One for the Rogue
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Reviewed by Janga
In the fourth novel in her Studies in Scandal series, Manda Collins gives her readers the story of Gemma Hastings, a geologist and the only remaining single bluestocking among the four young women to whom Lady Celeste Beauchamp bequeathed her estate, and Lord Cameron Lisle, another younger son of the Duke of Pemberton and the fossil-hunting brother of Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle (Wallflower Most Wanted, Studies in Scandal #3).
Gemma has determined that she will fulfill her own ambition and the expectations of her aunt, Miss Dahlia Hastings, and her benefactor, Lady Celeste, and win respect as a geologist despite her gender. Remaining unwed seems a necessary part of her plan. So too does unraveling the incomplete letter Lady Celeste left her concerning the Beauchamp fossil collection. Plagued by insomnia, Gemma is on her way to the workroom late one night to try once again to puzzle out the meaning of the letter when she notices an unexplained light bobbing about on Beauchamp property. The intrepid Gemma, armed only with a lantern, decides to investigate on her own and interrupts Lord Cameron trailing a suspicious figure.
Lord Cameron is attending a gathering of geologists and collectors at nearby Pearson Close where he meets Sir Everard Healy, a pompous bore with an inflated idea of his own importance. Cameron instinctively distrusts Sir Everard, and his distrust prompts him to follow the collector to the Beauchamp estate. Cameron is dismayed to be discovered by Gemma. Not only does her shout of recognition frighten off his prey before he learns anything, but his relationship with Gemma began in animosity because Gemma believes it was his prejudice against women that led to his rejecting an article she submitted to his journal. Although things have become calmer since his brother married her sister, feelings are still far from cordial.
Despite his unease, Cameron finds himself making more frequent visits to Beauchamp House, and his admiration for Gemma’s intelligence grows even though he still considers her far from the softly feminine woman he prefers. Gemma also begins to revise her opinion of Cameron. His good looks are harder for her to ignore, and she cares about his opinion of her. When Sir Everard lays claim to an interesting skull that Gemma discovered embedded in the cliffs on Beauchamp property, Cameron defends her rights. When they find the body of Sir Everard on the site, they become co-conspirators as they work at solving the murder and finding the missing skull. The friendship that develops soon includes an attraction they can no longer ignore. When they are caught indiscreetly kissing, a betrothal they agree will be temporary seems the best solution to protect Gemma’s reputation. But their hearts may prove wiser than their heads if they can only survive the threat of the murderer who is still at large.
Manda Collins completes her bluestocking tales with a strong showing. Gemma’s struggles to be recognized and respected as a scientist are engaging and credible as they play out against the strictures imposed on women. Even as she wins Cameron’s respect as a geologist, Gemma finds her choices limited by the social realities of a woman’s life in the nineteenth century. The stages of Cameron’s acceptance of Gemma as a fellow scientist and friend were far more convincing than the sudden epiphany that sometimes sparks such a change of heart. I liked these characters, and I wanted to see them achieve their HEA.
Collins offers her usual splendid balance between mystery and romance. Although this book can be read as a standalone, fans of the series will take greater pleasure in the appearances of the other three heiresses and their husbands, with Sophia and Ben playing the largest role. Lady Serena has become more interesting with each book in the series, and I hope she will get at least a novella so that she too wins an HEA.
If you like smart historical romance with a moderate degree of sizzle and an ideal blend of mystery, I highly recommend this book.