I really enjoyed this first installment in Sarah MacLean's new historical Scandal & Scoundrel series, which is nice because I haven't really been connecting with historicals in about a year. The heroine, Sophie, is the youngest of five daughters known collectively as the Soiled S's, 'soiled' because their father bought his earldom after making a fortune mining coal, and 'S's' because their names all begin with S. At a ton fete, Sophie catches her brother-in-law cheating on her pregnant eldest sister, and pushes him into a fishpond. One might think his reputation would be the one to suffer as a result of this scandal, but no, he is a duke and Sophie is a coalminer's daughter, so she is the one ruined.
Desperate to flee the humiliating scene, Sophie comes upon King, who is climbing out of a soon-to-be-married lady's bedroom window. No stranger to scandal himself, the Marquess is nevertheless unwilling to help Sophie, so she poses as one of King's footmen to hitch a ride home. (Just go with it.) Unbeknownst to her, though, King's carriage isn't headed to Mayfair: he's on his way to Cumbria to see his estranged father, having heard his father is on his deathbed. On the journey north, Sophie and King's misadventures lead, gradually, to the correction of the wrong assumptions each made of the other on their initial acquaintance, and ultimately to love, though trust is harder to come by.
Much of the appeal of this book, for me, stems from the fact that apart from the initial scene at the garden party, "Rogue Not Taken" is a roadtrip story. It doesn't take place in London's drawing rooms and ball rooms, but in carriages and curricles and posting inns along the North Road. I also appreciated that Sophie isn't truly of the aristocracy, nor does she aspire to be, but she is also keenly aware that her past life of comfortable anonymity, before her father became an earl, is no longer available to her either. She's truly adrift in that sense, without a community, which makes her a more compelling character.
King didn't really stand out from the crowd of romance heroes, to me, and yet I appreciated his character arc as he grows from someone who treats Sophie fairly badly early on, but ultimately comes around to be her champion.