Beauregard “Beau” Courtland has no use for the whims of society and even less for aristocratic titles. As a younger son, he travels the world in search of adventure with no plans to settle down. Even when the title of Viscount Rainsleigh is suddenly forced upon him, he will not bend to duty or decorum. Not until an alluring young woman appears on the deck of his houseboat, determined to teach him propriety in all things and tempting him with every forbidden touch…
Lady Emmaline Crumbley has had a wretched year. Her elderly husband dropped dead without naming her in his will and she’s been relegated to the life of a dowager duchess at the age of 23. She has no wish to instruct a renegade viscount in respectability, but desperate to escape her greedy stepson, Beau’s family makes her an offer she cannot refuse: teach the new lord to behave like a gentleman, and they’ll help her earn the new, self-sufficient life of her dreams. Emmaline agrees, only to discover that instructing the viscount is one thing, but resisting him is quite another. How can she teach manners to the rakish nobleman if he is determined to show her the thrill of scandal instead?
I enjoyed the previous book in Charis Michaels’ Bachelor Lords of Londonseries (The Virgin and the Viscount) and was impressed with the author’s ability to craft a strong story and create sympathetic characters. I was less impressed with the fact that the story went off the rails in the last twenty percent with a completely unnecessary – and inaccurate – twist which was there only to set up the next book. I wasn’t able to discuss that in my review, as it came late in the book and was thus a big spoiler, but as it is revealed at the beginning of One for the Rogue, I’m going to talk about it here.
Having suddenly come into a viscountcy that he doesn’t want and never expected to inherit, Beau Courtland has decided to ignore it and continue with his life as if nothing has happened. This life has included a lot of travel abroad, a lot of women and a lot of getting himself into scrapes, but Beau is the charming scapegrace younger brother – or he was until his brother Bryson, who had held the title Viscount Rainsleigh since the death of their irresponsible, debauched sire – discovered that the late viscount was not, in fact his father. An upstanding, fair minded man, Bryson was not prepared to continue to bear a title to which he was not, well, entitled, and abdicated it in favour of his brother, who is his father’s true son.
There is a massive problem with that and it’s why the ending of the last book made no sense and the premise of this one is just plain wrong. In English law at this time, if you were born in wedlock, you were legitimate, regardless of who provided the sperm. Anyone who reads historical romance on a regular basis – or who does the slightest bit of research – will be aware of this. The previous Viscount Rainsleigh was married to Bryson’s mother at the time of Bryson’s birth and publicly acknowledged him as his son – ergo, Bryson is legitimate in the eyes of the law, and there is no reason for him not to continue to hold his title. Yes, his actions are prompted by his personal code of honour, but that doesn’t trump the law. It would have taken an act of Parliament to strip him of the title, and for his desire for such a thing to have been taken seriously, Bryson would have had to have committed treason or done something equally terrible. I know this is fiction and there will be some who think I’m being needlessly pedantic. But as K.J. Charles recently pointed out in an excellent blog post, “Britain is a real country and our history actually happened” and ignoring that in order to suit a plotline is problematic, to say the least.
Okay, coming down off my soapbox, here’s the rest of the review.
Emmaline, the dowager Duchess of Ticking, is in dire straits. Married at nineteen to a man old enough to be her grandfather, she is, at twenty-three, a widow who has been left with nothing and is living off the allowance left her by her parents before they were tragically drowned some years earlier. The new duke has an eye to her younger brother’s fortune – Emma’s family was wealthy even though their money came from trade – and is having her watched and keeps trying to persuade her and her brother to move in with his large family where, it’s clear, she’ll be put to work as little more than a servant.
A glimmer of hope is offered her when Bryson Courtland casually mentions that his brother – the new Viscount Rainsleigh – needs someone to educate him in the ways of polite society. Having already come up with an idea that should help her and Teddy gain their freedom – which will involve transporting both themselves and a lot of saleable goods to New York – Emma thinks that taking the new viscount under her wing could persuade Mr. Courtland – who owns several shipping companies – to help her to bring her scheme to fruition.
The problem, of course, is that said new viscount has no intention of mingling with polite society. Although once he gets a good look at Emma, Beau is perfectly happy to form other sorts of intentions in relation to her, none of them polite. All that changes, though, as soon as he learns that while Emma is a widow, her marriage was never consummated. Virgins are strictly off-limits so he tries to distance himself from her. It goes without saying that he isn’t very successful.
The romance is fairly lukewarm, and while I did get a sense of Emma’s coming to a greater understanding of Beau and why he acts the way he does, I didn’t feel that Beau was much more than physically attracted to Emma, at least not until fairly late on in the story. In the second half of the book, the storyline surrounding the new Duke of Ticking’s attempts to get his hands on Emma’s brother’s money is more interesting – until Ms. Michaels once again makes use of another historically and, I believe, legally inaccurate scenario to bring that plotline to a close.
Emma is an engaging heroine and I liked the way she gets on with things without relying on others to do them for her. She’s strong, determined and clever – and I have to agree with Beau that he isn’t good enough for her. Beau has (or thinks he has) good reasons for not wanting anything to do with the peerage, and steadfastly refuses to use his title or to take responsibility for the lands and estates that his brother worked so hard to rebuild. An incident when he was nineteen gave him a distaste for the aristocracy, and admittedly what happened – Beau and a group of his friends unintentionally caused a distressing incident which the nobs covered up rather than admit to – wasn’t right. But rather than using his position as the brother of a viscount to do something about it, he just decided he was useless and that whatever he did was bound to fail so he didn’t bother to try. Quite honestly, I wanted to slap him, tell him not to be so selfish and to grow a pair!
You may ask why, given the massive inaccuracy upon which the story is based, I wanted to review this book at all. The answer is because I enjoyed The Virgin and the Viscount in spite of the problems that arose near the end and I wanted to see where Ms. Michaels was taking that part of the story. As I said at the outset, she’s a good writer and creates interesting characters, but the story in One for the Rogue wasn’t quite strong enough to hold my interest, and while I liked Emma, Beau is far too spineless and insipid to be the hero of a romance novel.
One for the Rogue sees Ms. Michaels’ Bachelor Lords trilogy limping to the finish line, rather than crossing it with arms outstretched in triumph. She’s a talented writer, so I will probably pick up her next book, but I’ll be doing so with fingers crossed she can resist the temptation to contort facts in order to fit her plotlines.