Title: The Rogue Not Taken
Author: Sarah MacLean
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: 2015
Genre: romance, historical romance
Rating: 2/5 stars
Lady Sophie Talbot is the youngest of the Dangerous Daughters, the offspring of a former coal miner turned newly minted earl whose title is rumored to have been purchased. Also known as the Soiled S’s (presumably because of coal and the fact that all their names preposterously begin with S à la Kardashians – Seraphina, Sesily, Seleste, Seline, and Sophie), Sophie’s sisters are are the scandalous talk of London, beautiful, rich, and out for aristocratic matches. All except Sophie, the least interesting of the Talbot sisters, who longs for a quiet life away from Society. Least interesting, that is, until she pushes her philandering brother-in-law into a goldfish pond in front of all of Society.
Sophie flees the garden party, stowing away in a carriage belonging to the Marquess of Eversely, which she erroneously believes will bring her home. So begins Sophie’s grand adventure which includes, amongst other things: a road trip, cross-dressing, being shot, falling in hate, falling in love, a sexy doctor, dreams of owning a bookstore, a baker’s son, the Minotaur (in myth form), financial ruin, and of course, scandal and a scoundrel.
I was expecting to love this book. I adored Sarah MacLean’s The Rules of Scoundrels series and really liked most of the Love by Numbers books. She writes smart, feminist romances with strong heroines, interesting heroes, and fabulously pun-y titles. When I heard that the new book was going to be a play on the Kardashians, I was intrigued. I’m mostly indifferent to the Kardashians, but there are some interesting analogies to be made between contemporary celebrity culture and early 19th century English aristocracy. Plus, that’s a heck of a pun in the title.
Sadly, I was not just underwhelmed (as I have been with a string of recent books), I was sort of mad at this book. Let’s start with the smaller problems first. It was too damn long, and the plot was meandering and convoluted. A romance novel needs a reason to be over 400 pages. So much time was spent on Sophie and King sniping at each other on the road trip that I was pretty much bored and over it by the time things started actually happening when they reached King’s father’s estate. These things might have been forgivable if I had liked or even cared about the heroine, hero, or their love story.
First, there is Sophie. I suspect the reader is supposed to find her smart, brave, funny, and charming. And sure, I guess she isn’t unintelligent and she does do some brave things, but she is also prone to making terribly stupid, impetuous, and selfish decisions. I am the first one to love a bookish heroine, but her love of reading, along with all of the other traits meant to endear her to the reader, felt like so much window dressing to cover up the fact that she is a profoundly insecure and weak woman who is desperately floundering until she is rescued by a man.
And then there is King. Oh King, ye of the terrible name (short for Aloysius Archibald Barnaby Kingscote). You are the worst. You sir, are a douche. He’s regularly mean and oftentimes outright cruel to Sophie, but it’s ok because he’s worried about her health when she’s shot! He is so obsessed with his own damage that he treats pretty much everyone like crap. When he is confronted by some hard truths about his past that might prompt some serious self-reflection and questioning of one’s choices, what does he do? He whines about now nobody has ever loved him and then uses the heroine to make himself feel better. Ugh. This guy.
So yeah, not my book. I will probably give the next book in the series, A Scot in the Dark, if only for the fabulousness of that pun, but I would recommend most readers skip this entry.