I feel like the best way to describe what happens in One Rogue At A Time is to do it in the style of Stefon, Bill Hader’s character from Weekend Update on SNL
Jade Lee’s newest book is One Rogue At A Time
This book has everything; Side characters who should be on American Greed : Regency , knife throwing, drunk pigs, accidental virginity taking, a Frenchman, a supportive prostitute mom and TANGLING.
What’s Tangling ?
—Oh, you know, it’s that’s thing where a female character hits a man over the head with a pan in self defense. . . well in this case it is some sort of foot warming pan, but I’ll allow it.
To make it a bit more coherent this book opens up with Bram, the illegitimate son of a Duke. He’s grown up around wealth and privilege but due to his status it’s always out of his reach. His exsistence is something he constantly struggles with in the story. Like this conversation he has with his mother who works happily as a prostitute.
[Bram]”Why let a child be born as a byblow ? Don’t you know we don’t fit in anywhere ?”
“Of course you do. You fit on the outskirts with us.” She caressed his arm. “I just never thought it would hurt you so deeply. I never thought I’d have a son who was so. . . so . . .”
“Honorable. Why would you want to be like them ? Marrying for money, hated by your children, saddled with appearances that can never be wholly maintained. Why would you want that ?”
I like this kind of class conflict in a story. It’s one of the things that makes shows like Downton Abbey so interesting. Anywho, Bram’s gained a reputation of being a bodyguard/PI/fixer for the aristocracy. Basically your Better Call Saul type. He finds a way for people who are out of options despite not being able to find a way for himself.
His current mission has him getting a pair of high society swindlers to safet hiding place. A series of mishaps causes Bram to become stranded in the small rural village of Hull and at the mercy of Maybelle “Bluebell” Ballenger, a local girl and herbalist. She agrees to help Bram get out of dodge faster if he helps her learn all a there is about being a high society lady, as she is on a mission to prove she is the long lost granddaughter of an Earl (as you do). When Bram and Bluebelle aren’t going back and forth making deals and trying to undercut one another, they find themselves in a relationship that runs up against society’s rules.
This first half of this book was great. Lee juggles a lot of different characters and motives in the same scene, but you always know who is being swindled and who wants what and why.
One Rogue At A Time has a realistic focus on the unspoken rules surrounding class and marriage in the Regency. Throughout the book Bram struggles with what it means to be illegitimate, I mean he is even rejected by his father on his death bed. That’s cold. This means that if Bluebelle really is the daughter of an Earl, then Bram’s illegitimate status can only harm her. I love that Lee does not shy away from this topic.
The end of this book takes some liberal time jumps and the pacing gets a little all over the place. For someone who usually complains about prologues that take place in the future I would have liked to see one just to get a full picture of how this HEA is supposed to work.
P.S I like how the blurb says “May the best rogue win” I think this is hinting that both of our characters are a bit roguish as they are constantly trying to one-up one another.
*ARC provided via NetGalley. Quotes are taken from an unfinalized copy