I Kissed a Rogue
Shana Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series has highlighted many people and places we rarely see in a romance, such as the slums of Seven Dials or the gangs of thieves who know all the tricks to separate a lofty peer of his valuables. Along the way Sir Brook Derring has worked as an investigator, using his knowledge of this underworld to always get his man. But what could drive the son of an earl to spend his days finding lost heirs or solving crimes in the seediest area of London? In I Kissed a Rogue we learn that it’s all because of a woman.
Seven years previously, Brook Derring behaved as a typical second son, finding entertainments with his cronies or in the clubs around town. Attending a ton function out of boredom, Brook is immediately captivated by the sight of Lady Lillian-Anne Pevensy and feels that she is the perfect woman. Pouring all of himself into courting the beauty, Brook’s heart is dealt a devastating blow when his suit is rejected by her father the Duke of Lennox and the lady herself spurns his proposal and dismisses his love and affection for her. Brook, humiliated and angry at the spoiled Lady Lillian-Anne, hardens his heart against love and swears he will never involve himself with any member of the Lennox family again.
In the intervening years, Brook and Lady Lila change dramatically from the young and foolish people they used to be. Brook dedicates himself to working as a detective, creating a reputation for himself as a man who can find anything or anyone and earning a knighthood from the King. Lady Lila became caregiver to her dying mother and watched as her friends among the ton slowly distanced themselves while her marriage prospects withered as each Season passed her by. Now considered unmarriageable by her stepmother, Lila is rarely brought to town by her family which makes it all the more suspect when she is kidnapped and held by men who know exactly who she is. Lila fights against her captors but an escape from the men is thwarted just after she witnesses their leader murder a man in cold blood.
Sir Brook is pressed into service to save Lady Lila but takes no joy in getting involved with her in any capacity. Once she is safe he will sever all ties again and go on with his life as if this episode had never happened. However Lila’s knowledge of the murder puts a big target on her back which her father cannot let stand, but nor will he allow it to inconvenience his family. Using his influence with King George, the duke forces Brook to marry Lila, compelling him to protect her until the danger has passed and promising the two of them an annulment once she is safe. Having no choice in the matter, Brook intends to ignore his new wife while he works to quickly find her kidnapper and put an end to their charade of a marriage.
When the kidnappers find Lady Lila, Brook knows that they both must remove themselves from London immediately. Hiding out in a crofter’s hut on his family’s land puts the couple in close proximity and reopens many old wounds that had been scabbed over with bitterness or regrets. It is during this shared time together that they slowly reveal the people they have become since their last fateful meeting. The small sense of peace that they gain, even with the danger still looming in the background, allows Lila to rediscover the good man she let go due to her vanity while Brook unveils a passionate woman hidden under a cautious demeanor.
Brook and Lila’s road to romance is pretty rocky but I could have looked past that if I’d believed all the snipes and pettiness were leading towards real healing. Unfortunately Brook holds such a lot of resentment towards Lila that it poisons how I perceived both his character and his rekindled affection for her. He stays angry for too long and goes out of his way to hurt her or take advantage of her own feelings to punish her. Their relationship is just about saved by Lila’s growing awareness as to how much she had affected Brook by her casual dismissal years ago and her feelings for him now. Lila has changed greatly from the “Mean Girl” who played with a young man’s feelings for amusement and I felt deeply for her as she gave her heart freely to a man who could just as easily destroy it.
The mystery of Lila’s abduction unfolds in a fairly straightforward manner and is resolved nice and neatly – if a bit improbably. I enjoyed how the storyline brought back cues from the earlier books to heighten the danger for Lila and Brook while on the run. The murderer Beezle had threatened the previous couples and knowing he had the means to truly hurt Lila or Brook made their escape important and not just an excuse to seclude the main characters simply to get them talking.
I missed the humor that was woven into the drama of the previous two stories. Ms. Galen’s books usually have a lighter tone to offset the dangers her characters face, but here that is replaced with long scenes of lovemaking. As bad as it sounds, I started skimming the bedroom scenes just to get back to the conversations between Lila and Brook. I guess Brook’s seduction of Lila is one way to show his that his feelings for her are changing, but I would have preferred something that showed his real forgiveness of Lila’s mistakes.
I Kissed a Rogue was entertaining, but Brook’s transition from anger to love wasn’t convincing enough for me. Lila did more of the heavy lifting emotionally which is a disappointment as I prefer to read relationships in which love is given wholeheartedly and without condition. Overall the book serves as a good conclusion to a series that made a point of highlighting romances that require more than just a simple “I Love You” to create a Happy Ever After.