Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #1
Published by Avon on December 29th 2015
Romantic Romp with a Woman in Men’s Livery, Highwaymen and Naughty Carriage Rides
“She hated him then. Hated him for involking the ridiculous moniker. For being just like all the others. For believing that she wanted the life into which she’d been thrust. For believing that life worth something. Worth more than the life she’d been born into. For refusing to see — just as the rest of London refused to see – that Sophie was different. And that she had been perfectly happy before. Before titles and town houses and teas and the trappings of the ton. Before those trappings had trapped her.”
FINAL DECISION: What romance reader can resist a bookshop buying hero? Decidedly lighter in tone than her Rules of Scoundrels series, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN returns MacLean to her Love by Numbers series tone of hot encounters, humor and lighter drama. A delicious carriage journey through Northern England, King and Sophie sometimes experience the roadtrip from hell and at other times a great romantic journey toward love.
THE STORY: Sophie Talbot one of the Soiled S’s, daughters of a newly minted earl who themselves thrive in the world of scandal. When Sophie unintentionally causes a scandal by pushing her duke brother-in-law in a fishpond when Sophie catches him with another woman shaming his pregnant wife, Sophie is ruined. Running from the scene, Sophie seeks a ride to her home in Mayfair. She encounters Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley fleeing from the window of a woman he has ruined and demands that he take her home. When he refuses, Sophie arranges to masquerade as an outrider for his carriage by buying the position and livery from King’s footman. But King isn’t going to Mayfair, he’s leaving London – but Sophie doesn’t realize it until it is too late.
OPINION: This book is a humorous romp until the tone turns serious towards the end of the book. Funny with crazy adventures and situations, this is a book that makes a reader smile and laugh. Even the serious parts are not too dark. Unlike the darker and grittier Rules of Scoundrels series, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN is filled with light humor and farcical situations. It marks a return to the lighter tone of MacLean’s breakout book NINE RULES TO BREAK WHEN ROMANCING A RAKE.
The inspiration for this new series is the modern tabloid news which according to MacLean mirrors the scandal driven news of the 1830s when this novel is set. The scandal seeking and manipulating Soiled S’s are sisters whose names all begin with S mirroring some scandalous modern sisters whose names begin with K. The scene of Sophia’s scandal – attacking her cheating brother-in-law in public is inspired by a similar celebrity scandal. Historical readers can be assured, however, that while modern events might have inspired MacLean, the characters and events of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN remain grounded in 1830s England.
What this book does is ask the question “who are the people behind the scandals?” Both Sophie and King have reputations which do not accurately reflect who they really are nor the pain and dreams of their lives. After Sophie suffers her disgrace, she decides to leave London and the ton and return to the village where she lived a common life until her father gained his titled when she was ten. Sophie believes that she will find a life there where she belongs and intends to open a bookshop. Searching for that sense of belonging, Sophie just wants to be known for who she is rather than who others expect her to be.
King’s reputation as the “Royal Rogue” also hides a great deal of pain and a good man using his reputation to protect him from women who might want more from him. And there can be no doubt that King is reluctantly a good man. In fact, by the time the final obstacle for this couple arrives, the pain and disillusionment that he experiences is difficult to read because he has been hurt before and barely recovered.
Filled with so many great tropes (highwaymen, Sophie dressed as a man, carriage shenanigans, pretend married couple, reluctant traveling partners, bickering and witty banter, forced marriages and disapproving fathers) but this book throughout makes the clear statement that these characters and this story is more than what might be expected.
Plus, you just have to love a hero who buys the heroine a bookstore and where books play such a seductive part of the story.
WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of MacLean might recall that King and Sophie first danced in NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. The events of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN take place in June 1833 soon after the events of the main narrative of NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. There are some small references to their first dance and other events in the Rules of Scoundrels series, but no appearances by characters from that series.
CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN is the first book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.