The Rogue You Know
Like the previous book in Shana Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series, The Rogue You Know features an engaging – if improbable – cross-class romance, this time between an aristocratic young woman and a thief who wants to get out of the game and make a better life for himself. We met Gideon Harrow briefly in Earls Just Want to Have Fun, when he helped its protagonists to dispose of a threat to the heroine, but while it helps to have a rough idea of who he is and how he relates to those events, it’s not absolutely necessary to have read that book, as this one works perfectly well as a standalone.
Lady Susanna Derring, sister to the Earl of Dane, is a very proper, well-brought up young lady who is never allowed to forget the importance of good ton and deportment by her overbearing mother. In fact, Susanna has been so properly raised that the constant need to be correct in all things is stifling her, and causing her to resent the Dowager Countess immensely. She cannot understand her mother’s suffocating over-protectiveness which extends to not even letting her go to the ladies’ retiring room on her own at the age of twenty!
On yet another boring visit to one of her mother’s acquaintances, Susanna at last manages to slip the noose for a few moments, and during that time is engaged in conversation by a malicious gossip who hints to Susanna that her mother might not have always been the upright, respectable matron she is now, and makes mention of events that may have taken place many years ago at Vauxhall Gardens. Susanna is instantly determined to go to Vauxhall to see if she can make any sense of the remarks made to her, but the Countess is adamant in her refusal to allow her to go.
Rookery thief Gideon Harrow is on the run from Beezle, the nasty piece of work who now runs the Cubs. He had agreed to do one last job – to steal an incredibly valuable diamond necklace – and planned to use the money he would earn to get out of London and make a fresh start somewhere else. Unfortunately, he ran into trouble during the theft and had to make a run for it, meaning that Beezle believes he has been double crossed. On the run from someone who knows the rookeries every bit as well as he does, Gideon heads for Mayfair instead, intending to hide the jewels at the home of his friend and former accomplice Marlowe, now the Countess of Dane. But when he quietly enters the house, he is promptly hit over the head by a young woman he vaguely recognises, who then proceeds to take the jewels from him and tells him she’ll return them to him if he will take her to Vauxhall Gardens.
Gideon can’t believe his ears – but has no alternative other than to agree if he wants to save his neck. Together, the pair slips out into the night, and for the first time, Susanna feels what it’s like to be free and to be doing something she wants to do rather than what she’s told.
Very soon, however, what she had thought would be a very simple adventure takes a wrong turn, and she and Gideon find themselves thrown from one difficult situation to another at lightning speed as they race through some of the darkest, most dangerous areas of London. This is a rollicking, fast-paced adventure yarn, with the action taking place over the course of little more than twenty-four hours, yet the romance doesn’t suffer from it or feel overly rushed. Gideon and Susanna strike sparks off each other from the get-go and their interactions are witty and often very funny. I did find Susanna a little hard to like at first, simply because she is SO innocent and insists on not following the instructions Gideon gives her for her own safety. Her obsession with getting to Vauxhall is also rather irritating and built on such a flimsy premise, but she grows up during the course of the book and finds the strength to take charge of her own life and to realise that there is more than one side to any story.
I liked the inclusion of the sub-plot concerning the Dowager Countess, seeing an older woman in a romance get her HEA long after she had stopped looking for it, and then, of course the reasons for her overprotectiveness of her daughter become apparent.
Gideon is an attractive hero – rough around the edges, but making the best of the hand life has dealt him. He’s had a hard life and done things he’s not proud of, but through his association with Susanna, discovers that he’s not quite the conscienceless scoundrel he’d believed himself to be. Both Gideon and Susanna have been trapped – by their upbringings, their pasts and what is expected of them, and I like the way Ms Galen shows the reader that they are both ready to begin anew.
While the book is mostly a fun, frothy adventure romp, it’s not without its more serious moments as the author once again reminds us of the truly terrible living conditions experienced by the less fortunate of London’s denizens. It’s not a heavy-handed message, but Ms Galen has certainly done her homework and her descriptions of the sights and sounds (and smells!) of the rookeries paint a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.
All in all, The Rogue You Know is an enjoyable story that makes good use of its setting away from the glittering ballrooms of the ton. Ms Galen writes with a sure, deft touch, and the story has plenty of humour as well as a real emotional depth in some of its more serious moments. I had fun reading it and am eagerly looking forward to Brook’s story in the next book.