Any Rogue Will Do
I saw Any Rogue Will Do on a “Best of 2020” list and picked it up right away. I’m so glad I did! This début novel by Bethany Bennett has everything regency fans love – wit, drama, loveable characters, steam, and romance all in an entertaining story.
Lady Charlotte Wentworth’s first London Season seven years earlier was a disaster. An unsuccessful suitor called her the “Paper Doll Princess” and the ton embraced the nickname, all but branding it on her forehead. In the years following, she lost her mother and brother and had to take over the running of the family estate when her father was overcome by grief. Now her father has decided it is time for Charlotte (Lottie) to pass the reins of the estate back to his care and marry. He has picked out the perfect spouse, one Mr. Montague, the youngest son of the Earl of Danby. But Lottie would prefer her independence. Her parents’ love match was so intense that it excluded their children from their love, and she’d rather stay single and manage one of her father’s smaller estates. So they make a deal – Lottie has until the House of Lords convenes in a few months to find her own suitable husband. Otherwise, it will be Montague. Lottie plans to use her time in London to find a spouse who will be content for them to live separate lives – she on her estate and him in London financed by her dowry.
Ethan Ridley is the rejected suitor who gave Lottie that cruel nickname. Seven years before, he unexpectedly inherited a viscountcy, and went from living in Scotland as the owner of a successful sheep farm to living in London as Lord Amesbury. The transition was a disaster; the young Ethan filled his time drinking and gambling, and was met with snobbery by the ton. He developed a tendre for Lady Charlotte and decided to offer for her, but her father rudely dismissed him, causing the young Ethan to get drunk and come up with the new moniker for Lady Charlotte. Seven years later, he is still trying to make amends with his friends for his earlier stupidity and callousness and he is trying to save his mismanaged estate.
On her journey to London, Lottie finds herself staying at the same inn as Ethan and his best friend Lord Carlyle. He takes this opportunity to finally apologize to her, and she is somewhat taken aback by his sincerity – she has considered him her enemy for the past seven years and is surprised to find him somewhat likeable (and still so appealing to her). Lottie had hoped seven years was long enough for the “Paper Doll Princess” gossip to be forgotten but it is quickly resurrected when both she and Ethan arrive in London. They decide to dilute the scandal by presenting themselves as good friends. It doesn’t work – especially since Mr. Montague (anxious to get his hands on Lottie and her dowry) decides to fan the flames of that scandal and press his suit with Lottie. When Montague becomes a threat to her, Ethan finds he can finally repay his debt to her by helping her thwart Montague.
Ethan is a refreshing hero, an all-around good guy who doesn’t let the rules of the ton decide his actions. He sees Lottie as his equal and is delighted by her intellect and sense of humor. Lottie is willing to play society’s games but only to get what she wants. She’s got a dream of independence and is determined to have her way but is not one of those ‘my way or the highway heroines’. She considers all angles of her dilemma and is aware of how her actions impact others. Her struggle against the troublesome attraction to Ethan is delightful to read:
If only Amesbury favored the usual perfumes or bottled tonics, or smelled of rotten onions with a trace of dock water. Instead, he smelled like a man who bathed, then gave no further thought to his appearance. It reminded her of fresh air, leather, and an underlying warmth she couldn’t place. Now her heart pounded for a different reason.
The one thing her old suitor-turned-nemesis did well was confuse her. He always had.
Some things didn’t change, even after seven years. Lottie exhaled his essence, pushing that tangle of emotions from her body. A man she hated so thoroughly shouldn’t smell so comforting.
Ethan and Lottie share a terrific attraction; they have CHEMISTRY! And their physical relationship is beautifully penned. Lately it feels like love scenes are all scripted the same way – they kiss, he goes south, she enjoys her first “petit mort”, they make love and we’re done. Ms. Bennett gets a little more creative and her love scenes are steamy and witty – a satisfying combination! She also puts a fresh spin on the typical tropes by quickly turning an enemies-to-lovers romance into a second-chance romance with a dramatic twist.
This is the first book in the series (Misfits of Mayfair) and I am looking forward to book two (due out this spring) featuring Lord Carlyle who is perfectly set up to be an intriguing hero. Everything about this book is well done and I’m delighted to be able to recommend it to you!