Desert Isle Keeper
One for the Rogue
One for the Rogue is the fourth and final installment in Manda Collins’ Studies In Scandal series, which features a group of four gifted young woman chosen by the enigmatic Celeste Beauchamp to live in her house for a year after her death and perfect their fields of study. This is the story of geologist, Gemma Hastings, the last of the heiresses to remain unmarried, and Lord Cameron Lisle, the man determined to win her heart.
I’ve not read any of the previous books in the series, and I was able to follow the story pretty well, so this one stands reasonably well on its own. However, I wish I’d read the series in order, as it would have helped me understand and appreciate the relationships between the various characters a little better than I was able to by starting with the final book.
Gemma has watched as the other three heiresses have found love and moved out of Beauchamp House, and while she’s glad they’re happy, she’s determined not to give up her field of study to become any man’s wife. Geology is her only love, and she doesn’t see a reason to change that any time soon. Instead, she devotes all her time and attention to trying to find a legendary fossil that’s rumored to be buried somewhere on Beauchamp land. It seems that Celeste Beauchamp, who also happened to be a geologist, found the fossil one day, but reburied it so none of her rivals in the field would steal it and take credit for finding it themselves. Gemma’s sure the fossil is just what she needs to make her name, certain the men who dominate the field won’t take her seriously without it.
Unfortunately, Gemma isn’t the only one looking for the fossil. Celeste tried hard to keep it a secret, but rumors of its existence have been spread around for years, and Gemma knows there are some unscrupulous men who wouldn’t hesitate to claim the fossil as their own. So when Gemma’s brother-in-law, Lord Cameron Lisle, brings a group of his colleagues to Beauchamp House, supposedly to inspect Celeste’s collection of stones and fossils, she is instantly suspicious. She views Cameron as a sort of rival, and she is concerned he might be out to deprive her of the fossil she’s seeking.
Cameron has admired Gemma since he first made her acquaintance several months previously, and he has absolutely no interest in defrauding her. He can’t say the same for his friends, though, and so he decides to team up with Gemma to help her find the fossil and protect it from those who would steal it from her. At first, Gemma is reluctant to accept Cameron’s help, but she soon realizes he is likely to be of some use to her, and the two strike up an uneasy alliance.
When someone does indeed try to steal the fossil shortly after Gemma unearths it, Cameron knows he was right to lend her his assistance, and his position is strengthened when the would-be thief is found dead near Beauchamp House. Suddenly, Gemma is thrust into danger, and Cameron is desperate to protect her, but how can he when the identity of the murderer is unknown?
I was completely charmed by the romance that blossoms between Gemma and Cameron. I loved that Cameron was so willing to see Gemma as his equal and that he never patronizes her, and always has her back. He wants to protect her, not because he doesn’t think she can take care of herself, but because he believes in standing by those who are important to him. Gemma is sometimes needlessly harsh with him, but Ms. Collins does a great job helping the reader understand why she acts the way she does. Plus, once she realizes Cameron really does care about her, her attitude toward him softens quite a bit.
One of the best things about this story is the friendship between the four heiresses. It seems that most of them did not know each other before Celeste summoned them to Beauchamp house, but in the months since their arrival, the women have become fast friends. Each has her own distinct personality, but they complement each other beautifully, and I absolutely loved to watch them interact. At first, I was worried they would view each other as rivals, and I worried the story would be full of all manner of catty behaviors, but this wasn’t the case at all.
If you’re a fan of fake relationship stories, you should definitely plan to pick up One for the Rogue. Gemma and Cameron are forced to pretend they are betrothed for a good part of the book, something that added a bit of extra intrigue to an already delightful reading experience. I couldn’t wait for them to realize that their pretend romance was actually true love.
Now that I’ve read this, I’m eager to go back and read the previous books in the series. If I enjoy them even half as much as I loved this one, I’ll be happy.