The Rogue Report
The Rogue Report is a newsletter, delivered twice a month to unmarried women of the ton. Within its pages are detailed exposés of various eligible gentlemen: their gaming debts, their mistresses, their drunken exploits, their scandalous secrets. Young women do well to follow its news carefully; to ignore it is to risk a life of poverty, betrayal, and misery.
The report is published anonymously, but after careful searching, Jack, Earl of Rutledge, thinks he may have traced the authorship to Lady Julia Corwyn, once the toast of London, now disgraced, unwed, and running a charity school for the children of servants. If he is correct, and it is Lady Julia’s poisonous pen that put an end to his advantageous engagement, then revenge will be swift and ruthless.
But Julia hides more than just the name of the father of her son, and the more Jack discovers, the more he realizes that life can hold more than cards and fine brandy. For her part, the more Julia sees Jack, the more she realizes that shutting herself off from life is not a solution.
There’s rather a nice emphasis on writing in this novel. The chapters all lead with an excerpt of The Rogue Report, and several major plot developments are revealed and take place through letters. This ploy lends a gentleness to the story, but also a certain authenticity. When a character reads a letter, the reader is privy to both characters thoughts almost simultaneously, which allows for a nice building of emotion without the falseness that dialogue can often display. I know I’ve said often enough, “No one speaks like that!”, but often people do write like that. Further, the stress on reading and writing cements a chief theme of the importance of education, which brings the subplot of the novel smartly full circle.
There are certain discrepancies from the beginning that will baffle readers, not least of which why Lady Julia remains an heiress after being cast out of her family, and one major secret that doubles as a key pet peeve brought up by readers again and again. The reason offered to solve these problems is a bit flimsy, but provides an excellent opportunity for growth for both the hero and heroine, and can be overlooked. Further, a secondary character pivotal to this plot device is so touching, and her story so heartbreaking, as to be central to the emotional depth of the novel.
But what is most attractive about The Rogue Report is its hero, Jack. While a reformed rake is probably the most clichéd character in historical romance, it is very seldom that we actually see the reformation. We are far more used to hearing the rake announce in the final paragraphs “I am reformed!”, and having to take the confession on faith. With Jack, however, we are present from his rakish early days, through the realization that his life is empty, to his final reconciliation with who he is and who he wants to be. We are privy to the setbacks and the heartaches, to the dichotomy between his self-doubt and the flattery his title automatically earns. There’s also a nice subplot about the horrors of addiction, and the errors in judging that which we do not understand.
Dawson Smith has written a warm novel, with implications that go far deeper than the romance plot. She explores the darker side of the lives of leisure led by the rich and powerful, the addictions, the boredom, the lack of direction. And while there are plot holes in the romance, they serve as demonstrations of issues beyond those of the heart.
The Rogue Report is particularly well-crafted, and carefully developed. Intelligently sexy, it will certainly ignite your mind. With deeper themes than a normal historical novel, it is sure to stay with you long after you close the back cover.