With the turn of one card twenty-one year old Michael Lawler, Marquess of Bourne loses everything to his guardian…his father's best friend and the man he trusted with his world. The only thing Bourne didn't lose to Viscount Langford was the entailed manor house at Falconwell but, not the thousand acres that went with it, nor the horses, or furniture, or carriages, or anything else. Bourne even loses his best friend that night, the viscount's son who chose his inheritance over friendship.
Outcasts from society, four unlikely gentlemen band together to become the London underworld's most powerful and hated men. Their club is The Fallen Angel…their game anything their members want and the stakes are high. This is the club that Bourne co-owns and how he regained his wealth. Unfortunately, without the Falconwell lands it all means nothing to him. The price to regain the lands he lost…marriage to his former neighbor, friend and almost sweetheart, Lady Penelope Marbury.
At twenty-eight, Penelope is considered on the shelf after the disastrous ending of her engagement to the Duke of Leighton, and five other refused proposals. Penelope wants to be the dutiful daughter and marry but, after discovering the duke couldn't love her and instead married another, she wants to know what is so unloveable about her. Penelope blames herself for her younger sister's unhappy marriages, or more accurately her mother blames her and continues to ensure that Penelope always feels guilty. So when her father adds the newly acquired Falconwell lands to her dowry and demands that she will be married by the end of the season, she knows her fate is sealed. What she doesn't know is who she is fated to be with.
Bourne is ruthless in his quest to regain his birthright. He abducts Penelope, compromises her, quickly marries her then dumps her in London and ignores her. He is a colossal ass-hat for two-thirds of the book. Is it any wonder that when he finally starts being kind to her neither Penelope, nor the reader, believes his sudden reversal?
I admired Pennelope's character for holding strong against Bourne and for standing up to him. She was the best part of the book. Penelope knew that her old Michael, the one she grew up with, was somewhere inside the cold, hard man she married and I'm glad that she was proved right. I personally didn't care that much for Bourne's character whose soul had been twisted by his all-consuming need for revenge.
I am curious about his partners, especially after they beat the crap out of him to help him see the light in his mistreatment of Penelope, and want to read the next book in the series. While A Rogue by Any Other Name is not my favorite book of 2012, it is worth reading just for Penelope's character.