I’d like to thank Tasty Book Tours for providing me with the opportunity to participate in this tour event, and thanks to Avon Impulse for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. If you would like to see all of the blogs involved in this tour, please click on the banner above, murr! =^.^=
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: November 1, 2016
Series: Romancing the Rules #1
From the USA Today bestselling author of ONE DANGEROUS DESIRE comes a sparkling new series about a rogue who must learn how to follow the rules and a woman who wants to break all of them, perfect for fans of Maya Rodale and Lorraine Heath.
Kit Ruthven’s Rules (for Rogues)
#1 Love freely but guard your heart, no matter how tempting the invader.
#2 Embrace temptation, indulge your sensual impulses, and never apologize.
#3 Scorn rules and do as you please. You are a rogue, after all.
Following the rules never brought anything but misery for Christopher “Kit” Ruthven. After rebelling against his controlling father and leaving the family’s Ruthven Rules etiquette book empire behind, Kit has been breaking every one imaginable for the past six years. He’s enjoyed London’s sensual pleasures and secured his reputation as a Rogue, but he’s failed to achieve success. When he inherits his father’s publishing business, Kit is forced back into the life he never wanted. Worse, he must face Ophelia Marsden, the woman he jilted but never forgot.
After losing her father and refusing a loveless marriage proposal, Ophelia has learned to rely on herself. To maintain the family home and support her younger brother, she tutors young girls in deportment and decorum. But her pupils would be scandalized if they knew their imminently proper teacher was also the author of a guidebook encouraging ladies to embrace their independence and overthrow outdated notions of etiquette like the Ruthven Rules.
As Kit rediscovers the life, and the woman, he left behind, Ophelia must choose between the practicalities she never truly believed in, or the love she’s never been able to extinguish.
This was my first foray into Carlyle’s writing, and while I can say that I found this title to be a fairly good read, I was not as engrossed in the story as much as I would have liked. This does not mean that I do not recommend this book to fans of Carlyle’s other novels or to those readers who enjoy historical romance, nor does it mean that I will not be looking into Carlyle’s writing and pursuing this series and her other novels more in the future. I fully intend to give her other titles a read and am actually looking forward to the next book in this particular series because I’m curious to see who the main characters will be for that one. That having been said, let me get on with my review for this particular book.
I’d like to first start off by saying that after reading this book I feel compelled to give it three paws and a tail wave of approval because there were several things that I liked about the story, but there were some elements that prevented me from rating it higher. For the purpose of this review, I’d like to first discuss what worked for me and then talk a bit about what didn’t.
I really liked Ophelia. I found her to be a caring, driven, passionate person. She cares greatly about protecting and providing the best life she can for her sister Juliet (in the book I was provided Ophelia had a sister, not a brother as conveyed in the synopsis above) and her aunt. The fact that she has been hurt before makes her guard her heart more than other ladies would but that doesn’t prevent her from wanting to make sure those she loves are happy and living their lives to the fullest. I loved that she was a firm believer in young ladies speaking their minds, following their hearts, and more, and it tickled my whiskers to know that she was responsible for a book of Guidelines for young ladies to follow. She was certainly one of my favorite characters in this story. Kit, meanwhile, is more carefree, less inclined to follow expectations, and though he wants to pursue a life in the theater, he also wants to make sure his sisters are taken care of. While I wouldn’t necessarily call him fully reliable, he at least makes an effort to try and be responsible where his late father’s business is concerned and eventually finds a balance between his duty and desire. As a couple, both Ophelia and Kit are great for each other. I’d be tempted to say they balance each other out and provide the push each of them need to follow their hearts and flourish. Their relationship is pretty steamy, once they finally let go and allow it to happen.
I loved the siblings in this book, both Ophelia’s and Kit’s, and I must confess that I’m greatly looking forward to hopefully seeing more of them in future books. Actually, I’m rather hoping that book #2 in the series features Sophia because I found her to be an intriguing character and one I’d like to definitely learn more of. Likewise Clary, Kit’s youngest sister and Juliet, Ophelia’s sister, were both enjoyable and I think would allow for some fun books later on if the opportunity arises.
The premise of this book is pretty straight forward and I really liked that a part of the story centered around Ophelia’s book and the uproar it caused. I especially liked that most of the chapters started with a passage either from the Ruthvan Rules or Gilroy’s Guidelines. These passages set the stage for the chapters they proceeded and also helped shape the characters as I was reading.
All these elements made this book a decent read, and I would have loved to have been able to rate the book on these alone, but unfortunately there were other elements that kept me from becoming fully involved in the story. The pacing of the novel was slow which resulted in a long build up of both Ophelia’s and Kit’s relationship and the overall climax itself. I found myself fighting the urge to skim ahead to see if things picked up at all, and a few times was tempted to put the book aside and move on to something else entirely. Likewise I found the plot to be predictable and the overall feel of the characters to be flat in the end. I know this might sound a bit odd seeing as I said earlier that I liked both Ophelia and Kit, and I stand by my words where they are concerned. But in terms of complexity, they were lacking. And the inclusion of Lord Dunstan as an antagonist didn’t work well for me, especially where his resolution was concerned. He had the potential to be a truly despicable person, and while he was forceful and a bit of an ass, I feel like Carlyle could have made him even more of a dislikeable character and expanded more on the conflict between him and Ophelia. What conflict there was between them wasn’t nearly as insurmountable as I was expecting it to be. Things just fell flat for me toward the end of the book, and it all wrapped up a bit too nicely/easily.
Despite this, I have to admit that the book is a sweet read and I feel that most readers will enjoy the story. This is just one of those books that didn’t work as much as I would have liked for myself, but I would definitely encourage others to give it a try and discover the book for themselves.
Before Ophelia could gather her sister and head back to the kitchen, a knock sounded at the front door. Juliet clutched her notebook to her chest and bolted back into the library.
Slipping Guidelines behind her back with one hand, Ophelia grasped the doorknob with the other. She schooled her features into a pleasant expression in case it was Mrs. Raybourn or, heaven forbid, Mr. Raybourn, in need of more reassurance their girls weren’t on the high road to ruin because of the book no one knew she’d written.
When she pulled the door open, all the breath whooshed from her body.
Their visitor wasn’t any member of the Raybourn family.
“You remember me, then?” He grinned as he loomed on the threshold, his shoulders nearly as wide as the frame. Eyes bright and intense, he took her in from head to toe, and then let his gaze settle on her mouth. When he finally looked into her eyes, the cocksure tilt of his grin had softened. She read a wariness in his gaze that matched her own.
She’d spent years trying to forget those dark, deep-set eyes.
“I remember you.” Her book slipped, skidding across her backside and clattering to the floor as her throat tightened on sentiments she’d been waiting years to express. None of them would come. Not a single word. Instead, in outright rebellion, her whole body did its best to melt into a boneless puddle. Gritting her teeth, Phee fought the urge to swoon or, worse, rush into his long, muscled arms.
“I’m relieved to hear it.” He had the audacity to kick his grin into a smile, a rakish slash that cut deep divots into his clean-shaven cheeks. Then he took a step through her door. “I worried that—”
“No.” She lifted a hand to stop him. Looking at the man was difficult enough. Hearing his voice—deeper now but achingly familiar—was too much. If he came closer, she might give in to some rogue impulse. And that wouldn’t do. That wouldn’t do at all.
Ophelia swallowed hard. She needed a moment to gather her wits. To rebuild her walls.
“You dropped something.” He moved toward her, so close his sleeve brushed hers.
She lowered her hand to avoid touching him and jerked back when he bent to retrieve her book, watching as he turned the volume to read its title.
“Miss Gilroy’s Guidelines for Young Ladies. How intriguing. Looks as though Ruthven Publishing has some competition.”
Seeing him again was worse than she’d imagined. And she had imagined this moment aplenty. Far too many times. Not just on her infrequent jaunts to London but most days since they’d parted. The man had lingered in her thoughts, despite every effort to expel him.
Taking a shaky breath, she braced herself and faced him.
He’d always been tall. When they were children, she’d looked up to him. Literally. But he’d never used his size to bully others. More often he’d born teasing about his physique. Ungainly, his father had called him, and Kit repeated the word when referring to himself.
Now he offered no apologetic hunch in his stance. He didn’t cross his arms to narrow his body. More than embracing his size, he wielded his generous dimensions with a virile grace that made Phee’s mouth water. He stood with his long legs planted wide, shoulders thrown back. His chest was so broad that she itched to touch it.
Stop being a ninny, she chided herself. The most essential observation was that he did not look like a man who’d pined for her. Not a hint of guilt shadowed his gaze.
He thrust his hands behind his back, and the buttons above his waistcoat strained against the fabric on either side, as if the muscles beneath were too sizable to contain. Phee’s gaze riveted to the spot, waiting to see which would win—the pearly buttons or the dove gray fabric. When sense finally wound its way into her boggled mind, she glanced up into gilded brown eyes. He was the winner, judging by the satisfied smirk cresting his mouth.
Kit stood too near, close enough for her to smell his scent. A familiar green, like fresh-cut grass, but mingled now with an aromatic spice. Each breath held his spice scent heightened by the warmth of his body. The heat of him radiated against her chest.
His eyes were too intense, too hungry. He perused her brazenly, studying the hem of her outdated gown before his gaze roved up her legs, paused at her waist, lingered on her bosom, and caught for a moment on her lips. Finally, he met her eyes, and his mouth flicked up in a shameless grin.
She looked anywhere but at his eyes. On his neck, she noted the scar from a childhood adventure in the blackberry briar. Then she got stuck admiring his hair. Apparently his scandalous London lifestyle—if the rumors she’d heard were true—called for allowing his jet black hair to grow long and ripple in careless waves. Strands licked at his neck, curled up near his shoulders.
Time had been truly unfair. The years hadn’t weathered Kit at all. If anything, his features were sharper and more appealing. His Roman nose contrasted with the sensual fullness of his lips and those high Ruthven cheekbones. And his eyes. Gold and amber and chocolate hues chased each other around a pinwheel, all shadowed by enviably thick ebony lashes. One theater reviewer had written of the “power of his penetrating gaze.”
Ophelia only knew he’d once been able to see straight to her heart.
Retreating from his magnetic pull, she dipped her head and stared at his polished black boots, the neatly tailored cuffs of his trousers. Black as pitch, his clothing reminded her why he was here. He’d come to the village to bury his father. He was no doubt as eager to return to London as she was to close her eyes and make the too tempting sight of him disappear. But why had he come to her home?
“My condolences to you and your sisters,” she offered, and almost added Mr. Ruthven. That’s what everyone in the village would call him now, and they would expect him to live up to the name. Just as his father had.
“You didn’t attend the funeral.”
“Would your father have wished me to?” They both knew Kit’s father had never welcomed her presence in his life. She didn’t bother mentioning that Ruthven’s rule book explicitly instructed ladies to avoid funerals.
He shrugged. “I only know what I wished.”
There it was. The heart of all that had passed between them spelled out in six words. Kit had never doubted what he wanted—freedom, fame as a playwright, financial success on his own terms. Unfortunately, she’d never made it high enough on his list.
“Forgive me for missing your father’s funeral. I promise to call on your sisters soon.” Ophelia slid the door toward him, forcing him to retreat as she eased it closed. “Thank you for your visit.”
Pushing his sizable booted foot forward, he wedged it between the door and its frame. “I don’t think we can count this as a visit until you invite me in.”
About the Author:
Fueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there’s nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.
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