I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“I don't like to be told what I can and can't do. What is right and wrong based on nothing but preconceptions and ignorance.” He stepped closer. “I don't think you do either.”
A Rogue by Night follows Harland Hayward and Katherine Wright as they get caught up in smuggling, doctoring, and falling in love. The Devils of Dover's previous two books starred Harland's sisters and while you could start here like I did, I think I missed out on the hows and whys of Harland's character. We're introduced to him as a surgeon, learn he's also a Baron, and is the go-between in a smuggling business. It's obvious that he doesn't want to be apart of the smuggling, we don't get in depth scenes with him in this capacity, but we don't learn why he is apart of it until halfway through the book; his parents died suddenly leaving the family in debt (this may have been explained in the previous two books). I was also a little unsure of his desire to be a surgeon, where was the passion to pursue this line of work when it is stepping outside the norm as he was a baron? Missing some of this background on Harland's character had him feeling only like a pencil sketch to me and I never felt connected to him.
“I chose to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. [...]”
Katherine was the better flushed out character to me and read strong on the pages. I still thought the why and how she became a de facto surgeon in the army was left unexplained too long in the book. I think some emotional moments that would have endeared her to readers(show spoiler)
were left out or lost their impact by her simply revealing them in one paragraph. Katherine and Harland were pretty busy from the get go and I missed some time to simply get to know them. Katherine is interested in medicine because of her mother and she got into smuggling because of her father, both explanations or impacts from these past occurrences got lost in the current action; they both could have added to the emotion of current events if given more depth in their relaying.
Forget intrigued. Despite his best intentions, he might also be smitten.
The attraction between the two was pretty immediate, especially from Harland's side. I thought the romance was weak, there wasn't time to enjoy the initial spark, then growing, and eventual succumbing. The situation that led them to travel to London and then France together felt very forced, there already seemed like numerous opportunities for them to be together, Haverhall School (a plot continued from the first two books), smuggling danger, or doctoring. Katherine and Harland were two characters with an abundance of personal similarities, so conceptually, their attraction was easy to understand, but the emotions never came off the pages for me.
If you've read other series by Bowen, most notably Season for Scandal, you'll recognize the character of King and a few others, I have a feeling the clamoring for King's story is going to increase as we get another look at this enigmatic character. Other secondary characters played their roles well, adding to the story and lead characters without stealing the show. The journeys Harland and Katherine go on, the character of the captain trying to shut the smuggling down felt over-the-top at times (did a smuggler kick his puppy once?), they sometimes felt contrived (who the colonel turns out to be at the prison), and a little too many off-shoots but I also enjoyed how Bowen tied everything together.
The last thirty percent was top notch writing and drew me into Katherine and Harland's lives but this was ultimately hurt by the lack of emotion, chemistry, and spark I felt was missing between the two. Flashbacks to previous moments in the lead's lives would have created a stronger emotional base and had me feeling these characters more, especially Harland, the issues from his former marriage/wife felt very foggy. If you've been a reader of this series or Season for Scandal, you'll probably enjoy seeing Harland get his happily ever after and getting a peek at King, but I'm not sure I'd recommend starting here.
And because no matter what she tried to tell herself, they were indeed the same. Different. Alone. Untouchable. Until the moment when they weren't.