Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor
This is the fifth book in the Cavensham Heiresses series, but reads decently well as a standalone. Fans of the series will no doubt be delighted by the appearance of many of their favourites, but for me the best parts of the book were the sections where it was just Will and Theodora (and Aunt Stella) at Ladykyrke, the estate Theo inherited and is in danger of losing because she can’t prove her right to it. That and the parts about Theodora’s grandfather, who she nursed through years of dementia; they read so believable and so painful, I got a lump in my throat several times while reading.
I understand ‘Rogue’ is one of the buzzwords in historical romance right now, but honestly, Will is the furthest thing from it. He’s kind, responsible, and almost desperate to be helpful, to the point where his family are actually taking advantage of his good nature. The sole voice not in his favor is that of the Midnight Cryer, a gossip rag who has it in for both Will and Theodora, to an extent I found frankly unbelievable, because Will is the son of a duke, and any duke in Regency England was far too fearsome a personage to be trifled with in such a manner. Frankly, if the duke is such an all-around good guy as he’s portrayed, he should long ago have made it his mission to put a newspaper printing such scandalous falsehoods about his family members out of business anyway.
That aside, I quite enjoyed the story right up until Theodora decided to be a martyr and sacrifice her own happiness to protect her tenants, a move which was completely unnecessary. She could absolutely have handed her cousin the victory without marrying him, by simply withdrawing her claim, but that never even seemed to occur to her. Frankly, I just didn’t buy it; it made her adversary seem cartoonishly evil rather than just greedy, and Theodora seem stupid, which she certainly wasn’t.
Honestly, I found myself skim-reading from there to the end. I’d figured out early on where the papers Theodora needed were hidden, so there seemed to be a lot of manufactured drama where she couldn’t figure it out which made me feel impatient because it was just so blatantly obvious. Of course, if she’d found the location back when it was telegraphed to the reader, there wouldn’t have been a story.
This is one that’s hard to rate; there were some genuinely excellent parts but some really frustrating and unbelievable ones as well. In the end, I’m going to plump for three stars and say I’m disappointed, because I know the author can do better than this.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.