MacLean, Sarah. A Rogue by Any Other Name. New York: Avon Books, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-206852-1. Print List Price: $7.99.
In an interview discussing this series, MacLean discussed how the tone of this series is much darker than that of her Love by Numbers series, in that this one focuses on four men with dark pasts who work at a gaming hell, while her previous series was very London- and society-focused. And while I am usually not a fan of the overly tortured heroes or very dark settings, I found I enjoyed the this book a lot more, although it may be nostalgia-based bias, as I think this was the first MacLean book I read. But sometimes it is nice to get out of the crowded London ballrooms and drawing-rooms and see a different side of the Regency world you never experienced before.
The hero and heroine are both compelling characters. Penelope is a character readers of the Love by Numbers series will have met before, as she was the Duke of Leighton’s perfect fiancee in Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, and we see that the fallout of the end of their betrothal in this book has led to her being all but umarriageable, with almost eight years having passed with her still unwed, and two of her four sisters forced to make undesirable matches. The hero, Bourne, is a childhood friend, who lost everything years ago in a card game, and now is determined to at least gain some of his property back by marrying her, and get revenge on the man who fleeced him. While marriage-of-convenience plots aren’t always my favorite trope, and I tend to be iffy about revenge plots, I do like how this one plays out, because of the fact that the two have this history together. Very often, marriages of convenience in historical novels (and what we think of as the typical historical marriage) was between two near-strangers, so it is great to see a story where, even if the two of them have grown and changed in some negative ways since they have last been in contact, they do have some knowledge of one another to build off.
While you see the relationship between them develop in the present, there are also letters from the past interspersed throughout, at the beginning of some chapters and sections of chapters, which illustrate what their relationship was like, and what happened to cause their relationship to change and become the way it is at the beginning when they meet again at the beginning of the novel. And even after the relationship between them crumbles in the past, you see that Penelope has not given up on trying to reach out to him, writing to him even when he’s stopped responding, and even when she doesn’t bother sending the letters anymore.
And just as with her previous series, MacLean presents us with a fun extended cast of characters, including the Cross, Temple, and Chase. And I feel like this is one series that it can be fun to reread, just because one of the future major characters has a major reveal in one of the later books, so it is fun to look into that character’s quotes in this book, and see if there are any hints of that hidden within them.