A guest review by Leslie S
Review summary: Solid, but below the standard we’ve come to expect from this author.
Two of London’s most notorious rakehells, Linus Radcliffe and Robert Anderson, are the best of friends. They share almost everything–clothes, servants, their homes, and even each other’s bed on occasion. The one thing they don’t share: lovers. For while Linus prefers men, Robert prefers women…except when it comes to Linus.
As another Season nears its end, Robert can’t ignore his growing jealousy. He hates watching Linus disappear from balls to dally with other men. Women are lovely, but Linus rouses feelings he’s never felt with another. Unwilling to share his gorgeous friend another night, Robert has a proposition for Linus.
A proposition Linus flatly refuses–but not for the reasons Robert thinks. Still, Robert won’t take no for an answer. He sets out to prove a thing or two to his best friend–yet will learn something about the heart himself.
Robert Anderson and Linus Radcliffe have been friends and on-off lovers for over a decade. They share almost every aspect of their lives together, but when Rob asks Linus if they can become exclusive lovers, Linus refuses.
Rob is jealous of every other man that Linus pursues. For his own part, Linus is convinced that, despite their dalliances, Rob prefers women. Certainly Rob chases after a succession of widows, and to the best of Linus’s knowledge, he’s never slept with another man except Linus himself. Both men appear to be commitment-shy rogues, but in fact they’re both afraid of being rejected by each other. Only when Rob works up the courage to go after what he most wants will he be able to make Linus understand that he’s not playing games – he wants forever.
I love Ava March’s work but I have to be honest and say that this book fell below her usual standard. It’s a real shame, because Linus Radcliffe was my favourite supporting character in the previous book and I was eager to read his story, but in Rogues he felt almost out of character from what we’d seen of him before. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d pictured him in a completely different way from the hints of his personality in Fortune Hunter. But once I got over that, I still felt like there was something amiss.
Most of the conflict of the book is internal, and I think that’s where my biggest problem lies. Linus and Rob have been friends with benefits for eighteen years. They lost their virginity together. They wear one another’s clothes. Linus confided in Rob about his fear of his drunk, abusive father. They’re tied together not just socially but their houses on Brook Street are next door to one another (I liked that touch) and Rob has dispensed with his servants because he feels comfortable enough in his friendship with Linus that he simply pops next door and has Linus’s servants see to his laundry and cooking. Rob sees to Linus’s business affairs. In short, they’re practically a couple already, and the only thing standing in their way is that Linus thinks that Rob prefers women.
Now as we all know, men can be a bit reticent when it comes to talking about things 😆 but considering how very open and determined Rob was when he’d decided that Linus was The One, and the depth of their confidences regarding other matters in the past, I found it a bit strange that they’d never had that conversation before. Rob chases women more out of social obligation than for lust or love, yet he’s never mentioned this to Linus in all their years of friendship. I just didn’t find it consistent that they could be such incredibly close friends and yet they couldn’t be honest about their feelings for one another either in the past or throughout the events of the book. Although to be fair to Rob, every time he did try to have that conversation, Linus shut him down because he feared being rejected and hurt – but this kept happening and so to me it felt as if the conflict was being stretched out needlessly when it could have been resolved much sooner.
Something else that I felt detracted from the central relationship was the appearance of Norton and Bennett from another of March’s books, My True Love Gave To Me. Norton plays the role as advisor/confidant when Rob is uncertain as to how to proceed with Linus, and Norton’s relationship with Bennett is held up as a model of how to be discreet about things and how to navigate society when you’re in a forbidden union. While it’s nice to catch up with familiar characters from other books, the appearance of Bennett and Norton also threw me off-track and I became more interested in them than in the central couple.
A little more conflict was introduced towards the end over Linus’s feelings towards his abusive alcoholic father, but for me this came a little too late and was resolved quickly. I do feel that the length of this book went against it – at 28,000 words it’s much shorter than the previous Brook Street books – but at the same time, there simply wasn’t enough plot or conflict within this story to justify it being any longer.
I adore friends-to-lovers stories but this just didn’t work for me, I’m afraid. This isn’t a bad book, but neither is it of the usual high standard we’ve come to expect from Ava March, and to be honest I was disappointed that the last book in this enjoyable series was less than sterling. Other readers may disagree, of course, but as a personal opinion, I wish Linus could have had a stronger story.