If you’ve followed Valerie Bowman’s “Playful Brides” series, you know each book is based on a famous play (that more than likely has also been made into a movie). This entry, The Irresistible Rogue, is based on The Philadelphia Story. Most of the previous books have been more inspired by the play than based on it entirely. How does this one measure up?
NOTE: This review contains spoilers for previous books in the series, especially The Accidental Countess and The Unlikely Lady.
THE PLOT: If you read the previous book in the series, The Unlikely Lady (reviewed here), you may remember Daphne Swift’s announcement at the very end…that she was, in fact, married to Captain Rafe Cavendish. As it turns out, Daphne, who speaks Russian, was asked/allowed by her brother Donald to go on a spy mission with Rafe so she could eavesdrop on some Russian-speaking French agents. The only catch: Donald demanded that Rafe marry Daphne (in name only) before they left in case they were discovered, so Daphne’s reputation would be secure. So Daphne, disguised as cabin boy Grey, sails off with Rafe on the True Love. She fell head over heels for her husband, but he told her he thought of her as a sister.
Now, Daphne plans to get an annulment so she can marry an appropriate man. At the engagement party, Rafe shows up asking for Daphne’s help on a mission to find Donald’s killer. If she goes with him, he’ll give her the annulment. Daphne’s other brother, Julian, allows her to go to help get justice for their brother. This time, though, Rafe’s not sure he wants to give up his wife to someone else.
MY TWO CENTS: Let me clear one thing up right away: if you read lots of regency-era romance and think this setup is convoluted and preposterous…it totally is. As the author says in her afterword, she’s an entertainer, not a historian. So if you think no nobleman in his right mind would let his high-born little sister dress as a boy to go on missions with spies, you’re absolutely right. But just put that out of your mind and enjoy the story for what it is.
And the first half of the book is almost all of The Philadelphia Story. There are differences, of course. Instead of little sister Dinah, there’s younger cousin Delilah, but just as charming and manipulative. (Oh, I hope, hope, HOPE that Delilah gets her own book eventually. Her future husband won’t know what hit him.) Rafe calls Daphne “Grey,” which of course echos C.K. Dexter’s “Red” for Tracy. Instead of Uncle Willie, there’s Aunt Willie, who is also rooting for Rafe over the social-climbing potential fiance. Rafe sends Daphne an engagement present…a miniature of the True Love. And when Daphne gets too tired of being called perfect…well, either you know the story or you need to. Hee hee!
Of course, if you’re thinking movie version, I’ll admit that Daphne is no Hepburn (but who is?) and Rafe is not Cary Grant. It could just be the timing—I was watching “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” around the time I was reading—but I imagined Rafe as Armie Hammer: tall and blond and spy-ish. (Spy-like? Spy-y?) The second half of the book is all adventure and romance. This time, Daphne will make Rafe let her go or admit he loves her as much as she loves him.
A quick note about the series: Yes, this can be read as a standalone book, but you’ll probably get more out of it if you’ve at least read Julian and Cass’s story in The Accidental Countess. And if you’re going to do that, you HAVE to read The Unlikely Lady. And if you’re going to do that, then you might as well start at the beginning with The Unexpected Duchess.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun read even if you don’t know The Philadelphia Story. Sit back, suspend disbelief, and enjoy the ride.
TEACUP RATING: I give The Irresistible Rogue four teacups out of five.
ON SALE DATE: The Irresistible Rogue will release in paperback and eformats on November 3, 2015.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.