I can’t believe we’re already at the fifth installment of the “Victorian Rebels” series. This one is the first to go in a completely different direction with the title (more on that later). I’ve blogged about all the other previous books in the series, but this one links most directly to Book 3, The Highlander, previously reviewed here.
THE PLOT: Gavin St. James was horribly abused by his father, just as his brother Liam was. But his reaction was to divorce himself from the Mackenzie clan while trying to become self-sufficient by acquiring the property next to his. It belongs to Alison Ross, a young woman who moved to America as a child.
In the American wild west, Samantha Masters has just saved Alison Ross’s life by killing her own husband who, with his brothers, were robbing the train on which Alison was traveling. To repay and help Sam, Alison sends her to Scotland, as Alison Ross, to save Alison’s property from being taken by the horrible Mackenzies. Since Alison left as a child and has no intention of returning, no one will ever know that Sam isn’t Alison. She can use Alison’s identity to safely hide from her husband’s vengeful brothers, and the law, while holding on to Alison’s property.
Gavin assumes he’ll be able to smooth talk, or seduce, Alison into selling him her property. He is stunned by the crass, sharp-shooting, pants-wearing girl who immediately becomes his enemy. But as they clash they’re fighting their intense attraction. Sam knows she can’t keep her true identity from Gavin forever. And another secret Sam is keeping will surely tear their fragile new love apart.
MY TWO CENTS: If you’ve never read a “Victorian Rebels” book, know this going in: they are not gentle, well-mannered romances. They are gritty and grimy and harsh.They use what some would consider foul language, and there are very little boundaries in the sex scenes, which are quite graphic.
Sam is a very different heroine for Byrne’s “Victorian Rebels” series. Often the heroine is more ladylike to offset the brutality of the hero. But in this instance, the heroine stuns the hero with her swearing, shooting, pants wearing, and other shocking bad-assery. I really liked Sam. Her backstory made her a sympathetic character, and her bravery, quick thinking, and capability made her someone to admire. All of these were more important than the lies about her identity, which she sees as a necessary evil to staying alive.
In contrast to other previous Rebels heroes, Gavin is a little more bad-boy, a little less violently dangerous and damaged. Yes, he definitely still has issues. But butting heads with Sam turns his world upside down, and he starts rethinking all the barriers he’s set around his life.
You get to visit a bit with the characters from The Highlander, and also get to witness what may be the funniest wedding ceremony in romance history. (Someone can disagree…I’d be very interested in comments on hilarious weddings.)
If you’ve been reading the series (and The Highlander in particular), then you’ve already made your peace as a reader with Liam. But Gavin has not, so that adds some interesting tension to the storyline. We also see the setup for the Rook’s story as sort of a framing device here. It’s not really necessary to read the other books before reading this, but if you’re not already hooked into the series, you’ll probably want to check out Liam’s story and go on to the Rook’s, which we don’t see wrapped up within the course of this story.
A note on the title: This is the first title that is longer than two words, the previous books being The Highwayman, The Hunter, The Highlander, and The Duke. Byrne had announced previously that her next books were going to have titles like The Rogue and The Sinner, and then The Rook’s book would be The Savage. I’m not sure why changes were made; maybe because too many romance books already have those exact titles? I don’t mind breaking the pattern so much within the series; see Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series…each set of three books within the twelve of the complete series go together. And that’s where I figured we were going when this was announced along with Inspector Morely’s book, The Rogue Takes a Wife. But it doesn’t look like Morley’s book is up next, again. And I really, really despise this book’s title. First, I hate “beds” as a verb. It’s crass without being as crass as the language used in the book, which I find much more honest. It’s like they couldn’t put **** on the cover, so they used this mamby-pamby synonym instead. Second, I hate that the title is like, “LOOK! This book is about SEX!” It’s really about a lot more than that. I won’t deny that the sex is hot and very earthy, but both characters have had plenty of sex before they ever meet each other. That’s not what this is about. But I guess “The Scot Realizes He Can Open Himself Up to Emotional Connections” isn’t going to grab as many readers.
Further title notes: Byrne had previously announced in an interview on Fresh Fiction (link here) that The Rook’s book would be called The Devil Steals a Bride, and then Morley’s book would be The Thief Takes a Lady. But it looks like those plans have been changed again (see below in Next Up).
COVER NOTES: I had complained previously about this cover being far too much like two other St. Martin’s releases this year. It’s the first one in the series that shows the couple from farther away, showing their full bodies. I think the blue is lovely, and the swatch of Mackenzie plaid at the bottom is a nice touch. I wish we’d seen Sam in something a little less girly…her riding clothes, maybe? Complete with guns?
BOTTOM LINE: A good read with an interesting heroine who is very different from the other Victorian Rebels heroines so far. I was actually more interested in her solo story arc than the hero’s.
TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.
NEXT UP FROM THIS AUTHOR: The book advertised in the back of The Scot Beds His Wife is The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo. Is this the next “Victorian Rebels” book? The heroine is named Lorelai, who I can’t find in any of the other books. Is it about the Rook (and we all know his real identity, right?) And THEN maybe we’ll get Morley’s book? And then I’m crossing my fingers for a book about Callum and the real Alison. There’s definitely a story there.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.