Wicked Designs (The League of Rogues Series) by Lauren Smith
Overview by Amazon:
The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?
For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.
It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.
Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.
Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.
I once read that Jane Austen never wrote a single scene with just men. The rationale was that since she had never been alone with a man or men, she didn’t know what they talked about, therefore she couldn’t write about it. For many women in the Georgian and Regency eras, this would have been a very true fact. Women were highly chaperoned and moved in flocks, and however unjust it was men could do as they please, where women were held to very strict and high moral expectations..
That is why I loved this book so much! This book was FUN! It’s not often you read a historical romance novel that has all the usual elements really well done, but on top of it, the book had you smiling and laughing.
Emily has been kidnapped by the League of Rogues. The kidnapping in itself was hilarious with blunders and missteps. She has been spirited away to one of the members, Godric’s country estate. The purpose is to compromise her in retaliation for the business dealings Godric has with her spineless uncle Albert. They do not plan on actually doing any physical harm to her and this is not a ménage type of story. Just a simple kidnap until enough damage has been done to her reputation that her uncle will suffer.
What made this book so enjoyable was the time Emily spent with the five Lords. They are all very different men and exhibit a lust for life. They take Emily under their wing and spend time with her as if she were one of them. They never treat her like a sister, as they talk about things in front of her that no well-bred lady should be privy too. They all have an interest in the beautiful young lady and it was fun to watch them all have a go at wooing her.
Emily is NOT happy to have been taken. Although she didn’t like her current situation with her Uncle as he was plotting to give her to his horrible business partner Blankenship, she is faced with an even more challenging position as captive. Her escape attempts are so funny. She shows really ingenuity and cunning to try to defeat the League men. She pretends she can’t speak Greek and eavesdrops on their plans, she pretends she can’t ride and manages to outride them all, and she manages to bribe the staff to do her bidding. Each attempt was charming and I was crushed for her when she would be dragged back each time. As a reader, you know it’s a great book you are reading when you are so emotionally invested in the lives of the characters. I wanted Emily to stay there because the alternative was a horrible situation. I liked that they guarded her and cared for her.
All the men try to woo her. One brings her a puppy (although it is more for the reason that the puppy will make noise if she tries to escape), one takes her fishing, one engages in conversations about her feelings and one tries to seduce her (well, they all try in some way).
Godric is the reason that she has been kidnapped. Since he laid eyes on her, he has been drawn to her. He knows the other men are interested, but once she shows some interest in return, she belongs to him. The other men are still protective, but watch the courtship between to two develop, intervening when necessary.
Godric is a lusty man. He desires her, but like most Lords he has a past that has given him a cold heart and a strong temper. He doesn’t believe in love and marriage is out of the question. However, seduction is definitely on the agenda. He slowly wears down her defences and like a flower blooming; he slowly awakens her to the beauty of intimacy. The love scenes were so well written. Emily has her first kiss and one of the Rogues tells her she kisses with her heart, so of course it scared the pants off Godric.
As time passes, Emily is happy in her situation. She enjoys the Rogues and the protection they are providing, as danger most certainly lurks. Blankenship wants Emily badly. He wants to degrade her and defile her sexually. He enlists various characters to spy and abduct Emily. She believes she must try for a final escape to save the Rogues and Godric from death by Blankenship. She doesn’t succeed, but it solidifies for Godric that he can’t live without her. He’s not able to choke out the love words she wants, but in his marrow he knows that he can’t live without her.
Eventually, Blankenship’s machinations get results. He is able to get Emily away from the Rogues. Godric and the League are her Knights in shining armour and save her from a dreadful fate. Emily is a smart woman. Before she will say any vows, Godric must willingly say those words that she must hear. He gladly does because he knows that she is the one.
This book had all the elements of a perfect historical romance novel. The hero and heroine at odds with each other. Evil men willing to do harm to innocent ladies. A slow, burning seduction that lights up the pages with hot love scenes. But what really made this book stand out were the humour and the comradery amongst the League. It was so enjoyable to read about them whiling away the hours as gentlemen friends with a lady in tow. There were no pretensions about who they were and it wasn’t as if they treated Emily as one of the guys, but rather as a partner in crime. This is a delightful read and I’ve already read the next book in the series and I hope the author hurries up and writes the third book as I can’t wait to learn more about these wonderful and charming Rogues and the ladies who love them.