Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29801-3
Historical Romance, 2014
Emma Northcote’s family has fallen on hard times after her brother lost everything they have on the gambling tables. Today, she waits tables at a rough bar while her father works at the docks. The poor dear faces threats of assault and rape, on what seems like a near-regular basis, so it’s fortunate that Ned Stratham is around to beat the crap out of those men. She likes him, he likes her. She’s certain that he’s a card sharp or something, since he carries himself like a rogue, while he’s intrigued by the fact that she seems far more educated than a tavern maid would be. Their feelings for one another blossom as he walks her home every night from work and she kisses him at the end of each day.
And then, she accepts the position of a titled lady’s companion, hoping that this would give her a better chance to improve her family’s financial standing and even locate her missing brother. She regretfully leaves Ned a goodbye note…. only to meet him again in the ballroom. He’s clearly not who she thinks he is… has he been just toying with her all along?
Of all the words to describe The Gentleman Rogue by Margaret McPhee, “boring” and “predictable” are certainly not on that list. The plot revolves around a secret that ties Ned and Emma together – this may seem to be one of those contrived “Surprise, what a coincidence!” things, but it makes sense here, given how small the upper class of society usually is. Things take intriguing twists and turns here, and the fact that there are plenty of intense and believable emotional upheavals here only makes things sweeter.
I like Ned. He has this cold and emotionless exterior, a pragmatist who’d do everything in his power to thrive in a world that isn’t necessarily kind to him, but when it comes to Emma, he turns on this intense brooding “I’d do anything for her” mode that I find really attractive. I like Emma too. She can be sweet, but she is never naïve or impractical. This story is actually about her falling in love as well as finding some kind of closure about her being left to deal with the mess her brother left behind, and I especially enjoy the fact that she comes to a believable epiphany in the end that allows her to love Ned freely despite the mess they both find themselves in. This story is all about secrets, confessions, and forgiveness – and the author deals with these themes in a manner that I find credible and genuine. I certainly believe that the romance here is real and strong enough to make the happy ending believable.
I know, this review is pretty vague on details, but that’s because I believe that this is one of those stories that are best appreciated when the reader knows as little as possible about the story within the pages. Let me just say that I am pleasantly taken by surprise by the turbulent passions and believable character development here. I certainly didn’t expect all this when I started reading, but by the last page, I’m sure glad that I have spent time with Margaret McPhee in this unexpectedly good romance story.