Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Vera Sorokina loves reading the Penny Dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her the freedom and income to employ and protect the poverty-stricken Londoners she’s come to care about, and it gives her father something to do other than long for their hometown of St. Petersburg. She is grateful for the stability in their lives, but she often feels lonely.
Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he’s built a career as a Penny Dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. His membership in the secretive Dread Penny Society allows him to feel he isn’t entirely wasting his life, yet he feels dissatisfied. With no one to share his life with but his sister, he fears London will never truly feel like home.
Brogan and Vera’s paths cross, and the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from past experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at her print shop is aboveboard. When the growing criminal enterprise run by the elusive and violent Mastiff begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they’ve both grown to love. But that means they’ll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries (Netgalley, 2021).
Things I Enjoyed: I’m always up for a good 19th century romance and The Merchant and the Rogue did not disappoint. This story was a bit unusual for me as most of the historical romances I’ve read before focus on the upper class while this one focused on the working class. I found this approach more refreshing and I enjoyed that. Vera was able to go out and take charge of situations more often than not. I was also intrigued by the idea of a 19th century philanthropic secret society of writers. Secret societies were all the rage back then and while this particular society stretches credibility a bit I still thought it added some excitement to the story.
In terms of the romance between Brogan and Vera, “aw” seems to be a good way to describe them as a couple. Those two grew so quickly comfortable with one another and just fit so well together. Their interactions are more sweet than steamy, but I was so happy when they got their HEA.
Things I Didn’t Enjoy/Found Confusing/Would Have Changed: I thought it was an interesting touch to intersperse a few of the so called penny dreadful stories between chapters, but I just couldn’t get into those subplots.
Overall Thoughts: I thought this was a great historical romance with a bit of a refreshing take on the genre. I would definitely recommend it. This was a 4 out of 5 star read for me.
Quotes I Enjoyed/Found Significant:
Despite the heaviness of her mind, Vera brightened at the prospect. In the midst of uncertainty and deception, worries over lies and threats, she had found a refuge, someone she could rely on.
Too often people speak of love and romance as losing oneself in another person, of needing them to the point where who they are disappears. But that’s not at all what I see in you. You both grow stronger, fiercer. You grow independent…together”.