So, the description of The Rogue's Princess up at Amazon says that this is the last book in the Lacey Chronicles. To which I say: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! True enough, neither of the sequels has quite lived up to the awesomeness of The Other Countess, but it's still a super-fun series, and there are plenty of characters who deserve their own book.
For instance: Tobias, the youngest Lacey brother! Sure, he's a jackass, but jackasses deserve to find true love too, right? (Exhibit A. Exhibit B.) Or Ann Belknap, who is awesome and generous and hilarious, and also deserves a love story. And, heck, Mercy's sister Faith. She proved that there was more to her butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth demeanor, so I'd love to see her fall in love.
But, as usual, I digress.
Mercy Hart is the last person that Kit Turner—bastard son of the former Earl of Dorset—would have expected to fall head-over-heels in love with. She's a knockout, yes, and she's sweet and intelligent and adorably innocent, for sure... but she's also a devout Puritan. Not only did Kit swear off religion years ago (barely surviving an unwanted baptism in a horse trough performed by a raging mob will do that), but he's also an actor: which is a profession not held in high regard by the members of Mercy's church.
Or, for that matter, by her extremely strict father.
Like The Queen's Lady, The Rogue's Princess stars a character who was a secondary character in the previous book; provides news about the previous protagonists while working just fine as a stand-alone; and has a few historical cameos (no Sir Walter Raleigh, sadly, but James Burbage and William Shakespeare both appear). Also like the previous books, there is a secondary romance: this time, between Mercy's aunt Rose, an all-around awesome theatre-goer and "fallen woman" with a soft spot for fancy shoes who wishes her niece would occasionally live a little, and Silas Porter, a grizzled former soldier who also has a checkered past and wants to solve every problem by skewering someone. Despite my endless affection for Kit, I found Rose and Silas' blossoming romance far more adorable and satisfying than Kit and Mercy's.
The story goes everywhere that you'd expect: Mercy and Kit have many obstacles to overcome (including jailtime and a second suitor), but there's never any doubt that they'll get their happy ending. There's not much banter between the two principles—which is unfortunate, as one of the most enjoyable things about Kit's character is his habit of making dramatic, over-the-top speeches—but that makes sense within the context of the story and the characters, as Kit is well-aware that the extremely-sheltered Mercy might find his usual mode of expression somewhat overwhelming. Despite the lack of banter, though, quite a lot of humor comes across in other ways—She went pink with shy pleasure as she settled the lute on her lap. Kit tried not to imagine putting her in the same position on his.—and as usual, Eve Edwards provides lots of entertaining period color (like the sumptuary laws that dictated peoples' clothing choices according to class (!)).
Considering how awful Mercy's father is for the first three-quarters or so of the book, his SPOILER almost instantaneous about-face END SPOILER felt a bit unlikely, but I gave it a pass because I wanted my happy ending. While it's not a book that has inspired the same sort of gushing that I did about The Other Countess, it's still a solidly entertaining historical romance, and I really will miss the series if it's truly over for reals.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.