Reforming the Rogue by Donna Lea Simpson

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With nowhere else to go, penniless Linnet Pelham is forced to take refuge with her sister in London, only to learn that her sister’s betrothal to Lord Cairngrove is the scandal of the ton. Never one to shy away from an unpleasant situation and convinced of the couple’s devotion, Linnet is determined to see them wed, if only she can persuade Cairngrove’s brother, Nic Barton.

Nic, a notorious rogue who is all too aware of his dashing good looks, is dead set on preventing his brother’s marriage. Even as he schemes to frighten Linnet’s sister into walking away from the engagement, he sets his sights on seducing the lovely Linnet with whispered promises of lessons in love.

But Linnet has a few lessons of her own to teach, and as the two match wits and spar over their siblings’ fate, the undeniable passion growing between them might force them both to learn the meaning of true love.

This novella was originally published under the title “Love Lessons.”

Rating: C-

I’ve read some of Ms Simpson’s full-length Regencies and enjoyed them, and I thought her novella A Rogue’s Rescue was rather good.

Unfortunately, this one was rather disappointing. Her writing is as good as it usually is, but I think she tried to cram in too much plot which resulted in nothing feeling “finished”.

The heroine, Linnet, has lost her job as a schoolteacher and come to London to stay with her older sister, Jessica. Jessica had made her living as an actress, but for the past couple of years has been the mistress of the Earl of Cairngrove, who has recently proposed marriage.

Enter the earl’s younger brother, Dominic (or Nic), who is an arrogant stuffed-shirt. He’s worried about the effect his brothers’ marrying his mistress will have on the family name (Cairngrove is in his forties and already has a couple of grown-up sons and a married daughter), and decides he must separate his brother from his lady-love.

He decides to do this by stealing her away. He’s younger, handsomer and better in bed (he says) – except that the young woman he’s telling this isn’t Jessica, but Linnet who is, needless to say, extremely unimpressed.

Realising his mistake, Nic then befriends Jessica and begins to realise that she’s not a grasping harpy – but still, he is determined to do what he must, and tries to put her off by talking about the exalted political circles in which she will be expected to hold her own as his brother’s wife. That doesn’t work either, as she’s already met them all.

While all this is going on, Nic has his eye on Linnet, who he thinks must be another actress (she hasn’t told him she’s Jess’s sister) and who he thinks will warm his bed nicely.

Of course, all works out in the end, but the characters felt two-dimensional, and Nic was such a complete git at the beginning that his change of heart felt entirely too fast.

It was entertaining enough, but not something I’ll be re-reading

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