This guest review comes from Claudia. Thanks, Claudia!
At sixteen, Claudia found her older cousin’s stash of Barbara Cartlands and assorted Harlequin-type romance housed in an old sewing cabinet and life was never the same! She loves history, so she mostly reads historical romance. Favorite authors include Meredith Duran, Mary Balogh, Miranda Neville, Elizabeth Kingston, and Rose Lerner.
Katherine Wright’s family has been in the free-trade business, otherwise known as smuggling, for generations. She despises it and desperately wants her ailing father and her brother to earn a living doing something else.The book is set a few years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, however, and times are hard and opportunities are few.
Katherine is back to her hometown after spending years overseas. Her mother had been a healer and midwife, and passed on those skills to Katherine. She has no formal training, but after falling in love with an officer and following him to war, she gained valuable experience as a de-facto surgeon on battlefields all over Europe. Amid carnage, no one cared that she, a woman, treated whoever needed it.
After being abandoned in Belgium by her lover, however, she spent the years immediately after Waterloo tending to soldiers and camp followers who, like her, were left behind or were too sick to return home.
Our hero is Harland Hayward, a baron and a doctor. That’s an oddity for the time and acknowledged as such: Harland has resisted society’s pressure to abandon his profession and to start loafing about like a good peer ought to do. (Harland is known as the “Lord Doctor,” and as an aside, the repetition of that moniker got old fast.)
The book is the third in The Devils of Dover series, and the previous two books featured Harland’s sisters, who are now married and pursuing their passions. It works well as standalone as we are given enough information to get that the siblings were raised unconventionally and, after ill-advised investments and their parents’ deaths, Harland had to do what he had to do to keep them afloat.
I don’t think it’s a big spoiler to say, as we are told right from the beginning, that Harland is also in the duty-free import-export business, although obviously not openly. Being a doctor is a big part of Harland’s life, but, less altruistically, his profession is also a good cover, enabling Harland to be out and about at all hours without raising much suspicion.
Katherine knows that something is up, and she definitely doesn’t buy that Harland does what he does for her family out of professional duty or the goodness of his heart, but she can’t quite figure out what he’s up to.
Harland and Katherine are used to being outsiders, and both have loved and lost before. I liked that the book doesn’t dwell on Harland’s bad marriage (his wife died in a compromising situation), and that he doesn’t get scarred for life after the bad experience with his wife. I also appreciated that the dead wife is not cartoonishly bad, and he does not dwell too much on the past.
Katherine’s former disappointment at love goes deeper, and the past comes back to haunt her:
There’s a fair amount of action and mystery in this story. Midway through the book, Harland is tasked by a crime overlord with whisking four prisoners of war out of England and back to France. Harland says he needs Katherine’s help as a surgeon to repatriate the badly treated prisoners and keep them alive.
King co-opted Harland to work for him when Harland’s family was close to ruin and Harland agreed to serve for 20 years.
Later on, seeing Katherine and the crime overlord face off was one of the greatest joys of reading this book. Katherine muses over a painting depicting biblical Judith beheading Holofernes, a fairly common art theme of the past, and it’s a great “show not tell” thing to do to display Katherine’s fearlessness, medical prowess, and logical mind.
For one, she tells the crime boss that beheading is a darned difficult thing to do, especially with the small sword Judith has in the painting. And killing a man doesn’t kill his cause, she says, proceeding to tell him how she’d go about it, casting doubt about a leader and sowing discord among his followers before killing him.
Beheading analysis aside, to me this book sagged a bit in the middle, and I thought it was a bit of a stretch that Harland would truly need Katherine by his side in his latest mission and that he would deliberately put her in harm’s way. And Katherine, for all that she’s depicted as sharp as a tack…
The last few chapters, however, more than made up for that sagging. They were, I don’t hesitate to say it, masterful, and the resolution and HEA were among the most satisfying I’ve read in quite a while. It ended on a very sweet note and with Katherine and Harland truly as equals.
Katherine was the engine of that resolution, too. I particularly enjoyed that everything that Katherine was or had become, all the detours she took in her life (some of which she considered to have been mistakes) were instrumental for her to achieve her and Harland’s HEA. I liked seeing a heroine achieving her happiness because of who she was, not despite.
A Rogue by Night features two intriguing, complex characters drawn to each other and kept apart by multiple obstacles. It has a fair amount of action, but action that doesn’t eclipse the romance. The highly satisfying ending is the type I don’t see every day. For that all that, it gets a B plus from me.