate her furious father, prevent the shares he’d bestowed on Max leaving the family, and head off a suit for breach of promise, Bianca agrees to marry Max instead and the two embark upon a marriage of convenience with Bianca continuing to believe the worst of Max and Max happy to at last be on the path to a secure and lucrative future.
I love a good marriage of convenience story and, for the most part, About a Rogue delivers. Bianca and Max have good chemistry and it is obvious from the start that they share a mutual fascination. Bianca is committed to the family pottery business and works on the dyes and her own designs. Max is equally invested in the business (although it takes a while to convince Bianca of this) and Ms. Linden cleverly uses their working interactions to bring them closer and closer. Bianca has to respect her partner and it’s fun to watch Max work hard to convince her of his worthiness. As a couple, they truly shine. And I liked them as individuals too.
My only problem with the story is that there is an obvious secret Max is hiding from Bianca and it’s not until close to the end that all is revealed and by then it’s a jolt to the plot, and the misunderstanding that results is a bit boring. Max also seems determined to hide some of his roguish past from Bianca – a subplot that is never really resolved. I would have rather seen him admit to his past and have them both move on than have that storyline just fizzle out.
Even with my disappointment over some of the storylines, About a Rogue is an entertaining tale and I look forward to reading the rest of the Desperately Seeking Duke series. Ms. Linden ends About a Rogue with an interesting twist that will lead nicely into book two of the series. I look forward to seeing who the next Duke of Carlyle will be!
Note: the Kindle edition includes a bonus e-novella.