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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Once a Scoundrel by Anna Harrington

Anna Harrington proved that her novellas are just as satisfying and buy worthy as her full length novels!

Format: .pdf (A copy of this book was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review. )
Publisher: NYLA
Release Date: October 24, 2016

Once a Scoundrel...
Stephen Crenshaw, Marquess of Dunwich, set his sights on becoming one of the ton’s most notorious rogues. Gambling, drinking, scandals, seduction...nothing seemed out of bounds for the young peer in his wild pursuit to prove himself to be the exact opposite of everything his respectable family wanted. But four years in the army and the loss of his best friend have irreparably changed him. Now he’s returned to England a new man, one set on reclaiming everything he’d lost... including the woman who loved him.

Always a Scoundrel?
Lady Faith Westover, daughter of the Duke of Strathmore, knows better than anyone the scoundrel that Stephen had been. After all, he’d broken her heart in a wounding so terrible that it nearly destroyed her belief in love. Now he’s back and hell bent on proving that he’s changed. Four years have certainly matured him physically, but Faith doubts if he’s truly changed into the respectable and loving lord he proclaims himself to be.

When faced with his past as a scoundrel, can Stephen find a way to obtain what his heart desires most—the woman he was never meant to have?

Fast forward about twenty years since the events of Dukes are Forever, Edward and Kate aka the Duke and Duchess of Strathmore have been happily married and have raised five children to adulthood. Their daughter, Lady Faith Westover has been nursing a broken heart for four years, ever since Stephen Crenshaw, the Marquess of Dunwich left without a word to join the army. Now Stephen is back, claiming that the army and the death of his best friend changed him from the reckless, selfish boy he used to be. Faith isn’t convinced and Stephen sets out to prove to her that not only has he changed, but that he wants her as his wife.

It took me a moment to connect Stephen to Faith’s family (He’s Nathaniel Grey’s adopted son. Emily was pregnant with him in Along Came a Rogue) but when I did I was instantly interested. I wondered how Stephen’s relationship with Grey was and while there was some hint at how it was, there really wasn’t a big discussion about it. Which was a bit disappointing but with Once a Scoundrel being a novella, I understood that there were more important things to tell. Like Stephen’s growth that took place before the story began.

Anna Harrington managed to paint a not so nice picture of Stephen without taking up too much time in order to show just how much he had already changed when he first walked onto the page. Throughout the short story, some of his youthful exploits are mentioned; Stephen himself even makes the comparisons to what he would have done in the past to what he planned on doing in the present to make things right for the people who depended on him and especially for Faith. This guy started the story with his heart in his hands just waiting to see if Faith would accept it and I just thought that was pretty romantic. But Stephen wasn’t a sap or a pushover, there was still some of the rake left in him and I liked the way he teased and pushed Faith to her limits just to get her to pay attention to him. He was funny without being a bully.

Faith being Edward and Kate’s daughter was no silly little girl though. She dished it out as good as she got it. This was a young woman who fell in love with Stephen at a young age, thought he felt the same and was ready to hand him her heart and promptly had her heart stomped on by him. I liked how she didn’t fall into Stephen’s arms just because he claimed he had changed and that he had always wanted her. She’s a smarter woman than that and she definitely learned from her experience. I was all for her making Stephen work for her affection and her trust this time around. She was fun and of course, she inherited her love of medicine from her mother except Faith turned it to the animals she often brought home. I definitely identify much better with a character who has a fondness for animals so yeah, Faith was someone I liked a lot.

As a couple, Stephen and Faith had a history. It was a brief one, nothing scandalous but it made an impression on both of them. The attraction was still there between them but there was also a level of mistrust on Faith’s part and some secrets on Stephen’s part. Faith was a sensible and logical character so there was no drama or overreacting on her part when Stephen came clean about his secrets. Thank goodness because that left more time for these two to work out their feelings for one another. I think I started believing in them as a couple pretty early on, there was just something special between them, a longing and respect that made for a great romance.

Of course, with Faith and Stephen being the children of two previous couples, it was inevitable that we would see those characters again. There wasn’t much time to really have a reunion with them but it was great to see Edward, Kate, and Grey again no matter how brief the scenes were. I will say that Once a Scoundrel felt like a full length novel in the best way though. Attention was placed on the right events and the real story was always Stephen and Faith’s romance. I was pleasantly surprised at the way Harrington managed to tell not only tell a story, but do it in a way that didn’t feel rushed or devoid of emotion and heat. I loved it.

Final Verdict: Once a Scoundrel was a nice way to occupy my time while I eagerly await the next full length novel by an author who has made a big impression on me with her Secret Life of Scoundrels series. I highly recommend this novella to both Anna Harrington fans and fans of historical romances in general. It’s one of the few novellas that doesn’t disappoint.

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