ARC Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

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Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.
Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.
Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

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I have always wanted to read Jenn Bennett’s contemporaries because many of my fellow bloggers seem to love them but it just never happened. So, when I realized that she is writing a historical fantasy, I found it way more interesting and immediately requested for this advance copy. And that turned out to be a great decision because this was a very fun reading experience.

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I’m a huge fan of adventure novels, especially where the protagonists are searching for historical relics or artifacts while being chased by unsavory villains. That’s one reason I religiously read every new Steve Berry release each year and I was so glad that the author gave me a similar experience with this book, albeit with a younger heroine and a good amount of focus on the romance. The story is very fast paced and we are thrown smack dab in the middle of it all right on the first page and I loved that. The author also does a wonderful job making us clearly picture every single scenery and location that the characters travel, making us feel like we ourselves are on a journey through the Romania of the 1930s. Amidst all the mayhem, we get some very interesting history (both real and fictional) about Vlad the Impaler and also general history about Wallachia and Transylvania and the Ottoman Empire, alongwith a good dose of supernatural folklore of the Romani people. All of this made for a very fascinating and riveting read. There are also secret societies and cursed rings which are some of my favorite tropes and I had so much fun getting to read about it all. Events also keep happening in very quick succession and we as a reader are kept our toes, worrying about what would happen next. I thought the overall writing was very good and it’s surprising that this is the author’s first fantasy novel.

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We only get to read Theo’s POV in the book but she is a fun protagonist to follow. Born to two historian/adventurer parents, she has the same curious heart but is frustrated because her father is very protective. But she is strong, determined, resourceful, has a great knowledge of all things occult and mysterious, and will never stop once she makes up her mind. But she is also a privileged teenager and we get to see her petulant, sulky side. The author lets us see all the quirks of her personality which felt nice. Huck on the other hand didn’t feel very developed, because we only see him through her heartbroken eyes. He makes for a good companion, each of them trying to control the other’s impulsive decisions and trying to decide a more reasonable course for their adventure. They also meet some delightful characters on their journey, who mostly turn up just when they need them and provide them some relevant information, but I still loved all the tales they told.

This is almost like a second chance romance, so there is a lot of angst. Theo especially struggles a lot to come to terms with her feelings and what she sees as a betrayal, but she also can’t forget that she fell in love. There is a lot of banter too, the familiarity between the two of them really reflecting off the page, making for some very entertaining conversations. While their relationship is one of the main focus of the book, it’s almost a given right from the beginning that they love each other and we just wait till they are finally able to tell each other the same. That’s what I found a bit ironical about the story here – it focuses on the relationship but it’s not exactly a romance that develops on page – but it was still very enjoyable to read.

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To conclude, this was a romp of a novel which I felt thoroughly entertained while reading, and felt that I was on an adventure myself traveling through Romania. If you enjoy reading books by Dan Brown or Steve Berry and wouldn’t mind a similar themed book but with younger characters, you should definitely check this out. Just keep in mind that you will also be getting a romance alongside the adventure.

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PS: Thank you to Simon Pulse and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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