Love is a Rogue
Over the past few years, I’ve found myself reading fewer historical romances, compared to a growing love of paranormal/fantasy series. So it was refreshing to pick up Love Is a Rogue for review and escape back to England for a few days. This book is the start of Bell’s new Wallflowers vs Rogues series, and while the contrast between the wallflower’s innocence and the rogue’s… well, roguishness…is a bit overdone, overall the book is a classic historical romance romp that fans of the genre should enjoy.
Lady Beatrice Bentley is the daughter and sister of a duke, which allows for certain quirks. Born with palsy of the facial nerves, Beatrice can’t summon the full dazzling smile that most debutantes sport. She also has some unique interests, which include reading extensively, and writing an etymological dictionary. While her mother is determined to get Beatrice married off in spite of these idiosyncracies, Beatrice is desperate to work on her dictionary. So the two strike a deal. Beatrice will spend a summer alone at the family estate to work on her projects, and when she returns for the Season she will put a real effort into finding a husband.
Unfortunately for poor Beatrice, the country estate does not prove as quiet as she’d hoped. Rather, a carpenter named Stamford Wright is working with his team on renovations to the manor, so she’s constantly distracted by the noise of construction… and the fine-looking carpenter himself. A few run-ins with Ford shake Beatrice up and out of her dreary everyday life. When provoked by him, she finds herself making the bold statement that finding new words for her dictionary is better than kissing, but then spends her whole journey back to London wondering if that is actually true.
For his part, Ford is sad to see the lovely Lady Beatrice go, but knows it’s for the best. He has enough on his plate preparing to return to the Navy after his work on the manor is finished. Before that can happen, though, Ford needs to get in contact with Beatrice’s brother, to alert the duke that his steward may be embezzling from him. This particular errand sees Ford following Beatrice to London, and even running into her at the duke’s townhouse. There the two find that their attraction has not lessened in the slightest.
While Beatrice doesn’t know why Ford needs to see her brother, she does find it convenient that he’s come to town. Not only does she enjoy spending time with this interesting and vexing man, but his carpentry skills are a blessing for a new project she’s working on. In between all of the balls her mother has dragged her to, Beatrice has discovered that she inherited a London bookshop from her black-sheep aunt. She hires Ford to renovate the shop, which has fallen into disrepair, and begins to sneak off regularly in the afternoon to oversee his work (and test her theories on how kisses compare to etymology). As the two fall in love, there are a few more twists and turns in store related to Ford’s family and Beatrice’s plans for her future.
There are many things I enjoyed about this book. The characters are endearing, and I found the whole plotline of Beatrice’s bookshop by turns amusing and empowering. While there is some scandal related to the shop and its former owner, in the end Beatrice is able to view it as an opportunity for her to determine her own future, rather than being bound by familial expectations. I especially enjoyed Ford’s character. While painted at a rogue, he is truly a steady man and not one to push an innocent spinster into a romance that she’s not ready for.
However, there are a few things which come off as overly sweet or simplistic, the first of which is Beatrice herself. She’s incredibly innocent at the start of the book, both in terms of relationships as well as general worldly knowledge. She believes the etymological dictionary she’s working on will be successful when published, and is surprised when her friends and Ford tell her they don’t expect it to be a best-seller. Although she’s a fun heroine, and definitely displays growth over the course of the book, it felt as though it was too easy for her to make big decisions after leading such a sheltered life. Similarly, the resolution of a villainous plot at the end went more smoothly than I expected, leaving me a little dissatisfied as I waited for the other shoe to drop.
All that said, though, Love Is a Rogue really is a fun historical romance. With engaging characters and a well-paced plot full of hijinks and drama, it’s a solid start to Bell’s new series.