26 May 2015

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #8)

Summary from Goodreads:

Lady Phoebe Batten is pretty, vivacious, and yearning for a social life befitting the sister of a powerful duke. But because she is almost completely blind, her overprotective brother insists that she have an armed bodyguard by her side at all times-the very irritating Captain Trevillion.


Captain James Trevillion is proud, brooding, and cursed with a leg injury from his service in the King's dragoons. Yet he can still shoot and ride like the devil, so watching over the distracting Lady Phoebe should be no problem at all-until she's targeted by kidnappers.


Caught in a deadly web of deceit, James must risk life and limb to save his charge from the lowest of cads-one who would force Lady Phoebe into a loveless marriage. But while they're confined to close quarters for her safekeeping, Phoebe begins to see the tender man beneath the soldier's hard exterior . . . and the possibility of a life-and love-she never imagined possible.

I'm not going to lie. I've wanted a novel for Phoebe and Trevillion ever since it was pointed out that they fight like wet cats - which is about halfway through the previous novel in the series, Darling Beast (review).  So, lucky for me, I didn't have to wait long for Dearest Rogue.

In Dearest Rogue, Captain James Trevillion - wounded in Duke of Midnight (review) and unable to remain with the dragoons - has been hired by Maximus Batten, Duke of Wakefield (yep, that Duke), as bodyguard to the Duke's visually impaired sister, Phoebe (who has grown and grown on me since her introduction in the second book, Notorious Pleasures).  Even if James had the full use of both legs, this would not be an easy job.  He has to shoot a would-be kidnapper in the face.  On Bond Street.  With Phoebe mounted in front of him on their escape horse.  When a kidnapping attempt becomes temporarily successful, James whisks Phoebe away to a secret location for her safety.  And to drive himself insane with unrequited love, because a duke's daughter could never, ever love a common soldier with a cloudy past.

Or so he thinks.  For her part, Phoebe has been chafing against the restrictions imposed by her brother so much she has yet to see Trevillion as a man, not her jailer.  As James and Phoebe negotiate how to create new experiences without undue risks, Phoebe realizes how much she doesn't know about James.  She had assumed he was old and ugly because she didn't want a bodyguard (he's neither).  She had assumed he was uneducated (while not a scholar, he is a middle-class gentleman).  She had assumed he was abrupt with her because he didn't like her (she couldn't possibly be more wrong).  Just as people make assumptions about her because of her blindness, Phoebe has made assumptions about James.

Dearest Rogue is so stinking adorable I want to weep with joy.  The trip out of London taken by James and Phoebe is an absolute delight and the development of their love story is spellbinding.  Do you know the best part? There's no dancing around the marriage plot, no back-and-forth, no will-we-won't-we-external-forces-are-a-problem-someone-can't-say-those-three-little-words problems.  Once James and Phoebe acknowledge they love each other they just decide everyone else can go to hell.  I love it.

When I was reading Dearest Rogue I was also catching up on episodes of the podcast Invisibilia, specifically the show "How to Become Batman" which dealt with blindness.  The intersection of book character and podcast interviewee was so timely my head almost exploded.  The Invisibilia producers interviewed a blind man who had developed very precise echolocation - he teaches this technique to other visually impaired people so he touches on the topic of raising a blind child and how attempting to protect such a child from any and all risk, with blindness as excuse, actually prevents that child from being able to properly assess and situation and develop independence.  This, precisely, is the point Elizabeth Hoyt allows Phoebe to make in Dearest Rogue: that by artificially limiting her experience, even with the best of intentions, Phoebe's world becomes stagnant and she becomes too dependent on others.  It is through the development of this part of Phoebe's and James's relationship that makes Dearest Rogue so wonderful and gives it such depth.  In that way, it is similar to my favorite Maiden Lane novel, Lord of Darkness (review), where Godric and Megs have to navigate a lot of assumptions and personal history before their happy ending. (What am I saying, I have two favorite Maiden Lane novels now.)

Dearest Rogue is available today, May 26, 2015, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I received a digital advance of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss...and then I bought a copy, too.

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