Rogue’s Honor is neither a bad book nor a good book – it’s just kind of there. The characters are a little lackluster, and the plot is all over the place. Every time it’s in any danger of becoming truly interesting, it invariably takes a different, duller turn.
Lady Pearl Moreston, daughter of a Duke, is worried that her step-mother will coerce her into marriage. While Pearl has no objection to the married state, she would prefer to wait until her twenty-first birthday has passed so she can inherit one of her father’s small estates. Pearl decides to hide for awhile when her father is out of town. She will disguise herself as a maid in another household, thus avoiding her stepmother’s clutches and learning more about life with the lower classes. When her plan goes awry, she is rescued by Luke St. Clair, the notorious “Saint of Seven Dials.” He’s a Robin Hood-like figure who steals baubles from ton households so he can aid the struggling denizens of Seven Dials.
Pearl learns much about life among the lowly while she’s staying with Luke, but she returns home fairly quickly. Luke worries about her, so he pops up in another guise, that of Lucio di Santo, relative of a mysterious Italian Count. Here is where the plot just starts going all over the map. Luke’s a thief, then he’s not, then he’s looking for gainful employment, and then boom! Luke finds out about his parents’ identity and is in for a major life change. Meanwhile, we have Pearl’s stepmother breathing down her neck and forcing her engagement to another man, and a vengeful relative who is out to get Luke. There’s more, too; Luke’s valet and sometime partner in crime is helping him out but sought by the authorities, and he gets in trouble. Then there are the little misunderstandings between Pearl and Luke (Does he/she really love me, or is he/she just faking it? What did he/she mean by that remark? And so forth). After fumbling their way through many of the plot devices in the kitchen sink (Did I mention there’s a duel and a fake ghost?), Luke and Pearl emerge at the end, victorious, rich, and in love.
When there are this many plot irons in the fire, some of them are bound to work, and Rogue’s Honor has some good moments. As the title suggests, Luke has to do some thinking about just what honor means. He begins the book with a huge chip on his shoulder, and has no qualms about stealing from the wealthy to help the poor. At first I thought he would spend the whole book thinking “poor equals good and deserving, wealthy equals bad.” The people he helps in Seven Dials are all the struggling but worthy penurious type, and he operates on the assumption that all of them have more right to money than the rich do. This can be a difficult position to defend; maybe the people he is stealing from aren’t perfect, but what right does he have to take their stuff? Surprisingly, Luke starts to think about these issues. He even decides to get a real job instead of stealing. Unfortunately, before he really has to think too hard, or make any really difficult choices, he gets to inherit a pile of money, and the plot careens off into no man’s land again.
Most of the time, I neither liked nor disliked these characters. I couldn’t get into the story enough to really have an opinion about them. Like the book they are neither terrible or spectacular – they are okay. My only real problem with them came at the end, when they treated Pearl’s fiancé in a shabby manner. The fiancé wasn’t a bad person, but he was in their way, so both of them treated him horribly. Pearl more or less gets engaged to him on a whim, and proceeds to abuse him because he’s not Luke.
While I won’t give away the secret of Luke’s family, I will say that it didn’t really make sense. We are told early on that his mother was forced to do all kinds of demeaning, difficult work for members of the upper classes, hence Luke’s resentment of the nobility. But when we find out the true identity of Luke’s parents (and let’s face it, you can pretty much see it coming a mile away), it makes no sense that his mother would have been so friendless or at the mercy of an evil userper. Where were her relatives in all of this?
This book is really a classic C – half the time, something engaging is going on and it seems worth reading. Then the plot shifts again and reading it seems like a chore. This might be worth checking out if you’re interested in class issues, reform, and maybe even ethics, because there are some interesting ideas here. But since the characters aren’t terribly compelling and the plot is everywhere at once, I can’t really recommend it. Instead, it would seem a better idea to find an earlier release by Ms Hiatt – we’ve given her last two releases B level grades.