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Caroline Linden – “What A Rogue Desires”

5 Feb

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Zebra Books, 2007

SERIES: Reece Family Trilogy, #2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked What a Gentleman Wants, the first one on this trilogy, a lot and I wanted to see how David reformed.

The back blurb:
“After a wayward youth, David Reece, the youngest scion in a noble family, has been called one of the most scandalous rogues of the ton. What he wants to be called is trustworthy and a true gentleman. To prove he has reformed he’s agreed to watch over his absent brother’s estate and signet ring. All is going swimmingly until highwaymen waylay his coach and steal that precious ring…
Street orphan Vivian Beecham has grown up a pickpocket, and a very pretty one indeed. Now she and her brother have reluctantly graduated to highway robbery. And handsome David Reece has become their victim–until he tracks her down and makes her his prisoner. Locked in a spare bedroom, Vivian vows to hate her captor. Instead she becomes a former rogue’s greatest challenge: the object of a passionate seduction. But David and Vivian are playing a dangerous game in which forbidden love is a wild card…”

The second sentence in this story:

“It is a known truth that scoundrels do not long survive the passing of their youthful looks and charms, to say nothing of their fortunes.”

What a Rogue Desires is David’s story. For quite a lot of reasons, he wants to reform himself. He wants to become responsible and respectable, and as the story progresses, he finds out just how big a task that actually is.

David’s quest to reform himself

David is a lovable scoundrel but he is the real deal, not a rogue in name only. There’s what he did in What a Gentleman Wants, and while that might be his worst, it’s far from his only misdeed. Throughout the story, there are several examples that illustrate just what kind of life David has led. Even more, his past continues to catch up with him, be it his troubles to hire servants, or some of his former companions in crime wagering on him screwing up again, or ending up accused of something that actually beats the accusation he faced in What a Gentleman Wants. So when highwaymen take the signet ring his brother gave to him as a sign of trust and authority on the same day he got it, it’s clear to David that he has to get it back, no matter what.

Vivian knows the signet ring is trouble and that it’s important to sell it as fast as possible. She gets a good offer for it in London but it’s a trap set by David who, thanks to his shady past, is on well-known terms with a lot of pawnbrokers. David, astonished a woman turns up, takes her captive after it turns out that she didn’t bring the ring with her. He thinks a few hours locked up will get her to reveal where the ring is.

David’s road to responsibility and respectability is the part I liked best in this novel. It was done in a convincing and believable way. I believed in David’s wish to reform, and in his reform, and so I especially enjoyed the irony that David engaged in kidnapping and taking someone prisoner in order to get back his sign of responsibility (although this wasn’t really pursued for long; see below).

A captor/captive romance?

The other thing I needed to be convinced of was the romance. With Vivian being held prisoner in a room in David’s house for around half of the novel, What a Rogue Desires is clearly a captor/captive romance and that’s not easy to pull off, IMO.

It begins with some spirited discussions:

“That was my broken rib, bloodthirsty wench,” he said. “I promise not to hurt you, but only if you don’t try to hurt me.”
Vivian licked her lips, inching backward and thinking frantically. “I didn’t know it was broken.”
“Somehow I think it wouldn’t have mattered.”
Vivian kept her mouth shut. Of course it would have, she thought; if I’d known, I’d have hit it harder, and sooner. (65)

but this soon turns into Vivian not speaking to David, and then they settle into a kind of truce without mentioning the captor/captive situation. While this probably made it easier for the romance, in the long run it hurt the characters, Vivian in particular, and the story.

I understood how Vivian could be seduced by having a real bed and enough food and how she was resigned to her captivity, but I just couldn’t understand how both of them could blithely carry on and not once speak about the situation. So instead of making me forget about the captor/captive thing, the total absence of thoughts about the situation made it glaringly obvious to me, even more when their relationship changes. The first time they go to a theater, there is not one line about David worrying that Vivian might try to run away, and Vivian doesn’t seem to contemplate the theater visit as a good opportunity to escape, either.


Vivian’s dream of her own cottage with a cat and her plan to find an apprenticeship for her brother is the most defining element of her character in the first few chapters. She worries about her brother and wants to get away from living on the streets, robbing people. After all, the second sentence in this novel holds probably true for her and her brother, too. Where’s her worry about her brother now? It’s only after the theater visit that Vivian and David become lovers.

As a result, I lost some of my investment in the story during this part. I believed that Vivian and David are suited to each other, but after being off to a start with chemistry, this strangely conflict-free captor/captive scenario slowed the pace and left me a bit incredulous, undermining Vivian’s character (who goes further into the background the longer the story goes on) and the romance. The story never recovered from that completely in my view.

Good things

  • I liked Linden’s writing and she’s good at showing things with small gestures.
  • I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of the behavior of people born to privilege and people born without means that revolves around the question “what makes a person honorable?” This is, of course, most pronounced in Vivian’s and David’s characters. She says to David that he could have been a pirate, for example.

Verdict: There is nothing overtly wrong with What a Rogue Desires except that two things marred my enjoyment of the story and I ended up liking it less than I thought I would when I read the first few chapters. Meaning: I have some reservations about this novel. But I liked the writing and I thought David’s character arc interesting and convincing. So in the end I think What a Rogue Desires evens out to an okay read (3/5).