An Undeniable Rogue by Annette Blair
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-7383-6
***
An Undeniable Rogue is a story about a dying man requesting a vow from a friend to marry his sister in order to protect her. There are a few unique twists since said sister is 8 months pregnant with one child and has twin 4-year-old boys, which no one tells the intended groom about for a few days. Add to that a nasty man seeking revenge and we have the perfect setting for true love.

Sabrina Whitcomb has been the abused spouse of a man for several years. This man is obviously scum as he ďsellsĒ her to another in order to pay his gambling debt, then meets a nasty end. She escapes to her adopted brother, only to have him head off to the Napoleonic war and die. Upon receiving his friendís letter, she scoots herself to Stanthorpe House to await her bridegroom, along with her two children and an entourage of miscreants whom she has rescued from various ills.

Gideon St. Goddard, Duke of Stanthorpe, promises his dying friend that he will marry his sister. He is not looking forward to it, as he is not yet ready to marry and be a family man despite numerous attempts at matchmaking by his grandmother.

Gideon arrives and is confronted with a beautiful woman, albeit an obviously pregnant one. He soon discovers that not only is he gaining a wife, he is gaining an instant family. As he wrestles with the implications, Sabrina watches his every move, prepared to protect herself and her children from any further abuse. The story unfolds as Sabrina and Gideon learn to care, to trust and finally to love.

I had some difficulty with many aspects of the story, even as I enjoyed the interactions and love scenes. The humor of many situations increased my enjoyment. The antics of two four-year-old twins were adorable. Their initial fear, followed by slow acceptance seemed very realistic for abused young children. The odd assortment of characters Sabrina gathered around her were fun and generally a good addition to the story.

Sabrina and Gideon, when left alone, were likeable people with adult love scenes and many honest conversations. Theirs is a mature relationship with some playful and sensual moments thrown in.

So where did things go wrong? Sabrina needs protection, finds it and then hides the fact that she needs protection. Poor Gideon didnít have a chance to be a hero since he didnít even know he needed to be. Even as she admits she loves Gideon, she doesnít entrust her secrets to him. This seemed silly and unnecessary.

There is a little bit of a confusing sidelight thrown into the tale in an effort, perhaps, to create more intrigue. There are several late night break-ins into the house, loosely attributed to a vengeful former mistress of Gideonís who had high hopes for herself. However, these are never really explained and only served to confuse the reader.

The villain is the least defined character. It took me about half the book to figure out who and what this whole plotline was all about. It was not until the last 30 pages that the villain presented himself, and even then the whole motivation for his hatred is sketchy, as his relationship to the former mistress.

The distractions outweigh the good in many ways, but I can still say that An Undeniable Rogue is an enjoyable story.

--Shirley Lyons


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