I Loved a Rogue is the final book in Ms Ashe’s Prince Catchers trilogy, and it’s a fabulous end to what has been a very enjoyable series. One of the things I’ve very much appreciated about these books is the way each of them has a different ‘feel’ which is specifically related to the personalities of the three heroines. In the first book, the middle sister, Arabella, is a bit of a romantic who ends up falling for a sea-captain who turns out to be heir to a dukedom. The youngest, Ravenna, is free-spirited and naturally inquisitive, finding her true love at the same time as playing detective to solve a murder at a country house party. And now, we get the eldest sister, Eleanor’s story. She’s always been the quiet one, the well behaved one, the girl most likely to spend her days keeping house for her adoptive father, the local vicar, helping with his sermons and carrying on good works in the parish.
But Eleanor’s shell of outward perfection hides a truly passionate nature, one which has been long repressed; there’s the sense that she’s like a pressure cooker and all that emotion and longing she’s so long buried is about to erupt. ”Quite simply, she wanted an adventure.” Her position as her father’s housekeeper-cum-helpmeet has changed with his recent remarriage as his new wife will, of course, want to assume the reins of the household. So Eleanor can have her adventure – yet the prospect of freedom is as terrifying as it is exciting. Overwhelmed by offers of home and security from her sisters and by their seeming desire to push her into marriage with her new step-brother, Eleanor suddenly announces her intention to take up the quest begun by Arabella to discover the identity of their parents – a quest which, according to a gypsy prophecy, will also see one of them wed to a prince.
Arabella is delighted at Eleanor’s decision, even though Eleanor immediately wonders what on earth made her suggest such a ridiculous idea. But before she can change her mind, Arabella insists that she needs an escort for her journey – and asks the one man Eleanor wants to avoid at all costs.
Taliesin Wolfe, now a successful horse breeder and trader, first came to the vicarage in the Cornish village of St. Petroc when he was a boy of six, and helped with all sorts of odd jobs around the house and grounds. Every autumn, he came with the gypsies who made camp in the woods outside the village and every year he would leave with them in the summer. At first, Eleanor didn’t like the fact that her father made such a fuss of the boy, treating him almost as one of the family and even educating him in the same manner as his adopted daughters. But that all changed one year when Eleanor fell seriously ill, and it was Taliesin whose insistence that she wasn’t a weakling and his belief in her strength of will helped her to recover and to discover her taste for adventure. He taught her to ride and to spread her wings, encouraging her to cast off the trappings of invalidity and seeing – as nobody else did – the daring and bold spirit inside her that was just waiting to break free.
That spirit has never really left Eleanor, although over the intervening years, she has buried it beneath the façade of the perfect vicar’s daughter she presents to the world. She buried both it, and the bitterness she felt when, aged seventeen and following a perfect summer afternoon and a series of increasingly passionate kisses, Taliesin left St. Petroc without a word and broke her heart.
Eleanor and Taliesin have never stopped loving each other, and being in each other’s company again more than a decade later is painful for both of them. Eleanor still feels hurt and betrayed over Taliesin’s sudden and unexplained disappearance, and he knows that for all he has worked hard to make something of himself, his gypsy origins ensure that he is as an unsuitable a mate for a young woman of good breeding now as he was a decade ago.
Yet there is absolutely no question that these people are – pardon the cliché – two halves of the same whole and meant to be together; the relationship Ms Ashe has created between them is utterly compelling. The plot is quite complex and very satisfying, and the author does an excellent job in tying up the loose ends posed in the other books, but the real draw is the love story between Eleanor and Taliesin. I loved the way their backstory was drip-fed throughout the first half of the book, and it’s been a while since I read a romance that is so deeply felt and imbued with such sensuality and longing. Eleanor’s hurt over what she believes to be Taliesin’s desertion is palpable, as is the intensity of the desire he feels for her; the stolen looks, illicit kisses and brief touches between them are as steamy as many a sex scene. Both are strongly written, well-developed characters and it’s clear right from the start that they understand each other in a way that nobody else ever has or will.
Eleanor is tenacious and passionate, yet without Taliesin’s support, she has slipped back into the role of the perfect and demure young lady and is not living the life she is meant to live. Taliesin is a gorgeous hero – sexy-as-sin, intelligent, kind and honourable, a man who has risen above the poor treatment meted out to his kind. Ms. Ashe explores the situation of the Romany gypsies in England at this period in an informative and sensitive manner through his experiences and the mistreatment and distrust with which he is regarded by many.
In addition to a wonderful love story, Ms. Ashe has penned an intriguing sub-plot concerning Eleanor’s search for the truth about her parentage, which contains more than a couple of surprises. If I have a complaint, it’s that this part of the story is squashed into the last twenty percent or so of the book, so it feels a little rushed and a bit over dramatic, but it didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment or overshadow the central romance.
I Loved a Rogue is an enjoyable and well-written story, the true strength of which lies in the exceptionally deep emotional connection between the protagonists. Eleanor and Taliesin’s story is passionate, heart-wrenching and thoroughly satisfying, and I loved every minute of it. The book can be read as a standalone, although it probably helps to have some knowledge of at least the first book as that’s where we learn of the prophecy, but there’s enough information in this one to enable readers new to the trilogy to understand what is going on. I’ve enjoyed all three of the Prince Catchers novels and this one is highly recommended.
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