Review: A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Thursday, March 15

Title: A Rogue by Any Other Name*
Author: Sarah MacLean
Series: Rules of Scoundrels #1
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Romance
Format: paperback & e-book
Date/Year: February 28, 2012
Reviewed by: Booklover1335

*This book was provided to me by Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review

Summary from the publisher:

What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets . . .

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . even her heart.

My Musings:

I’ve been a fan of Sarah MacLean’s brand of romance since I first discovered her work with Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (which remains a favorite).  She has set a very high standard with her stories, and while I’ve loved some of her books more than others, the key point here is that I’ve loved each and every one of them,  and the first book in her Rules of Scoundrels series, A Rogue by Any Other Name, is no exception.

Penelope Marbury hasn’t had luck with love.  She was once engaged to a Duke, but that ended badly with him marrying someone else for love, consequently tainting her reputation.  Though her heart was not broken along with her engagement, she mourns the loss of the potential for love, companionship and a family of her own.  Given a second chance she decides that it will be love or nothing and she refuses to settle for anything less.  She wants more out of life...and that idea of “more” is cleverly and brilliantly prevalent throughout the entire book.

She was once very dear childhood friends with Michael, who would eventually inherit the title of the Marquess of Bourne.  They had a very special and close connection, until he lost everything  as a very young man in a game of cards to his guardian, a person he was supposed to be able to trust and guide him,  but instead humiliatingly betrayed him.  His destitution left him deeply embarrassed, scarred and desperate to survive by any means necessary to try and one day gain back the life that was stolen from him.  Revenge has become his entire existence up until he reunites with his heroine.

After many years Michael and Penelope meet again, and while she fondly remembers the boy and friend that he used to be, he has returned to gain her hand in marriage by any means necessary, including her planned ruination in order  to win back his beloved home Falconwell;  her dowry.  During their time apart Michael has become a ruthless man, sometimes even cruel, who will do anything necessary to fulfill his goals.  He’s driven by revenge which has consumed him for so long, that he feels he is completely lost and irredeemable.  He doesn’t like who he has become, in fact he loathes his ruthlessness, but feels that as long as it gets him what he needs to prove his success, that the ends justify the any cost.  Including Penelope’s love, her esteem and her reputation.

Penelope has a hard time reconciling the boy she loved with the man he has become.  Thus begins the emotional, and sometimes heartbreaking journey of their love story.  Michael is a very interesting hero, in that at first he does not seem to have any redeemable characteristics.  He’s completely reprehensible.  The author pulls no punches in letting you know that revenge has consumed and blinded Michael to anything other than what he feels he needs to do in order to gain back what was lost, no matter the expense to himself or anyone else.  Yet, he also fully comprehends that it comes at a very high cost to his soul and humanity, but that it is a price he is willing to pay.  So while he gains back what he has lost in possessions, he will ultimately lose more than what he did in the long ago fateful game of cards.

Michael sees no hope for himself, so when Penelope reenters his life, and brings with her  the possibility of love instead of revenge, he fights it.   Because to lose her again...especially now that his feelings for her are “more”, would be a loss so devastating that he might not survive it.  Some people have hated Michael, and feel that he is not a worthy hero.  However, I have to disagree.  I loved him as a hero.  He actually reminds me a bit of Lisa Kleypas’s Derek Craven from Dreaming of You, and as hard as it is to believe, I think Michael is even more destitute.  Consequently though, it also means that his redemption is even that more satisfying.

Each chapter of the book begins with a letter that Penelope has written to Michael, so that the reader can understand their friendship  and their deep connection to each other even at such a young age.  And as each chapter progresses you feel Penelope’s loss of that friendship...from the letters going unanswered after Michael loses everything, to eventually her not even mailing them, but still continuing to write her thoughts to him in a journal.  So when they meet again you can understand, despite his cruelty and who he has become, why she doesn’t give up on him. Why she is willing to fight for his love and save him from himself.  However, she is also not a glutton for punishment.  She is given hope, in small but meaningful ways, like when he slips and calls her “Sixpence” a childhood nickname he gave her when everyone else called her “Penny”, because to him she was worth more than just a mere penny, or when he hands her his “marker”, which to him represents the man he used to who has integrity and is honorable...she knows all is not lost.  That there is hope, that if she has enough courage for them both, that they can have everything and win at the game of love.

I also have to mention that while A Rogue by Any Other Name is maybe not my favorite of this author’s works (it’s a close second though), I thought that her writing style  in this story was nothing short of brilliant.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that used one word, in this case “more”, that evoked so much meaning and emotion in different ways...hope, pain, regret, bliss. This word is used repeatedly throughout the entire story with different intentions, and while it is such a simple word it conveys very complex emotions with simplicity and elegance.  I thought it was just....brilliant!  In this book she has also written some of the most emotionally intimate loves scenes that  I’ve read in quite some time.   They were passionate, and poignant and everything that I love in a great romance. Again, brilliant!

So if I loved A Rogue by Any Other Name so much, why didn’t I give it 5 stars?  It was the epilogue...the last parting insight into the characters lives to give you the happily ever after warm fuzzies...had exactly nothing to do with the hero and heroine from this story.  Instead it was  essentially a preview chapter for the next book in the series.  An epilogue is supposed to be a conclusion to a story, not the beginning of a new one...end of story.  However, despite the epilogue I absolutely fell in love with A Rogue by Any Other Name.  It will most certainly be one of my favorite romances of 2012!


Overall:  4.95 stars (it would have been perfect except for the epilogue...but since the epilogue didn't have anything to do with the hero and heroine from this book I didn't feel right about taking off any more...but I really really wanted an epilogue with Penelope and Bourne!)
Sensuality level:  3.50  (the hero is passionate, but he fights his attraction to the heroine...darn it!)

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Andrea March 15, 2012 at 12:24 PM  

Sarah MacLean is one of my favorite authors. I loved her Love By Numbers series and can't wait to get my hands on this one too.

Did you like Michael even when he was being cruel? I'm scared I'm going to hate him in the beginning and not be able to forgive him by the end.

Booklover1335 March 15, 2012 at 12:46 PM  

Hey Andrea,

You know I never got to the point of hating him. I thought some of his actions were heartless, but I don't think Sarah ever wrote him to the point that he was beyond redemption....for both the reader and the heroine.

If you've loved her other books, then I would definitely read this one too because I think you will enjoy it. I would love to hear your thoughts about him, and the story once you do so please let me know!

Dalila G. March 15, 2012 at 9:11 PM  

Wonderful review, this book is definitely going on my TBR list!

I have read books by Sarah MacLean and I really enjoyed them.
She does have a way with words.

Too bad about the epilogue, it shouldn't of been about a preview chapter for the next book. Maybe a combo of an ending and a new beginning?? This is why I couldn't write a book to save my life, plus, I have NO writing skill at all! LOL!!
I'm still going to read A Rogue by Any Other Name.

Have a nice evening!

Booklover1335 March 15, 2012 at 9:45 PM  

Thanks Dahlia! I'm glad you took the time to read my looooong review, LOL. I just can't seem to write a shorter one....which is also a good reason why I am also not a writer because I would never make my word count. Not to mention I don't have that kind of creativity, and so many other things that it takes to be someone like Sarah MacLean.

I just know you are going to love A Rogue by Any Other Name! I hope you let me know what you think once you've had the chance to read it.

The Brunette Librarian March 15, 2012 at 10:41 PM  

I loved this one! I read it last week and really enjoyed it. Gotta agree with the point on the epilogue, I was a little disappointed it didn't include these characters.

The story was pretty amazing, I didn't think it could be any better really. I'm really looking forward to the others in the series :)

GREAT review!

Booklover1335 March 15, 2012 at 11:05 PM  

Hi Brunette Librarian!

Wasn't this such a great read! I wish I had time to go back and read it again just to savor it more the second time around.

And yeah, the epilogue would have been a great preview chapter because I can't wait to read the next book in the series too, but as an ending to this love story, very disappointing :(

So glad you enjoyed the review, and thanks for sharing your thoughts about the book.

Carol L. March 16, 2012 at 7:45 AM  

Loved your review, I agree about the Epilogue but I love Sara's work and can't wait to read A Rogue By Any Other Name. Thanks again.
Carol L
Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

erin March 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM  

Thanks for the lovely review! I've read only 1 book by this author and i did like it but the rest of the series got buried in the TBR mountain. This book sounds very intriguing... I love the ruthless rake trope and your review so closely mirror what I usually think about them that I'm half convinced to read it :)

Happy Friday!

Booklover1335 March 16, 2012 at 1:51 PM  

Hey Erin, well if you won the Sophia Nash then you'll also be getting this one too! You'll have to let me know what you think of this one too :)

Booklover1335 March 16, 2012 at 1:53 PM  

Hi Carol,

Thank you for the compliment about the review and I am glad you enjoyed it, but it's nothing compared to A Rogue by Any Other was seriously fantastic, almost perfect in fact if it would not have been for that darn epilogue!

I know you'll love it!

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