The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden
Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Dread Penny Society, #3
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Brogan Donnelly has been summoned by the acting head of the Dread Penny Society – a secret group of “penny dreadful” authors in London who work together as vigilantes to combat crime and help the less fortunate. Brogan loves being a member but has struggled with the rule that he must keep his membership and activities secret, which means lying to his sister Moirin. When Brogan arrives at his meeting, he is shocked to learn that the Dread Master, the actual yet unknown leader of the group, was the one who summoned him. The Dread Master wants Brogan to take a mission, but it will require him to act alone and without the DPS’s help, furthermore, he will have to “resign” from the group. His mission is to learn what connection the Russian ambassador has to the group’s archenemy – The Mastiff and his henchman Four-Finger Mike and to an immigrant Russian printer in Soho. Brogan accepts the mission, but doesn’t feel up to the task and is unhappy about the lies he will have to tell his co-members. As luck would have it when Brogan goes to the printer’s shop, they are looking for help and he applies for the job, which will hopefully allow him to find out what the printer is up to and how it relates to the ambassador.
Vera Sorokina runs The Sorokin Print Shop with her father. Although she was born in Russia, her family fled when she was young and England is the only home she has ever known. She runs the shop which not only does printing, but sells supplies and much to her father’s disgust – Penny Dreadful novels. Her father hates authors, he blames them for his banishment from Russia, a hatred that he has instilled in Vera. So when Brogan applies for the job, he gives a fake name – Ganor O’Donnell. Vera hires him and immediately feels a connection. Ganor and Vera become friends, they discuss the Penny Dreadfuls, politics, and life as immigrants – her feeling for him grow, how can then not when he buys her roast chestnuts, it kind to the urchins she “hires”, and when an extortion scheme comes into play, he supports her efforts to unite the other shop owners.
Brogan is falling hard for Vera and hates the lies that stand between them, he needs to finish his mission and then hopefully find a way to reveal the truth to Vera without breaking the DPS rules and hope that she will forgive his deception. But when someone tells her who he really is, she is hurt and cuts their ties without revealing she has learned the truth. Although heartbroken, her decision to send him away actually leads to him finding the connection between her father and the ambassador that he was sent to find. He takes the evidence and leaves but is not ready to give up on a future with Vera. He just needs to solve this mystery and then find a way to win back the woman he loves…
This was a very interesting story, it was actually three stories in one, as two “Penny Dreadful” novels are interspersed throughout the book. The writing was good, but I did find the addition of the other novels a bit distracting and their placement at times broke the “flow” of the actual story. Also, the book ends a bit abruptly and I would have liked a bit more closure, but I have to assume the things left hanging will be addressed in future installments. What I did like was the connection between Vera and Brogan, it was very well done and I truly felt and believed their love connection, the mysteries were also nicely executed and the author did a great job of tying everything together for a grand climax. For readers who prefer a “no-contact” romance – this book is for you, there is nothing beyond a kiss in this story and while I usually prefer a bit more steam, I didn’t feel the lack in this book. This is the third book in the series, but I hadn’t read the previous books and had no problems starting mid-series.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*