The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman
This has been a very solid series about the Bow Street Bachelors, three war heroes who returned to England and found new purpose working for Bow Street - helped out by the fact that they are now highly titled and very rich of course. Sebastian Wolff, Earl of Mowbray, is the last unmarried one of the three.
Princess Anastasia Denisova flees Paris after learning of her brother’s death at Waterloo, pursued by an unscrupulous prince who intends to force her into marriage - but not for the usual reasons. Prince Vasili believes Anya has evidence that he’s a traitor, and as his wife she could not testify against him.
Anya’s been in London a year, working part-time as a companion to a fearsome dowager duchess and living next door to a brothel in Covent Garden where she spends her spare time teaching the girls to read. And… this is where my suspension of disbelief fails a bit, because the ‘brothel madam with a heart of gold’ is just not a credible character for me any more. Read Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain and it won’t be for you, either!
I also found myself wondering why Anya was living in Paris with one female companion and not a single guard. If she’s so rich, why on earth had her brother left her completely unprotected in a city held by their enemies? And once I’d thought that, too many things didn’t make sense. Anya was in touch with her man of business in Russia. She could have ordered him to send her money, loyal guards, anything she needed. She was a first cousin to the tsar, for goodness’ sake! Living in genteel poverty in London was ridiculous and unnecessary and it was also utterly contrived for Plot Purposes.
I mostly liked the actual romance part of the story, though Sebastian needed to keep his mind out of the gutter a lot more. He spent half his time trying to think of ways Anya just HAD to be a whore so it would be ‘okay’ for him to sleep with her. Probably why it never occurred to him that she was, in fact, the princess he was looking for. Or maybe it just didn’t make sense to him either that she was living without money or protection when she could easily have obtained both. Anya as a character was actually great; strong-willed and determined, but she did several pretty stupid things for the sake of the plot, which is always frustrating.
I’m probably coming off like I hated this, which I really didn’t: Kate Bateman writes an engaging story with charming characters and her writing style is excellent. The pace of the story rattles along nicely and the sex scenes are well written. I just couldn’t buy into the setup and the suspense plot.
Overall, I’ll give it four stars. This has been an excellent series (though the first book was outstandingly the best in my opinion). I’m looking forward to seeing what Kate Bateman writes next.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.