All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue
This is one of those books I almost hesitate to confess I enjoyed! The storyline is unoriginal, and the hero, while as manly and gorgeous as any other to be found in the genre, acts like such a prick at times that I wanted to smack his manly, gorgeous face! But what saved All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue from being consigned to the realms of the unreadable is the fact that the chemistry between the two protagonists is so strong and vividly evoked that I couldn’t stop reading in spite of those criticisms.
Max, Viscount Camden, and his best friend’s sister Aurelia, appeared in the previous book (A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin) and whenever they were together, the sparks didn’t just fly, they hurled themselves into the inky abyss from a great height! As a result, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their book, as I was looking forward to more of the same; these two made no bones about their mutual dislike, even as the heat between them threatened to melt my Kindle.
Max is your typical “I’m never going to fall in love because love hurts” type of hero, who shags his way around the ladies of the ton, never spending more than a night or two with any of them and certainly not letting any woman get emotionally close. The loss of his family in tragic circumstances at an early age is what set him on that particular path – and was also the reason for his being practically brought up in the household of the Earl of Moreton, becoming as much of a son to the earl and countess as their own son, Will.
Will’s sister Aurelia is, at twenty-three, dangerously close to being on the shelf. As a child, she’d tagged along with her brother and his friends, and Max had always been kind to her. She’s loved him since she was nine years-old, and has been eagerly anticipating the time when he would look upon her as something more than his friend’s rag-taggle sister. That time comes when she is fifteen – but her hopes are cruelly dashed when she inadvertently stumbles across the eighteen-year-old Max “trysting” with a housemaid. She pours her adolescent hurt and rage into a cruel caricature which depicts Max as a horned satyr with miniscule endowments – and while she hadn’t intended it, it is seen by some of his cronies, who instantly nickname him “Cockless Camden”.
Max promptly responds by shagging everything in a skirt that crosses his path, and ever since then, it’s been a not-so “merry war” between him and Aurelia, their childhood friendship replaced by an implacable enmity.
When Will – now the Earl of Moreton – announces that he and his wife are expecting their first child, Aurelia’s life is turned upside down. Since their father’s death, she and her mother have resided with Will and Violet, largely because, due to the late earl’s profligacy, there is nowhere else for them to go. But both Aurelia and her mother know that it would be unfair of them to continue to live there as the young couple starts their own family, and soon, Aurelia has a stark choice to make. Her mother decides to go to live with her sister in Scotland –and Aurelia can either go with her at the end of the season, or find herself a husband. She has not been all that interested in matrimony before, and given that she has no dowry, it’s not as though she has a queue of suitors. She is determined, however, and starts her campaign to find a spouse in earnest – much to Max’s irritation.
The reasons behind Max’s annoyance are obvious to everyone except him and Aurelia, and naturally, as far as he’s concerned, nobody is good enough for her. When, after another flaming row, Max kisses the hell out of her, Aurelia has to admit to herself that nothing has really changed for her since she was nine, and that whoever she chooses, if she can’t have Max, she’ll be settling for second best. But Max still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge why the thought of Aurelia with another man so enrages him even as his desire for her is becoming more and more difficult to control.
One of the things Sophie Jordan does incredibly well is to create absolutely scorching sexual tension between her protagonists, and there’s no doubt that Max and Aurelia are dynamite together. But Max is a problematic hero, because he really does say some horrible things to Aurelia at times and doesn’t seem to have much of an understanding of her situation or be all that interested in making amends. He does show himself to have a more sensitive side on occasion, but then he reverts to form and does something horrible again. Of course, he does eventually redeem himself and own up to being an idiot, but it happens at the eleventh hour and his turnabout is so fast that it’s of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. The ending, too, is somewhat contrived, and also feels rushed.
So, yes, I enjoyed All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue in spite of its flaws, none of which were sufficiently terrible as to force me to stop reading. If you’re looking for a responsible, sensitive hero who proves himself worthy of the love of the heroine over the course of a deep and meaningful story, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you don’t mind the well-used enemies-to-lovers plot and the similarly overly-used neuroses of the hero, and enjoy a hero and heroine who can rip each other to shreds and then rip each other’s clothes off with hot, steamy abandon, this might be worth a few hours of your time.