From the Back Cover:
USA Today bestselling author Jade Lee continues her saucy, vibrant Rakes and Rogues Regency romance series with a high-society outsider who may have met his match…
A brown-eyed bastard with nothing to lose
As the illegitimate son of a duke, Bramwell Wesley Hallowsby grew up tough, on the fringes of society, learning to hide his hurt and cynicism with charm and Town polish. He’s carved out a place for himself as a mercenary, serving as bodyguard and general strong arm for the peerage. Bram has nothing to lose… and he’s exactly what Maybelle “Bluebell” Ballenger needs.
Meets his match in a blue-eyed beauty with everything to hide
Maybelle needs a mentor to teach her to speak and act like a lady, so she can claim the place in society she was denied. As they team up to take on the ton, Bram knows she’s hiding something even from him. Despite the deception he sees behind those sparkling blue eyes, Bram wants to believe that Maybelle’s love is no lie. But it seems fate has served him up his just desserts in the likes of this determined damsel.
Jade Lee is an author I'd been wanting to try, and I was very intrigued by the description of One Rogue at a Time, the second book in her Rakes and Rogues series. I had no issue in reading the book out of order as these characters do not seem to have been in book one, 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake, and there were no references to the events that happened. This story begins with Bram Hallowsby left in the lurch in the tiny village of Hull by the "noble" couple he was hired to protect as they flee from thugs sent to retrieve the money they stole. The only worthwhile thing in the little backwater is Maybelle Ballenger, a charming and tempting country miss who reminds him of a woman who falsely loved him and then betrayed him. So while he is wary of Maybelle's charms, he can't help but be drawn to her, and he soon vows to have her, even if it means ruining her and leaving her behind afterward.
But Maybelle is not so naive. While she enjoys flirting with the handsome man from London, she has a definite plan for her future--to prove her mother's marriage was legitimate and demand recognition from her father and his family--and she is not about to let a rogue with one thing on his mind get in her way. She cleverly manages to finagle Bram into escorting her to the church where her mother claims to have been married and then on to London. On the long ride with nothing to do but talk, their sexual attraction becomes something more. But Bram can't tell if Maybelle really cares for him or if she's just using him, and Maybelle can't figure out how Bram fits into the the carefully planned future she envisions. Bram is so certain she's going to find heartache at the end of their journey that he's not prepared when the opposite happens. And Maybelle is not prepared for the strictness of high society that prevents her from being seen with a man like Bram in public. The couple must see each other in secret, but it's an arrangement that makes neither of them happy and can't last. They will each have to determine what's worth fighting for and where the road to happiness truly lies.
Maybelle is an interesting character, a simple country miss with the intellect of one raised in much different circumstances, thanks to her mother. I really appreciated that she stood up for what she believed in and who she cared about in spite of society's expectations. But Bram was rather a cad for a good portion of the story. I was quite surprised at his line of thought on several occasions, and not in a good way. My main reason for picking up this book was the idea of a hero who served as a bodyguard to the ton, and I ended up being somewhat disappointed by the lack of more bodyguard-type stuff. He's only in the employ of one couple for the duration of the story, and they themselves are scam artists, though not very good ones. I really wanted to see him acting heroically in that capacity.
I found the story itself enjoyable, but it's peppered with overdramatic exclamations, flowery descriptions, and more than its fair share of silliness. I like my romances a little more sophisticated, and I confess I grew bored with Maybelle's lessons on becoming a lady in London and started skimming to get to the scenes with Bram and the conclusion. And while Bram's redemption and declarations of love made for a very sweet and heartwarming ending, that was stilted by an epilogue in which a rather nasty tertiary character gets his comeuppance, but I would much rather have had a glimpse of Maybelle and Bram's happily ever after. One Rogue at a Time is by no means a bad book, but I just didn't find anything special or memorable about it to make it stand out from the crowd.
My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
*This review originally appeared on Romantic Historical Reviews.