A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME (The Rules Of Scoundrels #1) by Sara MacLean
Mass Market Paperback, 386 pagesPublished February 28th 2012 by Avon
Genre: historical romance novel
Rating: 3.5 stars
Off to a good start with the heated meeting between h/h childhood friends Penelope and Michael on the snow covered ground surrounding Falconwell, the property which used to belong to Michael Marquess of Bourne and now part of the “almost on the shelf” Lady Penelope Marbury’s dowry. Penelope’s initial happiness and excitement in seeing his long lost friend (and love of her life) after ten years turns into disappointment when she realizes he has changed beyond recognition: the amicable and smiling mate of so many childhood adventures is now cold, bitter and resentful, a complete brute. Great emotional tension here…
But then, when he kidnaps her, compromises her (not against her will, though, because she’s always been in love with him) and forces her into marriage in order to regain possession of Falconwell, that same property he lost on a card game when he was twenty-one and obsessed him ever since , I really started to feel uncomfortable with the whole thing. Despite his complete honesty about his intentions (I owe him that), Michael doesn’t treat her with the respect due to a woman, a lady, a childhood friend and for this reason he ruins from the start his chances to become an endearing character. Anyway, it puzzled me even more that Penelope seems to underestimate herself to the point of accepting him!
In light of this very rough beginning, the intimacy that immediately follows between them sounds to me rather awkward and rather insulting for Penelope: Michael openly admits that he is going to marry her, plain spinster, for the land that comes with her dowry. He compromises her and after the act he leaves her alone in the middle of the night in a cold and unfurnished room of his desolated mansion. A scene that would have been extremely sizzling if played with a bare minimum of emotional connection between h/h, turned out to be off-key and disturbing. What upsets me even more is Penelope’s inconsistency: she goes from smacking him in his face to craving his touch.
I usually don’t give up reading a book halfway, even when it disappoints my expectations, so I read on, hoping to see Michael redeeming himself and Penelope regaining her self -respect and she does, but two thirds into the novel Michael was making himself even more hateful.
Now, I like reformed rakes, I think they make great HRN material and the gambling house setting intrigued me (Michael’s business partners most of all), but I think that in this case the author pushed the roguish element a little too far. His final redemption sounds difficult to believe and unconvincing although true: for me it happens too late and he has been hard and cold with Penelope for too long. In the end all is well and the final pages offer a juicy preview of the next installment in this series.