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Ready Set Rogue

Ready Set Rogue, January 2017
Studies in Scandal #1
by Manda Collins

St. Martin's Press
320 pages
ISBN: 1250109868
EAN: 9781250109866
Kindle: B01H03I984
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"A fantastic assortment of bold, brilliant female characters!"

Fresh Fiction Review

Ready Set Rogue
Manda Collins

Reviewed by Miranda Owen
Posted January 10, 2017

Romance Historical

READY SET ROGUE is book one in the Studies in Scandal series by Manda Collins. This is a wonderful book that will appeal to fans of Amanda Quick's quirky bluestocking heroines. All four main female characters who are introduced in this first book are extremely erudite and excel in their chosen field of study. In READY SET ROGUE, Manda Collins balances the introductory information that is expected in the first book of a series, with the romance and mystery that gives this book life.

Readers who enjoy the enemies-to-lovers trope will definitely like watching the initial sparks between the slightly haughty yet attractive Quill Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr and the spirited academic Ivy Wareham. Being strangers to each other, and being placed in a highly unusual situation, creates an atmosphere of doubt between the two. Thankfully the prickly quality of their relationship comes down a notch as the story progresses, but these two strong-willed characters still clash every so often. Although their occasional bickering sometimes obscures their real feelings and true character, Quill and Ivy grew on me. Quill's misplaced guilt over not protecting the women in his life is revealed as the real reason he initially gave Ivy a bit of a hard time about her strange inheritance. As they get to know each other better, the romance runs a little more smoothly and becomes more enjoyable for readers.

I love mysteries that have a poisoner on the loose, and READY SET ROGUE satisfies my craving for the lurid and the sinister. As with their romance, Quill and Ivy have an easier time as co-investigators after understanding each other more. It's not long before Ivy's fellow lady scholars and Quill's cousins join the investigation. I like the way the mystery draws all the main characters together and creates a feeling of comradery. I was perplexed until the very end trying to figure out who the villain is and the motivation for the crimes.

READY SET ROGUE has an assortment of bold, brilliant female characters and showcases the strength and resourcefulness of women. I look forward to watching the friendships between this group of ladies develop with each book. I am especially eager to read about oblivious mathematician Daphne's foray into romance.

Learn more about Ready Set Rogue

SUMMARY

WHO WILL WRITE THE BOOK OF LOVE?

When scholarly Miss Ivy Wareham receives word that she’s one of four young ladies who have inherited Lady Celeste Beauchamp’s estate with a magnificent private library, she packs her trunks straightaway. Unfortunately, Lady Celeste’s nephew, the rakish Quill Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr, is determined to interrupt her studies one way or another...

Bequeathing Beauchamp House to four bluestockings—no matter how lovely they are to look at—is a travesty, and Quill simply won’t have it. But Lady Celeste’s death is not quite as straightforward as it first seemed…and if Quill hopes to solve the mystery behind her demise, he’ll need Ivy’s help. Along the way, he is surprised to learn that bookish Ivy stirs a passion and longing that he has never known. This rogue believes he’s finally met his match—but can Quill convince clever, skeptical Ivy that his love is no fiction?

Don't miss Ready Set Rogue, the first in Manda Collins' new series set in Regency England!

Excerpt

He’d known she was attractive—had categorized her as such almost as soon as he saw her in the Fox and Pheasant earlier that day—but even that observation hadn’t led him to imagine what she’d look like in such dishabille. Well, that wasn’t quite true, he amended. His mind had conjured her in much fewer clothes than this before he’d realized just who she was. But any such imaginings had been snuffed out as soon as he’d known her destination. The reality of facing her here, now, in her virginal bedclothes, however, with her lovely red hair framing her face like a halo was far more tempting than his fantasy had been.

So, yes. She was disturbing him, but likely in a way she didn’t even comprehend.

Suppressing the urge to tell her just that, he said instead, “I was too restless to sleep. It takes a bit for me to settle in to a new place. So there’s no harm done.”

Moving farther into the room, she set her candle down on one of the large library tables and wrapped her arms across her chest. “It’s chilly in here,” she said frowning. “I hadn’t expected it this close to the sea. I thought it was supposed to be milder here.”

Wordlessly, he looked away from her and moved over to kneel before the fireplace, stoking the embers back into a blaze. “It’s still early spring,” he said on standing, brush- ing his hands together more for something to do than to remove any soot. “The breeze off the channel keeps the air fairly cool until summer.”

But she wasn’t paying him any mind; instead she scanned the shelves that lined the walls behind him.

“Looking for something in particular?” he asked, not- ing the impatience flash in her gaze before she replaced it with polite indifference. “Something to read before sleep, perhaps? Something to steal?”

Her brow furrowed at his question. He’d meant it to be playful, but her response told him that it had come off more sharply than he’d intended.

“I’d hoped you’d decided to stop treating me like an op- portunist here to steal your inheritance from you,” she said, pursing her lips. “I have it on very good authority that you’ve a great many houses as part of the Kerr estate— ones much grander and more impressive than this one. I do not understand why you cannot manage to accept the loss of this one. Unless, of course, like most boys you dis- like sharing your toys.”

She said this last part dismissively over her shoulder as she stepped past him and openly began to read through the shelves on the far wall.

Turning to watch her move from shelf to shelf, he sighed. “I suppose I deserve that after the way I behaved this afternoon. But let me assure you that it’s no petty childhood jealousy that made me distrust you and your compatriots, Miss Wareham.”

This must have surprised her, for she turned and looked at him through narrowed eyes. “No? Then what?”

He thrust a hand through his hair, fighting the urge to look away. “Have you never faced the removal of a child- hood memory?” he asked, finally. “Never wished to hold onto the last bastion of somewhere that gave you comfort?”

Arrested, she tilted her head. “And that’s what this place was for you?” she asked. “A bastion of comfort?”

He wasn’t sure why, but Quill felt more exposed in that moment than he would have if he were stark naked. But he knew he owed her an explanation. Especially after the way he’d treated her earlier. “For me, for Serena, and for my cousin Dalton,” he admitted. “Our own homes were not particularly . . .” He broke off as he tried to think of a word that wouldn’t shock her. He could hardly tell her about the debauchery that had reigned in his own house before his father died. And the circumstances of Serena and Dalton’s upbringing weren’t his to reveal. “Let’s just say that we found our visits to Beauchamp House to be a relief from our own homes.”

Something flashed behind her eyes. Sympathy? Or something else? Quill wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t fail to note the way she squared her shoulders. As if she’d come to a decision.

Abandoning her scan of the bookshelves, she turned fully to face him, her hands clasped before her so tightly that her knuckles were white with it. “Lord Kerr,” she began, her green eyes shadowed with trepidation. “There is something I must tell you.”

Quill felt his stomach drop, and a pang of disappoint- ment ran through him. Now she’d admit that she and the others actually had found some way to trick Aunt Celeste into leaving them Beauchamp House. The whole business of the competition had sounded like a farce, and though he’d known his aunt to possess a playful streak, he’d never guessed it would reveal itself in such a way. Certainly he’d not supposed she would play fast and loose with the dis- position of Beauchamp House, where she’d spent so many happy years.

“Then by all means,” he drawled, allowing every bit of the world- weary ennui that cloaked him in town to settle over him. “Tell me all, Miss Wareham. I confess I am curi- ous to hear how you all managed it, never having set foot in Beauchamp House before. It must have taken a great deal of coordination amongst the four of you.”

But if he’d expected her to surrender completely, he was to be disappointed. “What?” she asked, her nose wrinkled in puzzlement. “I thought we’d just put that behind us. And yet, here you are with accusations again. You are like a dog with a bone, Lord Kerr. Honestly!”

“If not that, then what is it you wish to tell me?” he de- manded, exasperated. He’d never thought himself to be a particularly emotional man, but since he’d met this chit on the road he’d gone through more feelings than a year in London had elicited from him. He must be sickening for something. “You can hardly blame me for jumping to con- clusions when we’ve just been speaking about my earlier suspicions.”

“I can blame you all too easily,” she retorted with a scowl. “But I will not because I am tired of being at cross purposes with you. And I do not believe your aunt would like it.”

Indicating with a wave of his hand that she should go on, Quill waited.

“I found a letter from your aunt waiting for me in my bedchamber,” she said, her fine features marred by worry. “I greatly fear that Lady Celeste was murdered.”


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