Tuesday 26 May 2015

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt - Book Review

From the Blurb:


Lady Phoebe Batten is pretty, vivacious, and yearning for a social life befitting the sister of a powerful duke. But because she is almost completely blind, her overprotective brother insists that she have an armed bodyguard by her side at all times-the very irritating Captain Trevillion.


Captain James Trevillion is proud, brooding, and cursed with a leg injury from his service in the King's dragoons. Yet he can still shoot and ride like the devil, so watching over the distracting Lady Phoebe should be no problem at all-until she's targeted by kidnappers.


Caught in a deadly web of deceit, James must risk life and limb to save his charge from the lowest of cads-one who would force Lady Phoebe into a loveless marriage. But while they're confined to close quarters for her safekeeping, Phoebe begins to see the tender man beneath the soldier's hard exterior . . . and the possibility of a life-and love-she never imagined possible.

The Review:

Phoebe Batten's brother insists that she have a bodyguard and she hates it. She feels trapped, and blames her guard, James Trevillion, who only wants to protect her. There's a game afoot, though, and kidnappers are out to get Phoebe. Trevillion must whisk Phoebe away from danger, while avoiding falling for her pretty mouth and roaming hands.

Phoebe and Trevillion are one of my new favorite couples. They are scrumptious. Phoebe is daring with a fierce sense of independence, despite her controlling brother. She always tries a thing more than once before giving it up, which I think is a pretty good summary of her character. She is certainly happy to try Trevillion more than once, when she eventually warms to the man who has been hired as her guard or, as she sees him, the keeper of her cage, that is.

Trevillion is just delicious. He's the strong, silent type, in love with Phoebe, but he believes that they could never be together, even if she felt the same way. He is determined to protect Phoebe, no matter how she might hate it. But he also sees how her brother's restraints are killing her, and finds ways to provide her freedom and the occasional tankard of beer, no matter how entirely improper it might be for a lady.

Phoebe's dashing bodyguard effectively kidnaps her in order to protect her from would-be kidnappers. The irony is apparently lost on him, but the opportunity to share her bed on their journeys is not, so neither Phoebe nor I are complaining. I was already head over heels in love with Trevillion by this point. Their emotional relationship develops early on and fairly quickly - they have already known each other for six months at the start of the story, so the rapidity of their feelings is convincing, though they continue to have a number of barriers from their class divide and Phoebe's family, to the nature of their relationship and Phoebe's feelings of forced dependence. 

Once they escape/flee/Phoebe is kidnapped (entirely to her pleasure) from London, they travel as husband and wife (for the sake of disguise, of course!), which naturally means they have plenty of opportunity for their relationship to advance. Phoebe is the one to initiate their physical relationship, pushing Trevillion to give in to the urges he has been so desperately restraining. It's very sexy. Trevillion does the whole oh-no-but-she's-so-innocent-I-mustn't thing, while Phoebe basically mauls him, and I loved it. LOVED IT.

A quick [Edit: not as quick as I intended] word on the disability thing, because I can't help myself. Phoebe is blind and Trevillion requires a cane to walk, and, for the most part, disability is handled brilliantly in this story. I was particularly impressed with the treatment of Phoebe's struggles with her forced dependence, but I did feel that Phoebe is occasionally overly preoccupied by her blindness. Most people, in my experience, don't tend to think about their impairments that much on a day to day basis, unless a specific issue arises - it is, after all, their normal, and while Phoebe has an acquired vision impairment, it is not new to her. So while her concerns about how her brother uses her blindness to effectively cage her are extremely well done, her constant thoughts about not being able to see were occasionally jarring to me. However, I suspect less consideration of her blindness might seem like a lack of developed characterization for other readers, so even though this bothered me slightly, it is probably necessary, if unfortunate, for general storytelling purposes.

Ignoring that one point, I really can't praise this book and its treatment of disability enough. I think both Phoebe and Trevillion's impairments are handled exceptionally well. I really liked that they were both disabled, since it helped to avoid the usual power dynamic issues we see in a lot of romances with disabled heroes or heroines - this still could have been a factor (especially given that Trevillion is Phoebe's guard), but it simply isn't. Phoebe remains a powerful and in control heroine, irrespective of her blindness and various kidnappings - thanks to her own character, as well as Trevillion's respect of her abilities. 

Phoebe's anger at losing her sense of independence is definitely a driving plot point in the story, but it's not done disrespectfully as either an easy plot device, nor does it make this an issue story. Instead, I think, Elizabeth Hoyt has really captured the devastation Phoebe feels at having her freedom and potential torn from her because her brother believes her blindness makes her incapable.

At one point, Phoebe says, "It’s not my blindness that cripples me, it’s everyone else deciding I can’t live because of my blindness." And I just want to share that everywhere, because Elizabeth Hoyt has had her 18th Century heroine quite neatly describe the social model of disability in a romance novel - and isn't that just the freaking best?

I am a big fan of Elizabeth Hoyt and Dearest Rogue is now my favorite of her novels. That's a huge call for me, because... Elizabeth Hoyt, but Phoebe and Trevillion are such a great couple and their story is sexy, sweet and just about perfect. I need to go read it again.

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt is a historical romance, released by Grand Central Publishing on May 26 2015.


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