Scarlett Peckham


#100Romances: A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME + Epistolary Love

This week my journey through romance's greatest hits led me to Sarah MacLean's regency novel A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME.

What I loved about this book is its love letters.

Each chapter begins with a letter from the heroine, Penelope, to the hero, Bourne, beginning when they are childhood sweethearts. In the beginning, Bourne writes back and their exchanges are sweet and adorable. Then he suffers a tragedy and abruptly stops responding to Penelope's letters. Eventually she stops sending them, but she never stops writing - until the very last letter in the book, when she loses hope and destroys her final missive. 


Through these short notes we watch Penelope's heart get broken when Bourne disappears. We see her heartache fade into resignation when she stops sending the letters she pens and becomes engaged to someone else. We see her lose all faith in love, and in herself, when her engagement falls apart. And on Bourne's side we see the sensitive, kind and funny boy he was before he became the difficult man we are confronted with in the present day. 

The letters are overlaid with the plot brilliantly, so that when the characters are at their worst, we get to see them at their best at another point in time. And when they are at their most hopeless, we get to see that they will eventually find what they are looking for.

It's a poignant way of giving Penelope and Bourne more depth, and I loved the sense of intimacy it gave the book. Historical romance novels tend to be written in dual third-person point of view, so we don’t often hear the characters speak in first person, except in dialogue. And while this lends itself to the rich world-building that historical romance is known for, it can sometimes make the characters feel distant. 

Sometimes, it's nice to read someone pouring their heart out.

Next week we switch from lighthearted romps to UGLY CRYING with Laura Kinsale's FLOWERS FROM THE STORM.