A Rogue's Pleasure
by Hope Tarr
(Jove, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-515-12951-8
*****
First time author Hope Tarr has penned a sensational debut novel packed full of humor, wit, intrigue, and sexual tension galore. Set in Regency England, A Rogue's Pleasure is hard to set down once you pick it up.

Chelsea Bellamy's younger brother Robert has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom at the sum of five hundred pounds. Orphaned over a year ago, Chelsea has no one to turn to and must therefore come up with a way to raise the needed funds herself. When all of her avenues for acquiring money are exhausted and desperation finally kicks in, she turns to her trusted servant Jack - a retired highwayman - to teach her his former trade. All is going according to plan until Chelsea and Jack decide to hold up a carriage that contains none other than the handsome and notorious rake Viscount Montrose and his fiancée Olivia.

Anthony Grenville, Viscount Montrose, can scarcely believe what's happening to him. Not only is he suffering the embarrassment of being robbed in front of his fiancée, but the perpetrators in question consist of a slight girl and a one-eyed elderly man with scrunched shoulders and a noticeably dragging leg. Still, he can't help but to be amused...and intrigued. He has no choice but to let the girl and her elderly companion go on their way for now, but oddly enough, he hopes to see her again. So when he catches the girl relieving his townhouse of its silver a few days later and forces her to confess all, he can do no less than to help Chelsea get her brother back. Besides, it's the perfect way to keep Chelsea close to him, which is precisely where he most wants her.

A Rogue's Pleasure contains an intriguing plot and superb protagonists, but its the budding relationship and sexual tension between the lead characters that will hold you spellbound. With Anthony engaged to another woman and determined to make Chelsea no more than his mistress, and Chelsea firmly committed to being his wife or nothing at all, readers can't help but to want to find out just how the situation will resolve itself into romantic bliss.

As an aside to that dilemma, it is refreshing to read about a strong heroine that doesn't waste her time mooning over the hero; Anthony is the one that does all of the mooning in this book. How many times have romance fans been made to endure weak-willed, codependent heroines who make you want to jump into the book's pages and shake some sense into them? I'm happy to report that with A Rogue's Pleasure, you get all of the sexual tension without an ounce of caricatured female sappiness.

The Regency setting is also very well penned. Tarr remains historically accurate, while managing to transport readers back to that era without relying upon overdone narrative to do it. She expertly weaves enough detail into the scenes to make the backdrop realistic, but thankfully shies away from proving she did her research by hitting you over the head with endless recitations of what a room looks like or what the political situation of the time revolves around (unless such a description is necessary to the plot or character development). In a few words, she doesn't bore you.

The secondary "who dunnit" story line is also well executed. Even though the reader is more or less able to guess who the kidnapper is midway through the book, the tension is still there as the protagonists race against time to save Chelsea's brother.

Hope Tarr's first novel is an overall winner. Fast-paced, intriguing, and loaded with sexual tension, A Rogue's Pleasure is a real page turner. With one book, this author has already gone onto my "must buy" list.

--Tina Engler


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