I got this book in the mail yesterday and read it from start to finish in a single night. This isn't to say it's an easy read or even a fast read (I'm a fast reader, for starters)...what it does say is how hard this book was to put down. So why the four stars? While I found it really well written and seriously addictive, I also found myself very, very frustrated with the hero, Michael "Bourne," and his crappy treatment of the heroine, Penelope. Yes, Bourne is a serious bad boy/tortured soul...and there's a lot to like about him. IF you can get past his totally asinine treatment of the people who were once his dearest friends. He's ruthless, single-minded, and at times, a true a-hole. But it's clear we're supposed to dig DEEEEEEEP beneath the surface to see the scared and hurt young man within who simply needs a hug or whatever.
As you can see, I lost patience with Bourne. And I spent much of the book feeling pretty indignant and distressed on behalf of Penelope. First she had to put up with a seemingly uncaring and oblivious family...then she gets roped into Bourne's whole schtick after she is bequeathed his former property. Thankfully, the sex scenes are very, very well written so the poor woman has something nice to look forward to...when her husband deigns to see her, that is.
The final third of the book, when Bourne has his "coming to Jesus" moment, was not quite as satisfying as I'd hoped. Yes, it was good....but honestly, I'd have liked to see a LOT more groveling on his part...and I feel like his insight about himself was rather sudden and he seemed to turn things around very quickly considering how many years he'd been holed up in his club, licking his wounds.
I just re-read this review and want to clarify: this really is a well-written book and if you are a big fan of the tortured/heartless hero who ends up becoming wonderful by the end of the story, this might be the perfect read for you. Part of the problem for me, really, is I tend to like the lighter, frothier reads. Which brings me to the cover of this book....and the title. It all looks so, well, frothy and light. The publisher would have done better to subdue the colors and make things look a little less like the gal on the stairs is having the time of her life. Because, let's face it, Penelope spends a good chunk of the book in low spirits and trying as hard as she can to find the bright side of an otherwise crappy situation.
PS I have EVERY intention of reading the next book in the series. I love Penelope's younger sister, Philippa AND the next fellow on the list, Cross. He seems a much friendlier sort in spite of his rather, er, randy behavior. : )
Lady Penelope Marbury is thisclose to being a spinster. At 28 years old, she is unmarried and no one is interested in marrying her. It turns out that 6 years ago, her fiance, the Duke of Leighton, fell in love with another woman and they ended their engagement. The few men that were interested in Penny are men that she didn't want to marry. You see, Penny wants more. She wants the great love that her ex-fiance has for his wife. She wants the excitement and adventure that's missing in her life. And she's determined to get them.
Unfortunately, as the eldest of 5 daughters, Penelope's broken engagement has affected the ability of her sisters to find husbands. While 2 of her sisters have found husbands, 2 have not and it looks like their prospects are poor. Penelope's father is determined to have Penelope get married this year - no matter what. To do that, he's included lands that he's won in card game to her dowry. Lands that use to belong to her childhood friend Michael.
Michael, Lord Bourne, lost his family's fortune (and everything that wasn't entailed) in one card game to Langton, a family friend when he was 21. It's now 9 years later and Michael is now one of the men that run The Fallen Angel, a gaming establishment. Losing everything has driven him to seek revenge against Langton. He wants what he lost in that card game and he wants revenge. When he hears that Penelope's father has included the lands that once belong to him to her dowry, he's determined to marry her.
And marry her, he does. With the land belonging to him now and the means of getting revenge, he decides to go after Langton. Even if Penelope disapproves and it means the end of his marriage.
This is the first book that I've read by Sarah MacLean and I really liked her writing style. It's an easy read, with great dialog, interesting secondary characters, and a great heroine (I enjoyed her search for "more"). You really feel Penelope's emotions and pain. So, why wasn't this a 5 star book? I really didn't like Michael and had a hard time feeling sympathetic for what happened to him (I guess the author didn't convince me that what happened to him wasn't his own fault). His thoughts ("He ruined of value everything he ever held.") just seemed a bit dramatic and with the way he treated Penelope in the beginning of the book? He needed to do a lot more groveling when he finally realized what Penelope meant to him.
This is the first book in the series. The epilog gives some information about the next story. As much as I didn't care for the hero, I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
The hero, the heroine and the story itself all suffer from some type of arrested development. For the hero, Michael, the Marquess of Bourne, his emotional growth and maturity came to a screeching halt at age 21, when he, who had inherited his title, estate and property as a very young man, lost everything but the title when gambling with an unscrupulous neighbor. Bourne, bitter, whiny, resentful and obsessed with the idea of revenge, disappears from society and becomes partner in a very exclusive gaming hell, the Fallen Angel. He makes lots of money but, blaming everyone but himself for his former losses and his ostracism in society, he spends every waking moment obsessing about regaining his lost land, Falconwell, and taking down evil Lord Langford, who had dispossessed him.
And then we have heroine Lady Penelope Marbury, Bourne's childhood friend and neighbor. She's caught in the time warp of her adolescence and early teens, when Michael was so dear to her. They even exchanged letters when he went away to school. Eventually he stopped responding to her letters but that didn't stop her from continuing to write to him for years. Penelope, true to her namesake of old, is subconsciously waiting for her Odysseus (i.e. the Michael of her childhood) and rejects all suitors to her hand. Her father, who has come into possession of Michael's former property, Falconwell, adds that to Penelope's dowry, hoping to attract more suitors, one of whom maybe this time Penelope will accept.
So Michael gets wind of this dowry addition and basically forces Penelope to marry him. Since she's subconsciously in love with him, it's not too much of a stretch for her to accept. But that's when the story itself begins to suffer from arrested development. Once they marry, nothing much happens. The characters think, say and feel the same things over and over and over again for what seems like the forever of their newly-married state. No growth of characters or advancement of plot until, all of a sudden, at the end of the book Michael has his aha moment and finally realizes that, as the Beatles have said, all you need is love. Revenge not so important.
This is, I think, supposed to be an ANGSTY romance, with a tortured hero and a loving, healing heroine, but all I felt was ANTSY while reading it. You may blame this on me and the fact that I have read way too many HRs in my life so nothing is new to me. What I look for now in an HR is well-developed, likeable characters and a romance that warms the cockles of my heart. This didn't do it.
Clearly, opinions on this book are pretty divided, with a strong point of disagreement on the romantic male lead. So I might as well get into that immediately.
Michael is not a nice man. He doesn't want to be a nice man. He's spent a lot of time learning not to be a nice man. And I frankly found it a little refreshing to have an antihero in a book who is actually an antihero, and not a misunderstood ladies' man with a heart of gold. Michael actually has something to overcome and a reason he resists overcoming it, and brava for Sarah MacLean for making such a brave and complex choice.
I enjoyed the book. I liked watching Michael struggle with some serious and plausible demons and watching Penelope trying to find happiness anyway in a bad situation. While I felt the denouement was a bit rushed, it didn't significantly impair my enjoyment of the book. Michael didn't just lose his inheritance; humiliated and betrayed, he lost his moral compass, and I enjoyed the journey as Penelope helps him get it back.
Whether or not a book is good, of course, is entirely subjective to your tastes. Do you strongly prefer your rogues to be ladies' men with hearts of gold? Charming, misunderstood ne'er-do-wells who are actually chivalrous or secretly saintly? Then this is probably not your cup of tea. (And nothing wrong with that; I like that type, too. :)) If, on the other hand, you can be intrigued rather than repulsed by a romantic lead who is deliberately unkind, who emotionally wounds a woman who doesn't deserve it and who has to fight against his fears and anger to find happiness, you might enjoy this book. It's well crafted, well plotted, and emotionally rewarding in spite of the slightly rushed ending.
Further kudos to MacLean for avoiding the easy route with her heroine. Penelope is not a simpering, passive character; within the parameters of her society and her own goals, she is a woman of strength and nobody's fool.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
on January 30, 2012
When he is twenty-one, the Marquess of Bourne loses all his money and most of his land and possessions to his neighbor (and guardian), the evil Viscount Langford. Left penniless and an outcast in society, Bourne vows revenge. It takes him ten years to get all his money back, by partnering in a successful gambling establishment. Now he needs a bride of good breeding who will give him his entree back into society. Enter Penelope Marbury, who has been "out" (in society) for nine years and is in imminent danger of becoming a spinster.
Without the interesting plotting or the sexual heat, this book is derivative of Lisa Kleypas' London gaming club series which feature Derek Craven. The plot for this novel plods, with plenty of rehashing of the plot points which have come before (and which start to seem an awful lot like padding.) The sexual chemistry, when it is even shown, is practically non-existent. That the marriage turns out to have been a good thing for both main characters is a given from the start, but the author shows no originality in arriving at that conclusion. The ending scene is just ridiculous.
To me, the mark of a strong romance novel is when the book manages to make me feel ALL THE THINGS. A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean ran the gamut of emotions. It is a historical romance. Main character Penelope Marbury, a wealthy woman just shy of being a spinster. Penelope has a sizable dowry but after her broken engagement, where her fiancé left her for a love match, Penelope will not settle for anything less than love.
Lord Michael Bourne, our rogue, has different plans for Penelope, however. You see, at age 21 Bourne lost EVERYTHING his parents left to him in a game of cards, except the manor house and his title. Penniless, he becomes a partner in a gambling den, The Fallen Angel and is bent on getting revenge. Bourne marries Penelope after he finds that his ancestral lands were added to her dowry.
If you like your heroes prickly and your heroines plucky, A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean is the book for you. Bourne is carrying a lot of extra baggage and won't let anyone in. He especially won't let himself fall in love with his wife, Penelope, who keeps hoping against hope with every little action that Bourne will take a gamble and choose love.
As a reader, I was totally invested in Borne and Penelope's story. It was hard for me to see characters I cared about hurting each other so much emotionally. Every other page it would seem like Penelope was starting to fall in love with Bourne and he was being genuine, but then he does something to push her away. It's very emotional. The happily ever after takes work in this case. It's not instant love between the two. Let's just say the journey in A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean is rough, but the destination is totally worth it.
on August 13, 2012
I'm not sure where to start with this review, it was such a great read. I had a hard time putting it down and couldn't wait until I could pick it back up and read more of it. I even read it while brushing my teeth in the morning before heading off to work. I don't usually read during my lunch hour, but I found myself carrying it to work and reading it on my lunch break right down to the very last minute.
All of the characters were well written, even the secondary characters which sometimes are rather two dimensional and serve only to move the plot along. It was very easy to empathize with the hero, Michael, the Marquess of Bourne, and the heroine, Lady Penelope Marbury, and why they felt the way they did about where they were in their lives and how they got there. The dialogue was witty and the pacing was terrific.
I also liked the pieces of the letters Penelope and Michael wrote to each other when they were younger and how Penelope kept writing to him even after he stopped responding and she stopped sending them.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the very first page to the last. Loved the epilogue which made want to read the next book in the series even more.
on April 1, 2012
Strong start but fell flat in the end. You get the impression that the Penelope is one of those whimpering females, which is ok if the author actually makes an effort in creating a character that progressively builds a backbone, but noooo....somehow we are supposed to believe that she was always this adventurous and strong willed even though she continuosly lives in great shame over being dumped by some duke 8 years ago and can't seem to get over the stigma it has created for her and her sisters.
The we have Michael Bourne, disgraced Marques who lost everything to a deck of hands. He starts off really aggressive and brooding. Forcing "Poor Penelope" into marriage by threatening to further disgrace her family and then suddenly, but mind you, with a lot of that dreadful "I need you, but I can't be with you" inner dialogue that comes along with tortured heroes, decides that he has always loved her.
The book starts off with promise, but you get the impression that half way through the book the author decides it will take to much time to properly develop these characters and decides to half ass it.
on November 30, 2013
I bought this book based on the good reviews, and the fact that my usual authors didn't have any new books coming out for a couple of months. For the most part I enjoyed the characters and their development. The only thing that kinda got on my nerves was the H insistence that it was someone else's fault he lost his inheritance. I think it was his own darn fault, that no one forced him to play the game or make the wager that he did. I liked the book enough to get the second book so I can find out what happens with the h's sister. The love scenes were 3/5 on the spicy scale, not too much to offend certain people, but maybe lacking a bit for others. Just to help out other readers my favorite HR authors are: Elizabeth Hoyt, Tessa Dare, and Sabrina Jeffries. Oldies but goodies: Judith McNaught, Lisa Kleypas, and Julie Garwood.
on June 20, 2014
3.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This is a hero-uses-heroine-for-revenge book, and as such, we have the patient heroine who believes that the hero is a better man than he appears to be, as well as the angsty hero who initially tries to close off his emotions and focus on just getting revenge. In this particular story, the two are part of an original trio of childhood friends, which means that they have history and a past relationship that plays heavily into her hope that he'll reform, and the emotional pull he feels toward him. I did feel as though parts of the revenge plot dragged and were tiresome, and also, I really disliked how some of the final climactic scenes played out (spoilers below), but overall, this felt like a slightly-lighter-almost-at-times-fun take on the revenge trope.
Michael, the rightful Marquess of Bourne, lost everything to the man who was supposed to be his guardian protector in one fateful card game. Left with nothing but entailed properties and a title, he leaves to make his fortune and returns years later as the part-owner of a gaming hell, and of course, wants nothing more than revenge against those who shunned and/or brought him to his original, ruined state.
Enter Lady Penelope, a girl he more or less grew up with (before the scandal), who has written him countless letters throughout the years (some sent, some not sent), who has never quite given up on him. She's had a brokn engagement in the past, and a slew of courtships that haven't exactly lived up to the ideals of romance or even companionship. Her father is determined to finally marry her off and increases her dowry by adding a particularly lucrative property... one that used to belong to Michael, and that he would do anything to get back.
Despite the fact that these are interesting characters in many ways, the book becomes increasingly weighted down by the slow-paced-revenge backdrop. He quite often acts like a jerk, and his love for her doesn't necessarily blossom so much as just become... suddenly... a thing... in the last part of the book.
I also hated the fact that in the end, after losing his inheritance to the villain of the book, he stands by and lets his wife gamble in his stead. It just did not feel believable to me that after swearing off gambling, learning the lessons of a reckless past, he thinks that he's... what? Showing faith in his wife by letting her gamble everything? It just really... didn't make sense and took me completely out of the novel.
Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read. Not enough to make m super-eager to read the rest of the series, but good enough that I'll look into it at some point.
Comparison to Other Authors:
This is my first Sarah MacLean novel... I found her writing clear and on the funny side, with the story focusing on really the main characters (almost everyone else could be bundled together as "other"). The sensuality is humor is more Julia Quinn than Loretta Chase, and the references to the time periods are more to-remind-us than immersive.