Roxana has loved George Wyatt forever and she's waited five years for him to return home from the war so they could get married. She's imagined her life with George with giddy excitement -- eager for her fairy-tale happily-ever-after ending.
But reality is worlds away from her fantasy -- and suddenly Roxana has doubts about this man that she has loved from girlhood.
And reality slaps her in the face when, a few weeks from their wedding, George heartlessly jilts her.
What is a heartbroken girl to do?
Alex Winslow has loved Roxana forever and he's stayed away for five years -- afraid that she might see how devastated he was when she got engaged to George. He has saved his heart for Roxana even when he knows that her heart belongs to someone else.
He has returned to Broadslieve to care for his mother and seeing Roxana again has awakened long pent-up desires.
If people were drinks, then Roxana Langley could only be champagne -- sweet, bubbly, silver-blonde. And, unfortunately, she had the same way of going to Alex's head.
- p. 20
He is determined to be a friend to Roxana and he hides his agony behind a mask of civility and correctness.
Then the engagement is broken and Alex and Roxana find themselves the topic of a terrible rumor, which could ruin Roxana's reputation --
What is a proper gentleman to do?
Roxana is surprised when Alex proposes to her. She's never seen him as the passionate type and she knows he hates her and thinks that she's silly -- and what about the girl whom he loves but who doesn't return his affection?
Roxana knows marriage to Alex will not only save her reputation, but also provide her with position and wealth -- can she really allow Alex to make this sacrifice for her?
But is it really a sacrifice for Alex?
Ruined by Rumor is a wonderful novel that gives the readers an intimate view of country life and the social proprieties of Regency England. Everett deftly builds atmosphere and ambience -- her writing gave me a clear impression of the world our hero and heroine lived in -- it's a very palpable and very plausible world.
Silence stretched between them, though it was an imperfect silence. Somewhere in the farthest reaches of the house, a great distance away, Harry was calling out as part of some childish game. Birds sang to one another in the park outside the window. When George had proposed to her years before, Roxana had been deafened by the thudding of her heart, but in the long interval following Ayersley's offer she heard Harry, and the songbirds, and even Ayersley's own expectant breathing.
- p. 128
She also does a great job developing the relationship between Alex and Roxana. I love that the conflict between the characters is not from some sinister plot or grand conspiracy -- the author approaches her story and characters from an Austen-esque perspective -- showing us that society and the strict observation of social rules is just as perilous and catastrophic.
The author also provides a commentary on the appeal (and hazard) of gossip. I loved how she incorporated the theme into the layers of her storytelling: Miss Hammond and her "interesting" condition; Alex and Roxana; and Polly Whitehead.
Gossip had lent some much-needed excitement to her otherwise humdrum days. But now, such talk left Roxana more dismayed than diverted. Rumor and hearsay had driven Ayersley to propose, and rumor and hearsay had left her little choice but to accept.
- p. 232
I really, really, really enjoyed reading this book -- and I enjoyed being transported to Everett's Derbyshire.
Ruined by Rumor will be released on May 21, 2012.
To read more about the author, visit her website.
Final note: I love this line: "Blushes and sighs are all very pretty, but soft words butter no parsnips." - p. 331
Disclosure: I received an ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Carina Press for accepting my request.)