I fell across Sarah MacClean‘s writing about two years ago, when I fairly devoured her Love by Numbers trilogy. I loved the way in which she managed to write about strong women, without drifting away from the reality of a woman’s life in regency England.
So when I heard that she had a new series – Scandal & Scoundrel – I was rather excited. The Rogue Not Taken, as well as being a fantastic name for historical, didn’t let me down. MacClean’s ability to highlight the fragility of a woman’s reputation in the regency era is one of the things that lifts her romances up out of the crowd.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a romp where the heroine singlehandedly takes on society and wins as much as the next person, but they’re incredibly unrealistic. The social disgrace and near ruination of a family, due to Sophie’s flouting of social graces, makes this a far more interesting read.
Sophie’s not the stereotypical heroine. She’s stubborn, messes up a lot of the time, and the one time she acts without thinking, sets off a catastrophic series of events, and yet you can’t help but sympathise with her. Her dilemma, as a young lady whose family were given a title, as opposed to having been born into one, seems heartfelt. She’s got absolutely no wish to be in society, and can think of nothing better than returning to the home of her childhood and marrying the baker’s boy – especially when society is unmentionable cruel to her and her sisters.
Of course, she meets someone who purposefully spends his time scandalising society, and despite the fact that neither of them can stand the other, they end up being thrown together.
As a hero, King’s spent his life furious with his father for a tragedy in his youth and it’s coloured his attitude towards everything. In short, he appears to be a bit of a dick. There was a twist, towards the end of the book, that I really wasn’t expecting. It set on its head an accepted regency romance trope, and forced King’s internal conflict to drastically change. Suffice to say it was a genius move on MacClean’s part.
In fact, the whole book reads a bit like a social commentary on gossip columns of today; it made me think about celebrity, and in particular notoriety, and was so engaging that I can’t wait for the next book!