Desert Isle Keeper
To Catch a Rogue
Bec McMaster has done it again. Fast paced, suspenseful and romantic, To Catch a Rogue is a terrific addition to her marvelous London Steampunk universe. Like its predecessors, the novel spotlights one couple whilst integrating their love story into the larger overarching plot linking The Blue Blood Conspiracy series together. The novel picks up shortly after the cliffhanger ending of You Only Love Twice. We finally discover Obsidian’s origins after the author – temporarily – transitions the series from London to dark, dangerous and deadly Russia, and its bloody, violent Crimson Court. She masterfully integrates Obsidian into the Company of Rogues, linking his history to that of Lark – the love of Charlie Todd’s life. The novel is intricately plotted, complex and perfectly paced, and much like the series as a whole, once it gets its hooks into you, it’s impossible to put down. Friends, if you love historical romance and you’re not reading this series, you’re missing out. A warning: the third book in the series ended with a major cliffhanger and there are spoilers galore in this review. If you plan to read the series or haven’t finished You Only Love Twice, stop reading now.
A brief history for readers unfamiliar with Bec McMaster’s steampunk world. In London Steampunk, a tenuous alliance of humans, mechs and blue bloods banded together to overthrow the corrupt Echelon and its leaders. London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy picks up about three years after the revolution; London is newly at peace, but not everyone is content with the new order, and dark forces and an evil mastermind threaten the new and fragile regime. The Duke of Malloryn, a progressive blue blood with an agenda of his own, establishes the Company of Rogues, comprised of humans, mechs and blue bloods. The CoR is determined to root out those causing the unrest before they can wreak havoc on London. By the conclusion of You Only Love Twice, the CoR finally know the mastermind behind a dastardly plan to depose the queen: Lord Balfour, the evil blue blood thought dead at the conclusion of the Of Silk and Steam. Balfour always seems to be two steps ahead of the CoR, but with Obsidian’s help, they located and destroyed Balfour’s London base of operations. The group is determined to find Balfour and stop him before he can strike again. But when the novel reached its exciting conclusion, the Duke of Malloryn was kidnapped by Dido, a dhampir loyal to Balfour, who dropped him into the hatch of a kraken submersible and departed for Russia, its bloodthirsty Crimson Court – and Balfour.
To Catch a Rogue picks up shortly after the events of You Only Love Twice. Mallory is Balfour’s captive in Russian, subject to the torture and depravity of Dido and fellow dhampir Jelena; the CoR, temporarily under the leadership of Gemma Townsend, Malloryn’s protégé, are united in purpose: they must travel to Russia, rescue the duke, and then destroy Balfour once and for all.
Gemma and the team formulate a plan to infiltrate the Crimson Court and locate Malloryn, and Charlie Todd is tasked with retrieving the duke once they determine where he’s being held. Charlie turns to his former partner in crime (and everything else) for help. As teenagers, Charlie and Lark spent every moment in each other’s pockets. But when Tin Man, Lark’s pseudo-father, was killed in the revolution, Charlie blamed himself (Tin Man took a bullet meant for him), and for three years he’s stayed away from Lark out of a misplaced sense of guilt. The separation allowed both of them to mature as individuals, but hasn’t lessened the intensity of their feelings for each other. Charlie has never forgiven himself for Tin Man’s death; Lark has never forgiven Charlie for breaking her heart and abandoning her when she needed him most. When Charlie asks her to help the CoR rescue Malloryn, Lark refuses… until she learns he’s headed to Russia. Lark, whose origins – until now – were unknown, agrees to go to keep Charlie safe. She’s determined to keep him safe and at a distance; he’s determined to keep her safe and close. Charlie wants a relationship with Lark and sees this as his opportunity to win her.
With Lark on board (literally and figuratively), the CoR travel to Russia (under cover as part of a diplomatic mission). Twists, double crosses, betrayals and ruthless politics abound from the moment the group steps off the dirigible and are greeted by Lord Balfour (masquerading as Vladimir Feodorevna, the consort of Grand Duchess Tatiana Feodorevna), but the battle for Charlie to win Lark’s heart – and learn the secrets she seems to be keeping – begins the moment Lark agrees to accompany Charlie to Russia. Fortunately, Ms. McMaster doesn’t belabor the misunderstandings and hurts that kept the pair apart for the past three years.
Almost from the moment they board the dirigible, Charlie and Lark resume the sparring that characterized their earlier friendship, except this time they’re both increasingly aware of the tension and unresolved lust between them. Sparring turns into flirting… and before long, they’re each confessing the regrets about the past and the truth about their feelings for each other. From the start, Charlie makes it clear he wants Lark – body and soul – and he won’t accept anything less. Lark, who’s guarding a MAJOR AND MASSIVE AND WOW! secret about her past, yearns to do the same, but she’s scared. And so she locks him out. He’s a patient and tender champion, fiercely protective and proud of Lark, but determined to wait for her to come to him. And it isn’t long before she does. Her confession is staggering, but Charlie doesn’t falter. He urges her to confess the truth to the CoR team, and trust in him. Their friends to lovers transition is passionate and lovely, and the ties that bind them only strengthen as the mission pushes Lark deeper into the past she’s locked away. It’s often difficult to distinguish friend from foe, but their partnership is never in doubt and the relationship never detracts from the overarching storyline – the hunt for Malloryn and the destruction of Balfour.
As Charlie and Lark search for Malloryn, the rest of the CoR work to outmaneuver Lord Balfour whilst navigating the treacherous and bloody Crimson Court. Gemma grows increasingly anxious as the days progress and they fail to locate their leader, and Balfour always seems to stay a step ahead of the team. Obsidian’s vague memories of his past frustrate him, and the CoR ultimately find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between Vladimir Feodorevna and his nemesis Sergey Grigoriev… who seems to have a sinister past connection to both Lark and Obsidian. Friends, it’s complicated, but also hugely entertaining.
Densely plotted and intricately woven into the ongoing London Steampunk storyline, To Catch a Rogue is clever, romantic and addictive, and might be my favorite in the series… so far. Ms. McMaster masterfully blends romance and suspense into an addictive high stakes thriller that kept me glued to its pages from the first page to the last.