Monday, 3 March 2014

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries

When the Rogue Returns (2014) (Pocket Books)
Sabrina Jeffries
Grade: B-
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: NetGalley 
Duke's Men: (1) What the Duke Desires, (2) When the Rogue
Romance Reading Bingo Challenge 2014: A book with a 'secret baby' 

Ten years ago, love-struck newly-weds Isa and Victor were duped by Isa’s cunning sister and brother-in-law in a series of events that led to a bitter decade of separation. Isa worked in a jewellery shop and is skilled in making imitations. When the Dutch Royal Family’s diamonds go missing, Victor is led to believe that Isa is a common criminal and has fled Amsterdam with her family and the proceeds, leaving him as the prime suspect. In turn, Isa is spun a tale by her sister that Victor played an equally incriminating role and has taken his share of the jewels and abandoned her to make a fresh start.

It’s now 1828 and Victor has recently discovered that he’s the cousin to the ninth Duke of Lyons. His new life as an English aristocrat is alien to him and in desperation, he joins the ‘Duke’s Men’, a London-based investigatory agency. His first case takes him to Edinburgh at the behest of the dowager baroness Lady Lochlaw to investigate her son’s prospective fiancée. The Belgian widow Sofie Franke suspiciously lacks any knowledge of Belgium and scandalously makes a living designing imitation jewellery. The coincidence is too good to be true and Victor makes his way up to Edinburgh, intent on confronting his wife and seeking his revenge.

Ten years have hardened Victor and Isa but once reunited, the years drop away. With a decade of amassed secrets between them, both are determined to win in this clash of personalities in an atmosphere that is almost palpable with hostility – and sexual tension. Each is still under the false impression that the other walked away from their marriage and it doesn’t take long before the truth to finally come to the fore. United by their hatred for Isa’s family, they must work together to bring the real thieves to justice, without incriminating themselves …

I really, really liked this. So much that ‘one-or two chapters’ at midnight became more than two hundred pages and turning out the lights at two in the morning. When the Rogue Returns was my first Sabrina Jeffries book and it definitely won’t be the last. Despite the family tree at the beginning, Victor’s relationship with the Duke’s Men was frustratingly confusing. I still don’t think that I fully understand, but I managed to stumble my way through. What the Duke Desires is on my TBR pile so that I can get the whole picture.

Jewellery design is one of my passions and I can literally sit and work for hours designing and making jewellery. I don’t work with anything remotely resembling precious stones, but it’s fantastic all the same to read about a heroine who has made a living from something that I consider a mere hobby. That said, I would have loved more detail about Isa’s job and more opportunities to watch her in action. It was immensely brave of her to approach her business partner for an apprenticeship, being newly pregnant and newly abandoned, and even more commendable that she’s become an accomplished and respected businesswoman. Historical romance needs more forward-thinking entrepreneurial heroines who use their talents to make something of their (sometimes dire) lives and circumstances, regardless of what society thinks or dictates.

I really enjoyed the tension and sexual sparks that flew between Isa and Victor while they still harboured residual hostility towards one another. It was written well and while a classic case of playing a naïve couple in love against each other, it felt realistic. The second half of the book, once these deceptions had been done away with, was more of a disappointment. I thought it was rushed and didn’t have the opportunity to quite meet its full potential. It was fantastic to watch the story unfold and meet the secondary characters in what was blatant sequel baiting, but I just felt that it could have been something more. Rupert was probably my favourite character. Baron of Lochlaw, Rupert has never been what his mother wanted for her son and he never will be. He takes pleasure in Isa’s company because she treats him like another human being and at twenty-two years old, he’s infatuated. He was a really sweet character and if circumstances hadn’t played out as they had, I think I would have liked to see Rupert get his own book.

I’m inordinately excited now that I’ve crossed off my first book on my Romance Reading Bingo Challenge list! It was a difficult choice since WtRR could have fitted into a number of categories, but I settled on the ‘secret baby’ trope – sorry for the spoiler but the only person it’s kept a secret from is Victor and considering this is a romance novel, it was to be expected. This was a good first read from Sabrina Jeffries and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on more of her work. It doesn't hurt that the cover is beautiful!

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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