Once she spurned the man…
When the Duke of Lennox hires Sir Brook Derring, England’s best investigator, to find his daughter, Brook intends only to rescue the lady and return to his solitary life. He deals with London’s roughest criminals every day of the week; surely he should be able to endure seeing his first love again—the perfect girl who broke his heart…
Now her life depends on him
Lady Lillian-Anne Lennox has always done her best to live up to her father’s standards of perfection—at the cost of following her heart. When she’s kidnapped and her perfect life is shattered, Lila has another chance. Together, Lila and Brook navigate not only the dark and deadly side of London, but the chasm of pride and prejudice that divides them.
I’ve enjoyed the previous entries in Shana Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series (Earls Just Want to Have Fun and The Rogue You Know), and have been looking forward to this, in which the hero is Sir Brook Derring, an important secondary character in the earlier books. Brook is a detective – a most unsuitable profession for the brother of an earl – but even so, he has acquired a fearsome reputation and is widely known – by both the criminal and upper classes – to be the best of the best at what he does.
I Kissed a Rogue opens in media res, with our heroine, Lady Lila, having been kidnapped on her way home from a society event and desperately seeking a way to escape. Unfortunately, however, her evening is about to get even worse when she witnesses the murder of a man she later learns is a prominent MP; the murderer isn’t about to leave alive someone who could identify him.
Upon learning of her abduction, Lila’s father, the Duke of Lennox, immediately sends for Brook and charges him with finding his daughter. Brook is simultaneously worried for Lila and annoyed with the duke who, seven years ago, had refused his offer for Lila’s hand and had him more or less thrown out of the house. But Brook is a professional and isn’t about to allow any personal feelings to get in the way of his doing his job. Lila is found, rescued and returned home, but that is not the end of the matter. Brook tells the duke that Lila’s life is in danger because of what she’s seen, that he needs to arrange extra protection for her and, ideally, the whole family needs to leave London.
The duke, however is not convinced the danger is that great, and besides, this Season is Lila’s last chance to find a husband. His young wife – Lila’s stepmother – will certainly not countenance the idea of leaving London at this time, especially not considering her determination to get Lila married off and out of the house for good.
Lennox demands that Brook be the one to guard Lila, but he declines, saying that isn’t what he does, and in any case, his being seen everywhere with an unmarried lady will lead to gossip and damage her reputation. But the duke is a wily old fox; he inveigles Brook into marrying Lila so that he can stay with her without compromising her and promises an easy annulment once the murderer is found and dealt with. For the first few days of his marriage, Brook manages to convince himself it hasn’t happened, staying away from his flat and working hard to discover the identity of the killer. But when Lila’s location is discovered and she is attacked, it’s clear that she can’t remain in London and Brook whisks her away to a tumbledown cottage on one of his family’s country estates.
It’s here that the couple finally has some breathing space in which to address the acrimony that lies between them. Seven years ago when she was in her first season, Lila was the feted beauty of the day, dazzling the men, stealing other débutantes’ suitors, starting and feeding gossip about the girls she didn’t like: she was a prototype Mean Girl. Then in his early twenties, Brook was just one of the many young men who were captivated by her, but even though she flirted with him, she didn’t really think of him as a person, just as one of the long line of young man ready to lay themselves at her feet. When he proposed marriage, she didn’t believe him to be serious and laughed it off, wounding him deeply and then forgetting him almost entirely.
The premise is a mix up of several tropes I generally like; forced/arranged marriage, second-chance romance, and friends-to-lovers – but while those elements work well together, I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I’d hoped to. The pacing around the middle slows considerably and that section is little more than a succession of sex scenes which, while undoubtedly well-written, don’t add much to the development of the characters or the story. Lila and Brook are attractive individuals, but the way Brook insists on holding on to his resentment for so long didn’t sit quite right with me. He’s dashing, handsome and terribly competent, and no matter his insistence that he doesn’t care about Lila, it’s clear through his actions that he does still care, very much. He is understandably bitter over her past treatment of him and treats her badly as a result, which made it difficult for me to completely believe that he was in love with her by the end of the book.
On the other hand, Ms Galen does a terrific job with Lila’s character, especially when it comes to showing how she has matured into a thoughtful, self-aware woman who knows that she is now reaping the seeds sown by her younger, thoughtless self. I really felt for her in the early stages of the book when it was revealed that she was more or less unwelcome in her own home and when she realises how badly she had treated Brook all those years ago.
I enjoyed the book in spite of those reservations and the large numbers of Americanisms that kept popping up (someone in 19th century England would never say “do it, already”, for example, and it’s not “I could care less”, but “I COULDN’T care less”), but I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed overall. However, there’s no question that I Kissed a Rogue is a well-written and very readable story, and I’m sure that fans of this author will enjoy it.