ARC Review: The Counterfeit Scoundrel by Lorraine Heath

The Counterfeit Scoundrel by Lorraine Heath
The Counterfeit Scoundrel
Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Series or Standalone: The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction #1
Links: Amazon Barnes & NobleGoodreadsStoryGraph
Rating: 3 Stars


CW: Domestic abuse; death of a parent; references to child abuse & infidielity; drug use & addiction (off-page)

If you know me, then you know that The Duchess Hunt is my all-time favorite historical romance novel, and Lorraine Heath is one of my favorite authors. So it should come as no surprise that The Counterfeit Scoundrel was my most anticipated read of 2023. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one, and it fell short of my expectations. This book leaned way more into detective fiction than I expected, which meant the romance took a back seat. I wanted more swoon-worthy feelings that I know Heath can deliver.

Born in an aristocratic family but yearning for freedom, Marguerite “Daisy” Townsend is trying to make her way as a private investigator. When she’s hired to obtain proof of a wife’s infidelity, she secures a position as a maid in the house of David Blackwood, known widely as Bishop. Little does Daisy expect to be lured into Bishop’s arms herself. With Bishop, there is more to him than meets the eye. With a reputation as a scoundrel, he has a secret – all his affairs are chaste. After witnessing his mother’s abusive relationship, Bishop now helps desperate wives escape unhappy marriages. However, when he’s accused of murdering the husband of a paramour, he’s forced to rely on Daisy’s help to clear his name.

First off, let’s start with the plot, as I think that’s what hampered my ability to love this book. This book went in a very different direction than I was expecting. It leaned way more into the murder mystery plot than I anticipated from the blurb. I also thought it would take longer for Bishop to figure out that Daisy was a private investigator, adding to the tension in their relationship, but he figured that out very quickly. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good detective fiction/murder mystery romance, but the mystery needs to be balanced with the romantic relationship development. In this book, the murder mystery dominated, so much so that the romance felt left behind. I also felt like I predicted the murder mystery conclusion, even though there was a fun twist toward the end. The pacing also felt a bit off in terms of the plot. Some things were wrapped up quickly, while others lingered, making it feel disjointed.

However, I wanted more from the romance in this book. So much more. The potential was there, but I felt we didn’t get to really see the relationship between Bishop and Daisy progress. The romance is based on insta-lust, and there is some delicious tension at the beginning when Daisy is masquerading as a maid in Bishop’s house. But that tension dissipated as they got more wrapped up in the murder mystery. Bishop also slightly frustrated me in his insistence on why he cannot be seen with Daisy even though Daisy didn’t give a fig about his reputation and what others think. The “I love you” declarations came on very quickly at the end, and I felt like it was a blink-and-you-miss-it type moment before they agreed to get married. I know Heath can deliver on the emotions and make your heartache in the best possible way, and I just didn’t get that from this book. 

Bishop wasn’t my favorite Heath hero, but I did find him interesting. His whole reputation as a scoundrel is a lie. He’s so devoted to helping women escape terrible situations through divorce because of demons in his past and his inability to help his mother. I thought he was noble in his pursuit to help women seek a divorce, especially considering how hard it was for women to be granted a divorce at that time. However, he gets a bit too wrapped up in his own head sometimes and fails to see that Daisy doesn’t care about his reputation.

Daisy was interesting. I feel like I struggled to get a read on her a bit at the beginning, but she grew on me. I liked how independent she was – that was one of her biggest strengths. She is a terrible spy, though. My god, she was so distracted by her feelings towards Bishop that she failed to do basic sleuthing or pay attention to details she needed to do her job. She’s also got some serious baggage from her past, which has set her on the path she’s on, much like Bishop. They complement each other well in that regard.

For the first book in The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction series, we don’t see much of the Chessmen. A few glimpses here and there, but that’s it. I don’t feel like I know Rook and Knightly any better than I did coming into this book. I was VERY excited, though, to see Kingsland again, along with Griff and Aiden. I love Heath’s extended universe as it is always so FUN to see previous characters pop up, and I truly fan girl at the cameos. 

Unfortunately, The Counterfeit Scoundrel fell short for me. It pains me so much to say that, as I genuinely adore Lorraine Heath and was so excited about this book. Even though this was not my favorite Heath novel, I am still greatly looking forward to book 2 in the series, The Notorious Lord Knightly, which we will be getting in a few short months in June 2023. 

Thank you to Avon/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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