Click here to read Calissa Leigh's review of The Rogue's Return.
It is September 1816. One of the last books in the series "The Company of Rogues," The Rogue’s Return centers on Simon St. Bride, a man who finds himself in a duel against Lancelot McArthur for various reasons. One reason in particular is that Lancelot has insinuated an improper relationship between Simon’s friend Isaiah Trewitt and Isaiah’s young niece Jane Otterburn. As the duel is about to start, Jane makes an appearance and watches as McArthur shoots Simon before the signaled time, thus allowing Simon to take his turn at shooting McArthur point blank - and ending the duel. When asked why she came to them, Jane informs the men that her uncle has shot himself and is on death's bed. The two rush over to Isaiah, who asks as his last request that Jane and Simon marry. Simon has no feelings for Jane, except a bit of curiosity for a young woman who behaves sometimes rather strangely, but marries the young girl, barely eighteen, to please his good friend.
Jane, on the other hand, has been in love with Simon since she moved in with her uncle upon arriving in Canada over a year ago. She had been traveling with her cousin Nan, the two of them raised by the same mother, Martha. When Martha died, the two girls traveled to the New World to live with their uncle. What is revealed to the reader, however, is that Jane is not who she says she is. In fact, no one knows that Jane is in fact Nan, who took over the identity of Jane when she died on the ship sailing from England to Canada. Nan lived in fear for her life, as Uncle Isaiah was not a blood relative. Knowing that he would not turn away Jane, she decided it was for the best to continue her new life in Canada as her cousin, since the resemblance between the two young women was so strong that no one was bound to question it.
Now that Nan is married to Simon, she feels tremendous guilt over her deception. Uncle Isaiah never knew that she took Jane’s place, and now she is hiding her secret from her new husband. Meanwhile, the injuries Simon suffered when he was shot by McArthur have become infected. Jane nurses him back to health, and it is with luck that they are able to board the ship on time to take them home to England as planned.
Simon falls in love with Nan, or "Jancy," as she has asked him to call her, and he is obviously looking forward to future children with his new wife. Nevertheless, Nan now is afraid to start a family with him, knowing that it would be more difficult to part once a baby is born. She does not want to encumber him, feeling he will reject her once he knows the truth.
The trip is grueling, but the two share intimacies and secrets. The trip itself makes a mini-story as Simon slowly recovers from his gunshot wounds. Unfortunately, Nan falls sick during their trip to England, and it is now Simon's turn (with the help from a hired maid) to care for Nan. Nan is still worried about her secret identity being revealed, but what she is most apprehensive about is a possible death threat on Simon. Before they left for England, as Simon was recovering in his bed, an intruder tried to murder him, although there is no proof that the fire started below his room was indeed intended to kill him. However, reveal that someone is searching for important papers held by Simon, and his life is in serious danger.
This was my first book by Jo Beverley, and thus the first I have read in the Rogue Series. It is a very enjoyable piece of historical fiction, although it may be a little too long for my tastes. The book has an epic feel to the story, starting with the duel, followed by the mystery of Nan's background, and the month-long voyage to England. When they finally arrive in England, Simon introduces Nan to his family, the St. Brides, who have more money than Nan could ever imagine. Her fear of not being accepted into his family shows; she originally came from nothing, with a mother who was a beggar by trade. This is part adventure, part Cinderella story, but fans of historical romances will sure to find something to like about The Rogue’s Return. The story initially takes place in the newly tamed world of Canada, which I found to be refreshing given the fact that most romance novels set in this time period usually take place in England. Regardless, the historical backdrop of 1800s Canada and England, along with two very likeable characters, makes The Rogue’s Return a welcome addition to this series.