“The Rogue” by Katharine Ashe combines romance and action, creating a thrilling plot. It allows the reader to understand important issues of the time period while exploring the age-old struggle of trust and honesty within a mystery.
Besides writing Ashe also noted, “I have been an associate professor at Duke University since 2007, specializing in Medieval Religious History. I also teach a course on romance fiction that combines history, literature, creative writing, and business entrepreneurship. I am able to combine my love for teaching and writing. Instead of writing academic books I write historical romance novels surrounding some mystery.”
The story opens with a young debutante, Lady Constance Reed, falling for a handsome rogue, Evan Saint-André Sterling. Yet, because of their class standing nothing comes of it until six years later. Saint, a master swordsman, is asked by Constance’s father to teach her how to fence for her own self-defense. The plot goes into a lot of detail on how to hold a dagger, how to move, where and when to strike, but that does not bog the story down, and actually enhances it. Although Constance has been chosen to wed a Duke, the passion between she and Saint puts her in a compromising position. After the Duke withdraws his offer seeing himself in an embarrassing situation, Constance bargains with her father to let her marry Saint, a “nobody,” who is neither rich nor titled. They must overcome Constance’s desire to build a wall in their relationship because she was physically abused and raped. In addition, now a married couple, they work together, to find evidence against the Duke, the primary suspect, who they believe to be responsible for a girl’s murder and other kidnappings.
This adventure story is billed as the opening novel in Ashe’s latest series, The Devil’s Duke, but is intertwined with the previous three books in her Falcon series. The Falcon books should be read first to gain the backstory on the characters. “The Rogue” has a back and forth between Colin Gary, aka Peregrine, and a popular London issue based pamphleteer, Lady Justice, who will also be the hero and heroine of Ashe’s next book, The Earl.
The author explained the character’s backstory, “Peregrine and Lady Justice have been exchanging letters. She is a journalist who is trying to find the real purpose and identity of the Falcon Club. Lady Justice and Colin Gray whose code name is Peregrine have been trading correspondence and debating over women’s issues, specifically a woman’s marital status. They have a “frenemy” relationship. But in the next book they will end up as lovers.”
She further stated, “I named each of The Falcon Club members after birds that reflected a character’s qualities. Eagle is a Scotsman; Seahawk a pirate; Raven, retrieves missing people; Colin is Peregrine; and Constance is Sparrow. When I first started writing the series I imagined a door of the Falcon Club and its knocker was in the shape of a Falcon head.”
The main issue Lady Justice explores is women’s rights in the 1820s. In today’s world people tend to forget that women in England, except the Queen, had no rights. Once married they lost their legal identity as the husband gained control over her property, income, and even her body and children. This is brought home in the quote, “Marriage does not bestow upon a woman a devotee. It shackles her to a prison guard.”
The characters are well developed. Lady Constance is independent, beautiful, and smart while at the same time has major vulnerabilities. Saint is a very honorable man, a former soldier, someone of few words who will go to great lengths to help Constance to trust again. He is protective, kind, and sacrifices his own feelings in trying to have Constance overcome her demons.
“The Rogue” moves at a quick pace. Although this novel has some dark undertones, these bring a depth to the story. The ingredients of intrigue, danger, secrets, and passion along with some historical facts, make for an enjoyable read.