The Rogue to Ruin
Vivienne Lorret’s The Rogue to Ruin is the last in her Adventures in Matchmaking trilogy, but doesn’t suffer too much from sequelitis and can be read without any knowledge of the previous books. It focuses on the owner of a matrimonial agency and her rivalry/romance with the owner of a gaming hell across the road.
Ainsley Bourne remains unmarried although her two younger sisters have found wedded bliss. This is partly because Ainsley is determined to make a success of the Bourne Matrimonial Agency, rather than allowing people to think that she and her sisters only started the business to find men for themselves. And it’s partly because Ainsley once hoped to marry a man who turned out to be manipulative and cruel, so she has no intention of letting herself be hurt again.
So Ainsley is not predisposed to think well of her across-the-road neighbor, Reed Sterling. For one thing, he’s a former prizefighter, and her ex was also into pugilism. For another, Reed owns a gaming hell whose patrons litter the street with rubbish, and for another, well, he makes her feel uncomfortable in the strangest ways. Meanwhile, Reed looks down on the upper class in general so he thinks Ainsley is a pampered miss playing at businesswoman, though he also notices how nice she smells.
The two of them bicker every chance they get, so Ainsley decides to drive the gaming hell out of business. I perked up because this made a change from him calling her “highness” and making suggestive remarks while she sputters or bristles. Unfortunately Ainsley doesn’t have much in the way of resources, plus she must safeguard her reputation. So what she can do is limited, and Reed stymies her efforts easily. Imagine a corgi yapping at a Great Dane and you’ll have an idea how one-sided their fights are.
But the story takes an interesting turn after Ainsley’s ex tracks her down, and to scare him off, she claims she’s going to marry Reed. Reed overhears this, and it brings out the best in him, since despite his leaping to conclusions about Ainsley, he won’t allow anyone to abuse her. Ainsley also becomes more fun to read about, and I was riveted during the long, tense scene where her ex stalks her, especially since Ainsley is definitely not an action heroine who’s going to karate-chop the knife out of his hand. So she uses her intelligence against him instead.
The sex scenes are detailed, emotional and hot, but while I enjoyed them, I didn’t find it plausible that the evil ex conveniently stepped off stage for them. Then Reed and Ainsley are driven apart again by Reed’s failure to communicate something and by Ainsley getting prickly over it, so the evil ex takes this as his cue to reappear. I kept reading and was never bored, but the book definitely fell short of keeper status here. And the baby-logue was so gloriously blissful I was surprised the pages didn’t emit a cascade of light while a choir burst into song.
On the plus side, the writing is excellent, with plenty of vivid description and figures of speech. However, for readers who do not want to encounter animal abuse, there is a cat in the story, and while I won’t give spoilers, I don’t think what happens to the cat is very well handled by either the characters or the author.
The Rogue to Ruin is a book with ups and down, but on the whole, there were more ups, so I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy enemies-to-lovers and marriage-of-convenience stories. Despite its flaws, this was an easy, engaging read, and I look forward to trying more romances by this author.