Review: The Rogue Returns by Leigh LaValle

rogue returnsReviewed by Janell

I do so enjoy a good roadtrip-on-horseback novel if it’s done well, and this book is done very well. Lady Helen Gladstone is the daughter of an earl, but everything that isn’t entailed has been spent frivolously through the generations, on buying horses and clothing mistresses and the like. Her father and older brother are dead, and her younger brother is more interested in drinking and gambling than in saving the earldom. Helen spends her days chasing away creditors and wealthy, unappealing suitors, until she desperately decides to dig up a fortune in gold that her deceased brother allegedly buried in a field.

Roane Grantham is the unacknowledged bastard son of a nobleman, just returned to England after three years’ exile in Australia. He happened to be friends with Helen’s brother and he’d like to find the buried gold to establish a horse farm. He has a colorful past, clearly identifies himself as a rogue, and he calls Helen “buttercup” all the time, mainly to annoy her. In my mind, he looks like Sawyer from Lost. If you need a visual.

Helen and Roane meet  in the field, but instead of treasure, they find a map. And then they’re set upon by thieves. Helen forces Roane to allow her on the treasure hunt simply by refusing to leave. He tells her that she won’t be safe, especially from him, but she won’t give up her only chance to be free from a terrible marriage.

Later that evening, they share one of the best first kisses I’ve read in a while. It’s a “kiss her to shut her up” type of kiss, and she responds, and Roane gets to second base, and Helen is not the type to slap him. She knows her way around a rogue, and she teases and torments him. Imagine her speaking this in a bored, flat voice:

“I’m raising the white flag of defeat. I’m charmed by your roguish ways. I’m awash with desire. Your flirting and pretty words have hit their mark. Kiss me.”

In truth, Helen is very intrigued by Roane, even though she really should know better. Who hasn’t thought this about a guy?

All his blond gorgeousness was distracting. He was wet. And muscly.

I loved the development of their relationship. Roane has been abandoned by everyone he loves, and so he is hesitant to open up to Helen, although he wants to. When he finally does, she can see his fear of rejection, and it’s so sweet. Helen, meanwhile, is practical. She’s fed up with men ruining things for women, because it falls to women to feed the children and pay the bills when the men have mucked everything up. She’s a budding feminist, noting that women are told to be quiet, to be good, and are made powerless, yet they pick up the pieces anyway.

Their journey through the mountains of England allows Helen to shed her fancy clothes and her fancy attitude. Roane falls desperately in love with her. They kiss a lot and share physical intimacy, but don’t actually have sex until nearly the end. I have to say that the author tied the physical journey with the emotional journey so beautifully. Roane especially was kind of heartbreaking.

This is a third in a series which I haven’t read, but I’m going to read it as soon as I get a chance because it sounds just as awesome. Did I mention this book was awesome? And delicious? I’m not giving it an A because Helen fell back on the old “he’s a rogue” excuse a few too many times, and then her worries about ending up with Roane weren’t addressed at the end (I thought they were silly concerns and she could have dismissed them easily), so I am just a teensy bit nitpicky. But if you like historicals, or opposites-stuck-on-a-road-trip stories, or Regencies without ballrooms and parlors, definitely give this book a try.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Heart Bay Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Rogue Returns
by Leigh LaValle
Release Date: January 13, 2014
Publisher: Heart Bay Publishing

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