For years romance novels as a genre have existed in a strange space. They support an ever-growing book and ebook industry, accounting for more than 17 percent of fiction sales annually, and are second only to the general fiction genre itself as the highest grossing genre for books sales year after year. And yet they have a reputation for being illicit and less than. More than simply naughty, romance is shunned for its supposed lack of depth, character development, or writing craft.
In Sarah MacLean’s Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, the fourth and final book in the Rule of Scoundrels series, that antiquated ideal of the romance novel is brought into question as she weaves the final threads of a tale that has so far included three powerful and intelligent women in their own right, and finishes with the story of Lady Georgina Pearson.
Powerful and believable characters bring this story to life
Lady Georgina, also known as Chase, the fourth and most mysterious partner of the Fallen Angel gambling club in London, does not suffer fools. Her response to being left pregnant and unloved at the age of sixteen is to become the most powerful ‘man’ in London, creating an enviable and all too accessible character, despite the circumstances, for any woman who feels as though she has been cheated.
The character development is crisp, exciting, and inspired, never once bringing to mind repeats of the regency genre. Even within the series, each of the four female protagonists - Penelope Marbury, her younger sister Philippa "Pippa" Marbury and Mara Lowe, in addition to Georgina herself - are delightfully complex, interesting, and well-rounded. They have been raised as proper ladies but, for one reason or another, each exists on the boundaries of society - a broken engagement, a scandalous pregnancy. It is their actions and behavior at the edges of the well-bred tonne that show these ladies for the interesting, powerful characters they are.
Deep and incisive writing - the stuff classics are made of
The writing, as can be expected from MacLean, is well-crafted and quick paced, truly a delight to read. She is a master of unresolved sexual tension, creating perfect balcony corners, well-hidden coves and, in a delightful surprise, an indoor pool in London, where Georgina and her romance novel counterpart, newspaper mogul Duncan West, almost but don’t enough times to simultaneously drive the reader mad and make them beg for more. Perhaps it is time we start questioning the difference between 'romance novels' as they're known today and the classics which garner so much more respect - the Pride and Prejudices, the War and Peaces.
As for depth Lady Georgina quickly becomes the heroine we wish we could be - powerful, flawed and multidimensional. Though her background story is extreme (especially by the standard of the day) the story of a scorned woman, young and naive, left by a man who claims to have loved her is not so difficult to reach for any modern woman. Even more so that instead of sulking Georgina turns herself into a powerful force, a man to be reckoned with, is a story so very many would enjoy to live. Truly, there is little revenge so satisfying as success, and MacLean illustrates that to perfection, averaging four stars across the GoodReads.com scale, where Emma Watson recently created her feminist book club. Though an unlikely candidate for said club, the book certainly has its fair share of women we want to be like.
All of these elements combine together in a nicely complex and well-constructed storyline, with dramatic flair, character misstep, moments of realization, and more. It’s almost as if Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover is a real book after all. #Buzz