The Rogue Not Taken
“fearlessness begets victory . . .”
Though spoken by the titular Rogue of Sarah MacLean’s newest romance, The Rogue Not Taken, this line could be emblazoned across the chest of Sophie Talbot, her heroine.
The youngest of the scandalous Talbot girls, Sophie finds herself ostracized by London society after she impetuously shoves her titled but torrid brother-in-law into a fishpond. Needing a quick escape from a hideous garden party, she buys a footman’s garb and nips onto the carriage of the biggest rogue in town, Kingscote Eversley. When he discovers her subterfuge, sparks fly.
The Rogue Not Taken, the first in MacLean’s new Scandal and Scoundrel series, is a wild, if slightly uneven, ride. Publicity for the series indicates that each book is loosely based on modern day tabloid fodder; this is made abundantly clear by the scandal sheet-type titles for each chapter. Sophie’s Frock Found! Foul Play Feared! and Lyne Labyrinth Lovers! are all examples of MacLean’s titillating chapter titles, and she’s clever in their usage. Much like an actual tabloid, each chapter is less salacious than its title.
In fact The Rogue Not Taken is far more Austen than Kardashian. MacLean is for the most part true to her Georgian-era social history. She knows her audience and makes quick but thorough work of sketching a social scene delineated by marriage and economics. The Talbot sisters, with their common background an their father’s purchased title, produce scandal as easily as they breathe, yet their money keeps them in social play.
“King” Eversley, Marquess of Eversley, is known as a rogue, a defiler of young—but not married, as he often points out—society women, and proud of that fact. “The Marquess of Eversley had ho idea how lucky he was to be blessed with the freedom that came with funds and masculinity,” Sophie reflects wistfully. MacLean does a nice job of pointing out the inequities in Georgian society without becoming preachy. Her tone, though occasionally anachronistic in Sophie’s statements and thoughts, is light and fun.
It is only as the story nears the end that it begins to falter. Not all of the secondary stories come together as seamlessly or entertainingly as Sophie and King’s race toward the North of England; King’s “long lost love” story is particularly unconvincing as motivation for his hesitancy in the relationship. As well, Sophie’s family’s economic woes seem more plot device than integral to the story.
Still, for the reader who is looking for a story with a rogue who isn’t particularly roguish and a spunky, fearless (mostly) heroine, mixed in with some cross-dressing and well-written sex, one could do worse than A Rogue Not Taken.