Startling Confession #1: This is the first Katharine Ashe book I’ve ever read.
Perhaps less startling, but, nonetheless, worth mentioning Confession #2: After finishing this novel, I immediately began my notorious author binge reading habit, complete with library book holds and Kindle purchases of ALL THE KATHARINE ASHE BOOKS.
This one was a stunner y’all. Last in the series, it totally stands on its own super sexy ultra-romantic legs. It has just right mix of angst, sexual tension, deep back story, and gypsies that make it a stop-everything-and-just-keep-reading tale.
Did I mention gypsies? If, like me, you adored Kleypas’ Hathaway series–particularly Merripen and Cam’s stories–you need to pick up I Loved a Rogue immediately.
As the conclusion to what I hear is a fantastic trilogy, I Loved a Rogue is Eleanor Caulfield’s time for love. The consummate vicar’s daughter, Eleanor is steady, responsible, and yes, a spinster. Despite her staid exterior, Eleanor has passion in abundance, and has spent the last eleven years hiding her adventurous spirit, as well as love and heartache. As a young girl she fell in love with Taliesin, the young gypsy boy who was part servant, sometime rival and eventually, lover. His abrupt departure left Eleanor in despair, but she’s picked up the pieces of her life…Or so she thought, until the day that Taliesin shows up again, no longer a boy but a man who stirs her heart in a way she never thought would happen again.
Oh yeah, and he helps her locate her missing parents whom she’s never known because she and her sister’s washed up on the English coast after a brutal shipwreck…and stuff.
I know, I make light of the driving plot of the entire series–three sisters trying to fulfill a gypsy prophecy that says they’ll discover their true parents when one of them marries a prince–but really, it’s all about the Eleanor-Taliesin romance. Yes, the mystery is the driving force behind these adolescent lovers’ reunion, and it’s quite engaging, but for most of the novel it takes a back seat to the unpacking of the love and pain Eleanor and Tali have suffered over the past decade.
There is angst aplenty, but it’s never oppressive or overwhelming. It’s just the right dose for heart-stopping sexual tension (I found myself doing the nail-biting thing) and a deeply emotional connection. As I’ve written before, I adore grand reconciliations in romance novels. As Sherry Thomas once brilliantly stated in an interview for the Popular Romance Project, “We all know shit happens,” and to reflect that in a romance novel (and do it well) takes what could be a good story and makes it so much more powerful. Ashe created two characters who, for various reasons (some valid, some eye-roll inducing), have stayed away from the love of their life for ELEVEN LONG YEARS. Their reunion is intense, awkward, and even a little painful at times. It’s a rebuilding of a relationship left in ruins. Couple that with all sorts of meddlesome secondary characters and you have all the right elements of a seriously engaging novel.
Ashe’s writing is lovely. Her allusions to various lovers from epic tales (Tristan and Isolde; Guinevere and Lancelot) is a signal that Eleanor and Tali’s romance isn’t this sort of fly-by-night, whirlwind romance. There is going to be trouble and there is going to be anger, but there is also going to be the kind of epic love that makes those stories so worth reading.
This one is just as worthy of a read.
Yes, I did find the ending a bit madcap and perhaps a little rushed, but that was in large part because I’d been so focused on Eleanor and Tali that I failed to realize the entire trilogy also needed its own resolution. Perhaps if I had read the first two novels I would have been more invested in the story of the Caulfield daughters’ parentage. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that if you’ve been reading hoping to find the answer to the gypsy prophecy, you will find satisfaction in the end.
Rating: A- (For many wistful sighs, gasps, and sessions of anxious nail-biting, thank you, Katharine Ashe!)