|Jo Beverley is a name well known to romance readers. Since her first book was published in 1991, she has become one of the genre’s most popular authors. She is an auto-buy author for me although I have not considered all her books to be keepers. I did think her last two books, Skylark and A Most Unsuitable Man, were among her best.. I was, therefore, excited to learn that she was coming out with another in her Rogues series.
I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed. The characters are nice, and the circumstances leading to their sudden marriage are more believable than in some other books with similar story lines. But once the hero and heroine start their voyage to England the plot loses its momentum and does not regain it until they’ve reached land.
Jancy Otterburn has a Big Secret. She is the illegitimate daughter of a deceased schoolteacher and Tillie Haskett, a member of a highly disreputable family. Her mother brought her to Martha Otterburn, and rather than turning her late husband’s daughter from her doorstep, Martha raised her and her own daughter Jane together. In order to make a living, Martha opened a haberdashery shop, and the girls worked in it.
After Martha’s death, Jane and Jancy sail to Canada to live with Martha’s brother, Isaiah Trewitt. Jane dies while still onboard ship, and Jancy takes her half-sister’s identity in order to live with her uncle. She has led a quiet, almost nun-like life since arriving in Canada.
Simon St. Bride has been living with Isaiah Trewitt while secretly investigating government fraud and theft in dealings with the native Indians. He has come to believe Lancelot McArthur, an Indian Affairs officer, along with others is engaging in illegal conduct. McArthur tries to force a duel with Simon by slandering Jancy and Isaiah, but Simon turns the tables and the dispute becomes McArthur’s transactions in his official position.
McArthur fires early, but the duel is halted when Jancy comes running to tell Simon that Isaiah has accidentally shot himself and is dying. Isaiah insists that Simon marry Jancy immediately so that she will be cared for. He dies shortly afterwards.
Hopes that the duel would be abandoned are dashed. In a second outing, Simon is badly wounded, and only Jancy’s care saves him.
But problems still abound. Simon is a member of a large and powerful family and likely heir to an earldom, and Jancy’s origins are even more humble than he suspects. What should she do?
And so she worries. And worries. And worries.
She worked in a shop! She’s not good enough for him! She’ll never fit in! Everybody will know! She’s a Haskett!
Jancy and Simon are both nice characters a reader can come to care about. Simon is not one of those idle aristocrats who spends hours contemplating the tying of his neckcloth. He cares about the issues of the day and hopes to become a member of Parliament. In spite of her impersonation and falsehoods, Jancy is a genuinely good person. Even though they come from two vastly different backgrounds, they make an appealing couple.
Hal Beaumont, a secondary character in other Rogue stories, has a secondary role in this book as well, and his romantic dilemma is solved at last.
The Rogue’s Return has earned four hearts because the writing is superior to that in many other romance novels and the character development is particularly strong. Nevertheless, this is not a unqualified recommendation, and other readers may find themselves sharing my exasperation over Jancy and her secrets.