Those who have missed Regency trads may well embrace Julia Justiss’s latest novel. While a slight touch more sensual than many trads, its tone and plotting have much in common with some of the Regencies I used to adore. In Rogue’s Lady, Justiss tells the sweet tale of a reforming rake and a musician’s daughter, each trying to find their way into respectable society. Though both have very different motives for seeking respectability, they find a common interest that soon deepens into something neither counted on finding.
Allegra Antinori, the daughter of a lady who exiled herself from the ton in order to marry an Italian musician, finds herself in dire straits. Following the death of her parents, she returned to England to care for her mother’s beloved cousin. However, upon his death, his much younger wife now seeks to humiliate the poor relation to the greatest degree possible.
Allegra’s only hope arrives in the form of her cousin Rob Lynton, heir to the title. Once the white knight of Allegra’s childhood imagination, he soon reclaims that role in her life by rescuing her from his evil stepmother and announcing that his father left her a small dowry. With this modest sum, Allegra can be presented in society and hopefully make a good enough marriage to secure her future. Though Allegra’s parentage may raise some eyebrows, she has a respectable patron and, therefore, still has hope. Indeed, Allegra herself hopes that while she attends the events of fashionable society, Rob Lynton himself will take an interest in her.
At the same time, Will Tavener finds himself foisted upon society by his beloved cousin, Lady Domcaster. Will has a barony, but no funds to keep up his manor, so he must marry an heiress. Will makes no bones about the fact that he has whiled away his twenties with gambling and skirt-chasing, and he is reluctant to go heiress-hunting. However, Lady Domcaster persists and, though Will knows his unsavory reputation will close many doors to him, he escorts his cousin to events with an eye toward meeting a fine young heiress whose parents will overlook his history.
It is at one of these gatherings that Will first sees Allegra, who immediately draws his attention. From their very first introduction, there is a certain chemistry between them. Their dialogue is witty, and I enjoyed reading this meeting of minds as well as hearts. Will recognizes and is honest about his need to ensnare an heiress with greater funds than Allegra can offer. Allegra, for her part, enjoys Will’s company, but remains ever conscious of her desire to win Rob’s affections.
The author does a good job of making the social difficulties and the conflicts faced by Will and Allegra seem real. Legitimate barriers lie in the way of any relationship developing between them and I could feel the tension as they sought ways to deal with them. Will in particular is a wonderful hero. Though he has a wild past, he also has a believably good heart and shows himself capable of true compassion and even depth of character. Allegra is also an engaging character, though I did at times feel frustrated as she seems way too slow in catching on to the truth of her situation and her true feelings.
This book coasted solidly through B+/B territory most of the way, but a plot twist near the end nearly derailed things for me. This little twist is … how to put this delicately? … one of the more ridiculous I’ve read in awhile. Still, even with that unnecessary turn of events, Rogue’s Lady entertained me more than I expected. For that, I cannot help giving it a recommendation, albeit a qualified one. Fans of Regency trads or even of the Regency time period in general may want to check this one out.