The Irish Rogue
Anne Davis, heiress to a Tidewater plantation, is having a disastrous day – first her lover abandons her despite her pregnancy, and then ruffians attack her on the docks of Philadelphia. Then, lo and behold, a handsome stranger rushes to her rescue. She reveals her secret to her sympathetic savior, Irish immigrant Michael O’Ryan, and he suggests a marriage of convenience – nine thousand dollars in exchange for a name for her baby. The two marry and return to Anne’s plantation, Gentleman’s Folly, where a set of unexpected obstacles awaits them, and eventually, they fall in love.
Though he’s on the run from the law in at least two countries, Michael O’Ryan isn’t nearly as roguish as the title would lead you to believe. I liked this hero from the start; he’s gallant, compassionate, and nonjudgmental. Though he has been betrayed by women in the past and, like so many heroes, doesn’t trust them, he doesn’t take his insecurities out on Anne. Even though he believes they cannot stay together for her own safety, he endeavors to care for her and lift her spirits in touching ways.
Anne was also a likable character, though I didn’t warm to her as quickly as Michael. She seemed to move too abruptly between moments of strength and weakness, and perhaps should have been quicker to trust Michael based on his actions toward her. But overall she was a strong and competent heroine, if not as adorable as Michael.
One issue that every antebellum romance set on a plantation must deal with is slavery. How can an author be historically accurate without creating characters who alienate us with their easy acceptance of something so reprehensible? French gives us credible reasons for Michael’s aversion to slavery, though I wish we had seen more of Anne’s opinions on the subject. Two of the best supporting characters are a young married couple, slaves on the plantation, who must decide how they want to live their lives.
Because the Irish Rogue’s best moments came in its quiet story of a couple learning to love and trust, the external conflicts felt extraneous. Toward the end, the novel falters somewhat because of some overly busy plotting that leads to an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink conclusion. Though there were several actions scenes earlier in the book, the finale felt out of place – somewhat staged and overdone.
The Irish Rogue is a fairly average read, but one that is enlivened by its likable hero and some nice period details. If you’re a big fan of arranged marriages, American historicals, or Maryland, you may find this worth your time.