Wicked Designs

Lauren Smith
Wicked Designs
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Samhain Publishing
Release Date
January 2014
Book 1 of The League of Rogues
Historical Romance


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.

Warning: This novel includes a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped, a devilish duke with a dark past, and an assortment of charming rogues who have no idea what they've gotten themselves into.

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Jan 28, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
156 people found the following review helpful
Lauren Smith's debut League of Rogues novel is a fun, clever and wonderfully sympathetic read that will no doubt earn her a number of fans. Her insight into her characters and willingness to take risks with them is impressive, and absolutely outweighs the occasional uneven elements in the story.

Following her parents' death, Emily Parr was sent to live with her uncle in London. His lack of regard stings, but when Emily learns that he is about to marry her off to an odious business partner in order to settle his debts, Emily resolves have nothing more to do with domineering men, and instead to find herself a husband who will leave her to her books. It would seem, though, that dominating men have not finished with her, however. On her way to a ball, Emily is abducted by a group of handsome, if rather ruthless, men.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, has only one thought in mind—to kidnap the niece of the man who has swindled him and hold her for ransom. The moment he sets eyes on her, however, Godric feels something for this bewitching (and utterly infuriating) young woman than he ever has before. But Godric's life has been one of pain and loneliness for so long that making a connection with the feisty Miss Parr seems nearly impossible—though not as impossible as keeping her from escaping time after time. Is it possible to win her heart, even after he has stolen her freedom?

I frequently have issues with kidnapped heroine tropes in novels. Striking a balance between power and cruelty, between our heroine's lack of choices and in keeping the hero's humanity at the forefront is not an easy balance to strike. Lauren Smith, however, does a very creditable job of recognizing Emily's individuality and agency, as well as providing a character in Godric that makes readers want to be a part of his story and to understand his actions. Emily has had her choices taken away long before Godric rides into her life, and the truth of the matter is that Godric's honesty about his actions towards Emily is the most consideration she has received since her parents' death. Despite his physical strength, Emily's perpetual determination and resiliency made her more than a match for the men of the League of Rogues.

For his part, Godric is far more than the villain he initially appears to be. A lifetime of disappointments has come dangerously close to cutting him off from his friends and any potential for love. Emily is far more than a pawn in his scheme—she is the first woman to make him feel, to make him hope. I loved his intensity and earnestness, often despite his best efforts to remain aloof. Though this occasionally resulted in Godric appearing hot-and-cold toward Emily, which was occasionally confusing, in the end, I was rooting for them even while the imbalance in their relationship made me wonder if it was possible for them to find a happily ever after. The chemistry between them, both intellectual and physical, was evident, and I was infinitely pleased to see that their romance was one of the mind as well as one of the heart. It isn't often that a reading of The Odyssey is as romantic as a forbidden tryst, but here, at least, it's true.

The addition of the rest of the League of Rogues in this escapade rounded out the story quite well. I loved the individual relationships they developed with Emily during her stay, and the way their own personal stories were woven into the course of the plot. While each was able to provide information about Godric's past, of help to Emily with her changing feelings, it did feel heavy-handed at times. Nevertheless, the other Rogues are a great bunch and I look forward to reading more about them.

Lauren Smith took on a very challenging trope for her debut League of Rogues novel and brought a fresh voice and a heap of compassion, transforming it into something highly readable and quite enjoyable. Her sympathy with her characters made their journey together a deeply romantic one, and I can't wait to see what comes next for the League of Rogues!
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