What a Rogue Desires is the second book in Caroline Linden’s series about the Reece family. This is the story of David and Vivian; it follows What a Gentleman Wants, and is followed in turn by A Rake’s Guide to Seduction.
Following their reconciliation in Gentleman, Marcus Reece has entrusted his twin with the Exeter holdings while he and his new bride Hannah tour the continent for several months. Aware that he has been a scapegrace in the past and come very near to ruining the lives of those he holds dear, David is determined not to muck things up this time.
Of course, things never quite go as planned. No sooner does he leave the Exeter estate in Kent to return to London than David’s life seems to spin out of control. One of his horses gets a stone in its shoe, forcing a rest stop at a country inn, which in turn leads to David taking a place on a mail coach to London when there are no horses available for neither love nor money. Then, to add insult to injury, the coach is robbed, and the highwaymen take David’s copy of the Exeter signet ring. The pocket watch he might have forgiven them, but the ring has far more sentimental value than financial, and David is determined to get it back.
Eminently practical Vivian Beecham doesn’t particularly enjoy the life of a thief, and certainly wants better for her younger brother, Simon. But with both parents long dead and no other family to ask for aid, there were few options but to join one of the gangs of thieves in London’s disreputable St. Giles district. Now they have graduated on to highway robbery, with the very attractive Vivian playing the part of signal man and get-away distraction whilst the others do the actual robbing.
Unfortunately, this time they picked the wrong coach; Lord David Reece is willing to do anything in his power to get back his signet ring, and knowing all of the fences and pawnbrokers in London’s less reputable areas certainly helps with that. He lays a trap for the thieves; it doesn’t take long at all before Vivan quickly falls right into it, and finds herself a prisoner in David’s house until she tells him where to find the missing ring.
Well, at least her ‘prison’ provides a comfortable bed and hot meals. It’s not enough on its own to give up her secrets and betray her brother, but David Reece can be very persuasive when he wants to…
I have to admit, I didn’t like this book as much as I did Gentleman and Rake. I love the idea of the heroine being a thief, and was looking forward to see David fall in love, but there were a few points that stretched my suspension of disbelief, and I wasn’t at all comfortable with the major plot point of Vivian being kidnapped and held against her will by the hero, who she’s supposed to (and does, else this wouldn’t be a romance) fall in love with. YMMV.
I did like the relationship between Vivian and Simon, what little we saw of it, and was disappointed that there was no interaction with the rest of the Reece family. With Rosalind and Celia (David’s stepmother and sister, respectively) at the Exeter estate in Kent and Marcus and Hannah on the continent somewhere, the whole development of the relationship between David and Vivian seems to happen in its own little Twilight Zone bubble.
The extraordinary lengths David goes to in order to get a piece of jewelry back seems quite excessive. Yes, it’s the Exeter signet ring (though not the actual piece, Marcus still has that) and yes, it’s a symbol of Marcus’ trust in David to leave him in charge of the Exeter holdings, but… something about it just rung hollow, I suppose. It doesn’t really justify kidnapping and imprisoning someone, threatening them with the Bow Street runners and jail, just to get a ring back. From what we saw of Marcus in Gentleman, IMHO he’d probably prefer that David actually take care of the Exeter holdings, rather than chase around looking for a ring.
I don’t know. Overall I enjoyed this book, it was well-written and I liked Vivian (and the sex scenes were v nice) but I’m not at all happy with the kidnapping and imprisonment aspect, and the ending seemed a little too easily wrapped up when David has been shown so far to struggle with being respected and not a good-for-nothing. It also struck me as odd how Vivian can apparently pass as a lady of (impoverished) quality when she was raised in what is essentially the slums by a working-class mother and then a kidsman. One of these things is not like the other.
If you’re intending to read the series, I would suggest you pick this up as well as the other two, and if you can get back the whole ‘kidnapping/imprisonment’ aspect, the book is rather enjoyable. With the caveats above, I do recommend it.