Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: “What’s that Hymen Doing There?”

Lisa's email about the book she's seeking made me snort laugh. 

I'm trying to find the first romance novel I ever read.  I liked it
enough that I kept reading romances, but I think it was probably much
worse than I thought.  I want to reread it…but I can't find it!
It's been bothering me for ages now.  Please, can the bitchery help?


The heroine is an orphan/thief in historical London.  She dreams of a
better life and spends her time practicing a refined accent and making
hats.  She also has a brother.

The hero is rich, but he works – a lawyer maybe, or a doctor?  His
best friend is a layabout who is waiting on his aunt to cough up her

Miss Thief goes out thieving one day, but things go bad and she ends
up in the hero's carriage by accident.  He saves her life by not
turning her in because he thinks she's just a kid.  He shoos her off,
but she's half in love.  Plot stuff happens.  At some point, her
brother convinces her to go pretend to be a prostitute so they can rob
the hero, which she objects to, but it works and they knock the poor
guy out and rob him blind.  She ends up with his monogrammed watch.
At this point, I don't think they even know each other's names yet and
he doesn't have any idea that the “kid” and the prostitute are the
same person.


More stuff happens.  Out of nowhere, some rich, eccentric lady decides
to buy all the heroine's hats, then invites her to move in and be a
lady.  (I have NO idea why.)  It turns out to be the layabout's rich
aunt; now,  the hero and heroine officially meet (he doesn't know who
she is, -again-), court, etc, etc.  I dimly remember a visit to the
theatre.  He wants to marry her.  Then the old lady dies and leaves
all her things to the heroine, which pisses off the layabout. He ends
up finding the watch and tells the hero, who of course is so angry he
has to go have sex with her.  The heroine, not the dead aunt.

The sex scene horrified me, because I had this notion at the time that
romance novel sex scenes were flowery and lovey-dovey.  Silly me.
It's basically:  “But I'm a virgin!”  “Hah, you're a whore.”  “No,
really, I-”  “Shut up.”  Followed by her deciding: “I love him so much
that even though he hates me, and is hurting me, and he deserves to be
The One and I could never stand to be with anyone else.  My heart, it
is broken.”  Followed, of course, by “What's this hymen doing here?
This changes everything!”  (The hymen was not external, by the way.)


More stuff happens. She ends up in prison and gets put on a prison
ship.  The ship sinks within swimming distance of the city (convenient
and not explained), and she escapes and lives on the street in misery
(for surely she can never be loved, etc).  One of her thief buddies
shows up and tries to attack her (there's some subplot with the
brother), but lo!  The hero is in the neighborhood and he saves her.
Naturally, HEA.  On Christmas, no less.

Oh, and for some reason I think the title might involve “Lady” or
“Rogue” or “Thief.”  Maybe the heroine's name was Kat?  And the cover
was dark blue?  Help!


Hymens change everything, of course. So does practicing accents. Anyone recall this book?


Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1
    Liz says:

    Oh my god! I’ve read this! And of course have no idea what it’s called or who wrote it. I will look through bookshelves after I drag the dog around the block- pitbull who’s afraid of snow…

  2. 2
    bolshevikicepick says:

    Sounded like ‘What a Rogue Desires’ by Caroline Linden but then it veered off with the prison ship. She ended up in prison for a bit, but definitely on dry land.

  3. 3
    Elli says:

    A Lisa Kleypas book?

    I think there’s one where the hero catches the thieving heroine, dressed as a boy, they have sex, he knocks himself out on the headboard or the wall – and she escapes – but that’s awfully rough for virgin sex.

  4. 4
    Amy says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read it as well – but cannot remember the name.

    Although the whole, being mad and having sex with the heroine to punish her then realising she is a virgin and being immediately remorseful could have happened in several books (unfortunately).

  5. 5
    Jill Sorenson says:

    I think this is a Shirlee Busbee book. Whisper to me of Love? Either that or Kat Martin’s Sweet Vengeance.

  6. 6
    Heather says:

    Argh! I’ve read this one! I can’t remember what it was called, either. : /

  7. 7
    Liz says:

    I’m still positive I’ve read this, but have looked through all of my shelves and my nook, and based on back cover synopsis’ can’t find it anywhere. Can I second the HaBO plea? I now desperately want to know the name.

  8. 8
    Heather says:

    I keep thinking it was a Victoria Alexander book, for some reason. I haven’t read much by way of romance, but I remember reading this back in 2010, and most of the romance I read at the time was by her.

  9. 9

    I think Jill is right, and it’s “Sweet Vengeance” by Kat Martin. There’s definitely a prison ship, and I think the hero is there when it sinks because he bought a plantation in Jamaica, or something like that.

  10. 10
    cleo says:

    I love reading these!  Hilarious plot summary Lisa.  Sadly, I read many versions of that sex scene in the 80s and 90s, including a couple by Kat Martin (until I put her on my mental Do Not Read this Author Ever list – why? you ask – I don’t remember the details anymore, but I read one with a gratuitous caning and an evil, lecherous guardian and that was it for me and Ms Martin.  Not that she seems to have noticed my boycott.)

  11. 11

    “more stuff happens”—sounds so familiar!

    love it.

  12. 12
    LG says:

    SBTB’s hymen post has already had an effect on how I read romance novel virgin sex scenes, so I laughed at the “the hymen was not external” bit.

    I can’t help with this HaBO – other than “What’s this hymen doing here? This changes everything!”, this doesn’t sound the least bit familiar.

  13. 13
    Lisa Burris says:

    Gah, they’re all close, but then off somehow!
    “Sweet Vengeance” mentions them making it Jamaica at some point, but I’m pretty sure they never leave London.  Similar for Busbee’s “Whisper to Me of Love” – he’s not American.
    “What a Rogue Desires” is another one – sounds sorta right, but not quite.  I’m certain the hero never locked the heroine up. 
    But that’s the frustrating thing.  There are sooo many “thief+society man+ omgNewgate!” plots out there.
    But so help me, I’m not going to bed until I’ve picked through Lisa Kleypas and Victoria Alexander’s lineups.  I will find it, or go mad trying!

  14. 14

    I can’t answer the HaBO request, but the book Elli described in comment #3 is The Devil to Pay by Liz Carlyle.…  The heroine is a young widow (not a virgin widow, at least) who sympathizes with women mistreated by wealthy aristocratic men because her own mother was the mistress of a nobleman.  So naturally, she decides to dress up in various disguises to wreak vengeance on misbehaving rakes.  Naturally.  (I own this book and rather like it, despite the fairly ridiculous premise.)  And yes, the hero does manage to knock himself out on the headboard the first time they have sex, while she is dressed as a male street urchin, and this is apparently not the first time he has incapacitated himself in this manner.

  15. 15
    EliG says:

    I’m having a “Damn you Amazon Kindle” moment.  The book noted in 14 (Patricia) is available for Kindle.  My book budget has gone to hell since I finally surrendered to ebook-land. And yet another one to join the collection, because seriously, he knocks himself out more than one time? I must read this now and well, I can read this now, no stalking of used book stores physical or online required.

  16. 16

    The ship sinks within swimming distance of the city (convenient
    and not explained)…

    Actually, pretty likely. Most of the prison ships were just situated up and down the Thames. They were in such bad condition that they weren’t even sea-worthy. A good number of the people sentenced to transportation never got transported. They just got tossed onto a prison hulk, where a bunch of them died, and those that lived barely managed. For those who want to know more, you can find it out in the incredibly cheerily titled, “THE INTOLERABLE HULKS: British Shipboard Confinement 1776-1857.”

  17. 17
    Awaskyc says:


    Seriously, Kleypas is my favorite for atypical romance sex scenes. I need to read the one where the hero knocks himself out. !!!

  18. 18
    Cerulean says:

    It does sound like a mix of several of Shirlee Busbee books, although not exactly a match. But you should check out Midnight Masquerade (girl grows up with brothers in the streets of London, thieves, is caught by hero, set up as his mistress, and more) and Lady Vixen (heroine pretends to be a boy and is the hero’s cabin boy on his ship). Now I need to do a re-read of some old skool Shirlee Busbee! Especially Tiger Lily, one of my old favorites.

  19. 19
    Rebe says:

    If it weren’t for the prison barge bit, I’d say it was Suzanne Enoch’s Lady Rogue, b/c of the cross dressing and stealing from the her. But the prison barge and the god-awful sex scene rule that out.

  20. 20
    Katrina says:

    This sounds… astonishing. Really, really amazing. I have no idea what it is, of course, but now I kind of want to read it…

  21. 21

    It almost sounded like Julie Anne Long’s To Love A Thief…except I don’t *think* there was a prison ship in it. The hero is a barrister named Gideon and the heroine is a thief (duh) named Lily. Ringing any bells?

  22. 22

    It is is absolutely not What a Rogue Desires (the sex in that one was all sorts of consenual and the plot doesn’t match up at all, beyond “she’s a theif”) and it is not To Love a Thief, which i just finished adored.

    However, this is ringing a bunch of bells for me- but like bells from 18 years ago, so they are not distinct.

  23. 23

    Voices of the Night by Lydia Joyce fits about 90% of the HABO. However, it was only published in 2007, so not sure if it’s old enough to be the HABO. Oh, and the heroine is “Maggie of King Street”.

  24. 24
    Susan says:

    This is one of my favorite HABOs evah!

    Have no idea what the book is—my memory is so bad that I wouldn’t know it even if I’d read it—but the description and comments are hilarious.  “Plot stuff happens.”  “He ends
    up finding the watch and tells the hero, who of course is so angry he has to go have sex with her.  The heroine, not the dead aunt.”  “What’s this hymen doing here?  This changes everything!”

    The book cannot be as good as this synopsis.

    And Patricia #14’s description of the Liz Carlyle book is great.  (I’ve read this book but, of course, can’t remember the details so I guess I need to read it again.)

  25. 25
    Lisa Burris says:

    Oh man, To Love a Thief sounds SO close, too!  And $.99 ebook too!

    I’m back in full search mode now.  I even stumbled on another thread elsewhere where someone was searching for a book that’s almost the same, but not, and most of the suggestions for that search are also all ALMOST this book, but not.

    (Maybe it doesn’t exist?  But it has to!  I remember it so clearly..well, some of it!)

    Hey, but now I have a reading list a mile long!  Whether or not the book was good, I enjoy a good rags-to-riches story.:)

    When (not if!) I find this, I will post!

  26. 26
    Cate says:

    I remember that one – the knocking himself out on the headboard was funny – but I don’t think that’s the one she’s talking about. In the head-board one she’s not a virgin and she has a tatoo that gives her away. I don’t think their were hats?

  27. 27
    Lisa Burris says:

    Haha!  Success!  Figured it out!  “Lady Rogue,” by Kathryn Kramer. (1991)

    Yesss, that’s a bit…obvious, given my guess at the title.

    In my defense, if you search Amazon for “Lady Rogue,” it’s buried several pages deep because, like the plot, there are five bazillion other novels that share the same detail.  Lady Rogue, My Lady Rogue, Ladylike Rogue, The Rogue’s Lady No. 69 (WaitWHAT?), etc, etc..

    I finally found it by going author by author in a list of suggestions in a similar thread in the hopes that the author wrote more than one of the same sort of book.  And lo and behold, there it was.  I’m not sure how I forgot the cover: the hero’s head is twice the size of the heroine’s!

    (I’m a dolt.)

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