The Last Rogue by Deborah Simmons
(Harlequin Hist. #427, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29027-6
****
Celebrating their tenth anniversary, Harlequin Historicals releases another fine romance by longtime Harlequin author, Deborah Simmons. The Last Rogue is a sweet, warm tale of two very different and complex characters who find love by making the best of a bad situation(s).

Deverell Fairfax, Viscount Raleigh, knows his bachelor days are over when he wakes up and finds his hostess's sister, Jane Trowbridge, in his bed. Growing up with beautiful sisters, Jane has always considered herself to be the ugly duckling amongst a bevy of swans. She never expected to marry, and certainly not to a handsome wastrel like Raleigh.

Raleigh doesn't like to waste time looking at the gloomy side of life; he truly wants to make the best of his marriage to Jane. And, he wants Jane to be happy and smile more often. Also, he's starting to wonder what she would look like without her spectacles and dressed in something a little more colorful than her somber gray and black gowns.

Because of her insecurity about her looks, Jane finds it impossible to believe that Raleigh could be truly interested in her and she maintains her distance. However when Raleigh, who is always strapped for money, receives an unexpected inheritance, Jane wants to help him put his new estate, Craven Hall, in order.

And help him she must, because no one in the sleepy Northumberland town is willing to work at Craven Hall. In addition, when things start going "bump in the night," even the ever-sensible Jane has a few qualms about their new home and whether or not it's haunted.

Ms. Simmons sets up her characters nicely in the beginning of this story and then she allows them to grow and change becoming people who are not only capable of love, but worthy of it. Raleigh and Jane are both very interesting and complex characters.

Raleigh is a very appealing and different hero. He's neither rich nor powerful and he has spent much of his life being charming and lighthearted in order to fit in and be accepted. Jane, on the other hand, has spent most of her life trying not to be accepted. Sure that no man could find her desirable, Jane decided long ago that her life should be dedicated to serious works and assisting her family.

As these two opposites try to make a life together, Raleigh and Jane discover that there is more to each other than meets the eye. In addition to the nice characterizations, The Last Rogue also includes a subplot concerning Craven Hall that supports the romance and adds an interesting dash of mystery and suspense to the story line.

--Judith Flavell


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