Published by Berkley on August 2nd 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Anna Bradley, author of A Wicked Way to Win an Earl, continues her Sutherland Scandals series with a tantalizing new Regency romance filled with opulence, elegance, and forbidden desire... Lily Somerset’s plan for the London season is simple: courtship, marriage to a respectable gentleman, then the comfortable existence of a proper Lady. That is, until one tiny misstep leaves Lily on the edge of social ruin, forcing her to depend on a wicked rogue to save her reputation. Robyn Sutherland doesn’t save reputations—he sullies them. He'd rather be drawn and quartered than find himself spending the season as Lily's escort. But he has no choice but to stay until her tattered standing is mended. What begins as a ruse to deceive London soon flames into an uncontrollable passion. Robyn calls to the wild spirit that lurks beneath Lily’s prim exterior, and Lily awakens the hero’s heart within Robyn. But can these unlikely lovers trust themselves enough to let desire overrule reason?
Top Ten Truths and Tweaks in “A Season of Ruin”
One thing I love most about writing Regency romance is digging into different aspects of the era with each new novel I write. Like most historical romance writers, I love the period and do a tremendous amount of research to ensure historical accuracy, but every now and then I will intentionally take a liberty with the time period in order to exaggerate the drama of a scene and create a compelling, romantic story for the reader. Here are few of my favorite truths and tweaks from “A Season of Ruin.”
“Charlotte’s fingers edged toward the scandal sheet during this exchange and closed on the corner of the paper. She was about to whisk Mrs. Tittleton and her damning account out of Lily’s sight when Robyn slammed his hand down on the paper to stop her.”
- Truth: The ton (and the middle and working classes) did love their gossip and scandal, and satirical (and often vulgar and salacious!) prints featuring well-known political and aristocratic people were extremely popular at the time, but . . .
- Tweak: The term “scandal sheets” didn’t come into common use until after the Regency. Now, that’s not to say that one couldn’t find shocking tidbits among the many newspapers and magazines printed in England at the time, but alas, Mrs. Tittleton and her scurrilous scandal sheet would likely not have been in common circulation in 1814, the year in which “A Season of Ruin,” is set.
“It happened Robyn could get the elusive Almack’s voucher with very little inconvenience to himself, as he knew just the scoundrel who could lay his hands on one.”
- True: Almack’s, “London’s great monument to vanity and social ambition,” as Robyn calls it, was as exclusive as 19th century rumor implies. The seven patronesses who guarded those hallowed halls were notoriously selective about which members of society would be gifted with admittance. A young lady of spotless character and breeding could obtain a “stranger’s ticket,” as Lily does, but . . .
- Tweak: As much as I adore the idea that at least one of the seven lady patronesses of Almack’s had wicked secrets to hide, the idea that a scoundrel like Robyn’s friend Lord Pelkey could extort a voucher is pure (albeit delicious!) speculation.
“Lord Archibald and Lord Pelkey followed on Robyn’s heels. Lily was happy to see Archie, but how in the name of heaven had Lord Pelkey managed to cross Almack’s sacred threshold without a cravat?”
- Tweak: Under no circumstances would Lord Pelkey have been permitted entrance to Almack’s without a cravat. Almack’s rules regarding punctuality and dress were sacrosanct. Eleanor’s comment that “The Duke of Wellington himself would not be permitted to cross Almack’s threshold should he arrive later than 11 p.m.” is a reference to Lady Jersey’s rumored refusal to admit the Duke to Almack’s because he arrived late and was dressed in modern trousers (long pants) rather than the required breeches. If the Duke couldn’t gain admittance without the proper dress, it’s unlikely a rake like Lord Pelkey could!
“London during the season is a marriage mart, and gentlemen who wish to secure a wife shop for her at Almack’s.”
- True: Contracting an advantageous match was a serious business during the Regency, and though Robyn takes care to be as impolite as possible, there’s more than a grain of truth to his claim (or rather Lord Byron’s claim, as he coined the term “marriage mart”). The purpose of the London season was to provide young ladies and gentlemen with an opportunity to make advantageous matches, and since Almack’s was closed to all but the most exclusive members of society, eligible gentlemen did search for potential wives among the young ladies there. The ladies did not, however, wear placards listing their flaws and attractions, as Robyn so crassly suggests!
“Lily folded the paper into neat thirds and balanced it carefully on the side of her dressing table. ‘Waltzing without express permission from our esteemed hostesses?’ Young ladies need permission to waltz at Almack’s?”
- True: Young ladies could not waltz at Almack’s without the patronesses’ permission. Public dances prior to the waltz were conducted in “sets,” where a group of dancers promenaded through a series of steps without much sustained physical contact, but the waltz paired a single gentleman with a single lady (scandalous!), and though the gentleman did not in fact wrap his arm around a lady’s waist during a Regency-era waltz, the dance was racy enough to require the patronesses’ stern attention.
- Tweak: To dance the waltz at Almack’s without the hostesses’ permission was a grave social offense—so grave even a naïve young lady from the country just arrived in London would likely know of it, or have been informed before she appeared at an assembly. After her gaffe, Lily retains a respectable place in society with the help of the Sutherlands and Lady Anne Chase, but alas, this is the stuff of delightful romance rather than reality. Publicly dancing a waltz under such circumstances would likely have resulted in a permanent stain upon a young lady’s reputation, one from which she would not have recovered.
“Atherton’s a wreck. I think he’s still half-sotted from last night. Stafford wants to step in for him, but Atherton won’t have it. Truthfully, Atherton was nearly incoherent, and Robyn didn’t care to fire on a man who looked as if he could barely hold a pistol.”
- True: Dueling was illegal in England during the Regency, but gentlemen still met in secret in remote locations in London to “gain satisfaction” for an offense to their honor, or the honor of a loved one, so Robyn could indeed have fought a duel over Atherton’s ugly slur against Lily’s reputation, but . . .
- Tweak: Duels were a matter of a gentleman’s honor, and truly an issue of life and death. Robyn, despite his rakish ways, is a man of honor, and as such may have balked at firing upon a gentleman still suffering the effects of too much drink, no matter how richly that gentleman deserved it. It also would have been foolhardy in the extreme for Lord Atherton to appear as a duel half-sotted, unless he fancied the idea of Robyn’s bullet between his eyes!
You can follow the Sutherland Scandal series on Goodreads.
Robyn’s hands clenched into fists as Atherton’s lips met Lily’s. It was quick—blessedly so. So quick Robyn couldn’t decide whether to be outraged Atherton had kissed her at all, or offended the man had taken such poor advantage of such a promising opportunity.
Men like Atherton were a disgrace to the entire gender.
Alone with Lily, her luscious pink lips at his disposal, and the best Atherton could offer was a stiff little peck on her mouth, leaving all her eager passions untapped to thrash and squirm in that delicious body. That she’d be wasted on a man who couldn’t appreciate her sensuality made Robyn want to rip his hair still bloody from the roots.
Atherton didn’t deserve her.
Neither do you.
Robyn backed away from the railing and retreated into the darkness of the hallway. No, he didn’t deserve her, but then he’d made a life’s habit of taking things he didn’t deserve, and he didn’t intend to change that habit tonight. Not when the woman he didn’t deserve had mounted the staircase, was even now only steps from the second-floor landing.
The woman he wanted above all others.
“You call that a kiss?”
“Oh!” Lily whirled around at the sound of his voice. Her hand flew to her chest and patted it as if to calm her heart. “Robyn! What in the world are you doing, skulking back there like some common criminal?”
“You call that a kiss?” Robyn repeated. He leaned one hip against the railing.
This time the question registered. Incredulity slid over Lily’s face, then she drew herself up with dignity. “Were you spying on me?”
“Yes.” What point was there in denial? Spying would be the least of his sins tonight.
She sputtered for a moment in outrage, but managed to spit out a sentence at last. “Why, how dare you?”
“You didn’t answer my question. You call that a kiss?” He narrowed his eyes on her face. “You look just the same as ever. You’re not flushed with passion, nor are you panting for breath.”
“I—that’s nothing to do with you.”
Robyn straightened and moved toward her. “Your lips aren’t even pink. Not more so than usual, that is.”
Something in his expression made her eyes go wide. “Don’t come near me.”
He ignored her words, cupped her face in one hand, and brushed the tip of his bare thumb softly against her lower lip, as if testing its plumpness. “Not swollen, either. Atherton should be horsewhipped.”
“He’s—he’s a gentleman.”
A dark chuckle escaped Robyn’s lips. “He’s a bloody fool. It’s as if he didn’t kiss you at all. If I put my mouth on you, you’d damn well know it, and for days afterward. If I had such an opportunity, you’d not walk away from me until my tongue touched every inch of your mouth, inside and out.”
Lily’s mouth went soft and her lips opened, as if she imagined his tongue against her there.
Robyn suppressed a harsh groan and kept his voice soft and low. “I may not be a gentleman, but I’m no fool, either, to let such a chance escape me.”
He stood so close to her, he could see her throat work as she swallowed. “I don’t understand you, Robyn. I thought we were friends.”
Friends? Did she think to convince him, or herself? Or did she think she could reason him into releasing her? How like Lily not to see they’d gone far, far beyond reason.
His breath stirred the hair at her temple and he felt a shiver pass through her. “Oh, no. I don’t kiss my friends, and I’d very much like to kiss you right now.”
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
A Season of Ruin is the second book in the ‘Sutherland Scandals’ series by Anna Bradley. I haven’t read the first in the series, but it in no way makes this book less enjoyable. As with most series though, I think it’s nice to read the previous books if you can because it is always great to catch up on characters you undoubtedly will have loved in those books.
This is the story of Lily Somerset, and Robyn Sutherland. Lily is a woman who although has a passionate nature, will never let it show. Everything must be in order, safe, not even a hair must be out of place, or a ribbon twisted. Robyn on the other hand has never been made to feel that anything he does is good enough, so in the end he stopped trying. Instead he focuses on what scandals he can get into and which woman he will take to his bed next. He has a well earned reputation of a wicked rogue. Definitely not a man Lily could ever have a relationship with. Or is he?
The man she has set her sights on is Lord Atherton, a nice, stable, respectable gentleman who is good looking as well. She hasn’t been introduced to him, but hopes to remedy that at one of the balls of the London Season. Before she has a chance at that introduction she ends up in a scandalous situation with none other than Robyn Sutherland. A misunderstanding, and Lily finds herself out of favour with the very people she had hoped to impress.
The family gather around and decide that the only way Lily’s reputation can be rescued is for Robyn to escort her to all the routs and balls until Lily is accepted among the ton again. The last thing she wants is Robyn’s help, but without it she will never be able to get the introduction she needs to Lord Atherton, and her dreams of a stable marriage will be doomed. The last thing Robyn wants is to help Lily, not only because balls etc aren’t his cup of tea, but also because after his scandalous moment with Lily, he can’t stand the thought of her with another man, especially boring Atherton. He has to help her though, and so begins their ruse amongst the aristocracy.
Spending time together is bound to affect them both, Lily with unwanted feelings of desire where Robyn is concerned. He makes her feel off balance, but he also makes her question her goal of becoming Atherton’s wife. Robyn is used to only caring about himself, but the more time he spends with Lily, the more he begins to realise that although he could happily seduce her into bed, he can’t ruin her. For once in his life he is considering somebody else’s happiness above his own. What is happening to him? Will Lily realise just what she is going to lose if she does marry Atherton. Is staid, secure and boring a life that she really wants. She is convinced it is, and poor Robyn will just have to stand by and let it happen. Or will he?
What a great story this was. The author really builds up the passion between Lily and Robyn, it’s like a dam ready to overflow. Yet all the time Lily is adding sand bags. We want Robyn to break through them, and knowing that Lily is fighting the urge to stop adding those bags just builds the suspense so much that you know if it gets past breaking point there are going to be fireworks. I really loved Lily’s character, and the way that the author makes you feel a deep understanding about why she needs such security in her life. There wasn’t once where I wanted to shake her and make her see sense about possibly marrying the wrong man for the wrong reasons. Then there is Robyn, watching him learn that perhaps he isn’t the waste of space he has always felt he is, is such a wonderful thing. The story is such an emotional one, but filled with passionate, happy moments. It’s a book that I can definitely recommend. Now this reviewer has to buy the first book in the series and any future ones too. I am definitely hooked on the Sutherland family.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.