Series: Maiden Lane #8
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 26th 2015
Two People Who Will Not Be Limited By Others’ Expectations of Them
“Wasn’t freedom a universal desire? Something every human being longed for no matter their circumstances?”
THE STORY: Lady Phoebe Batten struggles against the restrictions imposed upon her. She is young and loves the social whirl that she has been almost completely excluded from by her brother, the Duke of Wakefield. Almost completely blind, Phoebe now has to deal with the bodyguard her brother has imposed upon her.
Captain James Trevillion was forced to leave his service in the King’s dragoons by a serious injury that left him with a limp (events depicted in DUKE OF MIDNIGHT). Despite his injury, he is still able to shoot and ride and the Duke of Wakefield has hired him to be the bodyguard for his youngest sister.
When Phoebe becomes the target for a kidnapping, James must risk his life to save her from being forced into marriage.
OPINION: The sister of a Duke and an ex-dragoon are the definition of two people who have no business falling in love with one another.
“She was everything he was not: young, innocent, filled with the joy of life. She had the blue blood of centuries of aristocrats running in her veins. He was a cynical, older ex-soldier and his blood ran common red.”
“Blindness had neutered her in the eyes of the world.”
Phoebe is young, sweet, caring and has the Batten stubbornness and willfulness. As this book opens, she has finally had enough of those who love her trying to protect her. Phoebe has a sweetness but she is not silly or annoying. She is a strong young woman trying to balance her love for others, her own desires and her fears. As the book develops, Phoebe grows and develops more of a tartness that she displays. As a right of passage for all the Batten sisters, she also has to confront her brother, Maximus. Readers of the series will recall that he is intensely protective of those he loves – especially Phoebe. This book wonderfully depicts Phoebe’s point of view including her anger and at times desperation about her blindness, but also her strength in learning to do for herself. As a story about Phoebe wanting and crafting her own freedom, I especially appreciated that she is an active participant in her claiming her own freedom.
“He might be a cripple on land but by God in the saddle he was a demon.”
James Trevillion is a man struggling against his own limitations. It is clear from the beginning of this novel that his feelings for Phoebe have moved beyond the impersonal. He cares about her even as he acknowledges that there is no future for them. Instead, he sublimates his budding love for her into a desire to see her happy. A principled man, Trevillion is willing to break rules for a good cause. He is also incredibly strong willed in his own right which is one reason why he and Phoebe clash in such a proper manner before their relationship progresses beyond the proper. One of the nice plot points is how James has his own past demons that prompt him to want to protect Phoebe but he is the first to recognize that she cannot be protected to such an extent that she is smothered.
“Sometimes I rather dislike you, Captain Trevillion.”
“I am most gratified that it’s only sometimes, my lady.”
The disabilities that Phoebe and James possess are their bridge to one another. Neither fits into the place which they had expected to inhabit and, the fact that each is separate from their expectations allow them to subvert society’s expectations. Phoebe, especially, knows that despite her birth, she will never be able to be part of the aristocracy except as a treasured pet.
Phoebe and James have great banter between them. It is restrained and witty and biting and full of meaning. There is a tremendous amount of subtext going on between Phoebe and James from the beginning. His calling her “my Lady” is at times proper, annoying, angry and loving. These two argue with one another in such polite terms that it is funny.
“Did you shoot someone back there?”
“Yes, my lady.”
“It seemed a good idea.”
Like all of the Maiden Lane novels, DEAREST ROGUE is very sexy, but for me the most sensual parts of this book are the incidents where touch is emphasized. Because of Phoebe’s blindness, touch and smell are more important in this book than sight. I loved how Hoyt focuses on the sensuality of simple acts like Phoebe putting her hand on James’ arm and then expands the exploration between the two to putting on perfume and removing stockings.
I am a fan of the Maiden Lane series and while this is not my favorite (I prefer the darker more angst filled stories), it is certainly a good addition to the series. I especially appreciate Hoyt’s reward to longtime fans by giving us glimpses of the lives of characters who have already had their story told.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces the heroine of the next book in the series SWEETEST SCOUNDREL. Her backstory seems to be very intriguing. Fans of the Duke of Montgomery will also be pleased to know that he makes a significant appearance here.
FINAL DECISION: Befitting Phoebe’s character, DEAREST ROGUE is sweeter than others in the series. The story of finding joy in what life gives a person is perfect for these two characters who are genuinely good people. The dark edge of the story is really about other characters whose stories are to be told in the future.
CONNECTED BOOKS: DEAREST ROGUE is the eighth book in the Maiden Lane series. It can be read as a standalone even though fans of the series will be pleased with the continuation and glimpses of favorite characters.
STAR RATING: I give DEAREST ROGUE 4.5 stars.