Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Blurb:

What is society to do when the diamonds of the first water are caught in compromising situations, one after the other? Can the young ladies survive the season with their reputations intact ... or will the scandalous whispers surrounding them bring about the ultimate ruination?

When Lady Elena Morrow, the reigning belle of the ton, suddenly disappears, her family is desperate to find her -- and to keep the story from spreading through London society like wildfire, before her reputation is ruined. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to avoid a scandal. Viscount Andrews, better known as the Raven, London’s most notorious rake, has gone missing at exactly the same moment.

Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heathton, is more accustomed to untangling political difficulties, rather than those of the heart. But when he is pressured to help find Lady Elena, he can’t refuse -- the distraught father is also his wife’s uncle. Now he must find the beautiful debutante before the connection to Andrews does away with her innocence --assuming the vulnerable young lady wants to be found....

A young lady disappears at the same time a notorious rake goes missing -- and Benjamin Wallace has been asked to recover the lady and discover the connection between the two events.

This sums up the back cover blurb of the book (*points up to the blurb*) and it confused me who the hero and heroine would be. (Three names: 2 protagonists and one villain?) What the blurb failed to describe is that this novel had a dual plot and involved two romantic pairs: Lady Elena Morrow and Lord Randolph Raines and Benjamin Wallace and his wife of six months, Alicia, who is Elena's cousin.

Despite the confusing blurb, I thought the story started out very well. I really, really love "locked room scenarios" in mystery stories and this one was very good: a lord and a lady wake up, barely clothed, with no recollection of how they got there -- and this particular locked room was actually quite ... posh. The last thing Elena remembers was the theater -- and the last thing Ran remembers is his club. They've never been introduced but now find themselves in a locked room together.

Who is the target? What is the purpose?

Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heathton is dealing with a domestic crisis: his wife of six months has issued an ultimatum, one that Ben cannot and does not want to ignore: Alicia is tired of her husband's indifference and would love a more intimate relationship with him -- so she is laying siege at her husband's carefully-planned, perfectly-organized life. But their efforts are derailed when Elena's father (Alicia's uncle) asks for Ben's help.

Is it an elopement? A forced seduction? One thing is for certain, Ben needs to be careful and discreet in his inquiries because the reputation of a young woman, who happens to be his cousin by-marriage, is at stake.

The plot structure of Ruined by Moonlight is this novel's greatest strength and weakness: it is a new and compelling thing to see both sides of the same story: the story of the detective looking for clues and the story of the ones who have disappeared. I loved that Ran and Elena weren't just waiting helplessly to be rescued, but were actively looking for a way out. As the story develops, more clues to their whereabouts are given:

- They are not so far away from London, considering the duration of the drug that knocked them out.
- The mastermind wants them to be comfortable, considering the fine food and careful choice of drink that Elena and Ran are served every day.
- Because of their state of undress, it seems that seduction is part of the plan.

But, despite their observations, neither Elena nor Ran could come up with a motive and a possible suspect.

At the same time, Benjamin Wallace is closing in on them with clues that he has discovered with the help of Alicia and Ran's aunt. It's interesting to see the story and the characters move towards the denouement from different directions.

But, because of the dual stories, and, technically, four main characters, details and development suffer a bit. I am glad that Emma Wildes took the time to develop Elena, Ran, Ben, and Alicia -- there was change, realization and a bit of character growth at the end of the story, but I thought it was the romance aspect that was greatly affected, especially Elena and Ran's. I was already impressed with Ran's fortitude and determination not to succumb but, then, they both slowly give in to the proximity, to the allure of the idea of "everyone already thinks I'm ruined anyway" --

I really wished they didn't give in to the temptation. I wished the author maintained the sexual tension and didn't allow them to indulge. They were already off to a good start in the first two days of their captivity, when all they did was talk and play cards and develop intimacy.

..."I suspect you were a mischievous child. Weren't you?"

She laughed in a low melodic sound. "I don't know. Perhaps. I've always liked horses more than embroidery. Does that count?"

"Of course" He could picture her in a riding habit, graceful in a sidesaddle, her cheeks tinged pink from an early-morning breeze, golden hair under a plumed hat, slim gloved hands on the reins ... She'd be skillful and swift and the most beautiful one there ...

Damn.

"Do you hunt?" He asked it too abruptly.

"No."

She didn't, he discovered, because she deplored the actual sport, but she liked a canter through the countryside much more than a London ball, and the ton's most-favored beauty smiled at the recollection of summer pastures and bucolic fields. She stated in her concise way, "Someone of your level of sophistication might not understand this, but I am not all that interested in the whirl of society."

He understood it quite well actually, and though he spent far too much time in London because his obligations required it, she might be surprised to learn he also preferred quiet mornings and green pastures and the sound of singing birds. However, defending himself was never something he bothered to do, so he just regarded her with amused consideration. "How unconventional, Lady Elena."

"Rather like spending the night in the same bed as the infamous Lord Andrews. That takes unconventional to new heights."

"Perhaps, but nothing happened."

Well, not nothing. He'd wanted to tell her and that was something, and he wanted her now and that was even more significant. ...
- pp. 68-69

The stand-out character for me in this novel would be Alicia. I loved that she knew what she wanted and she was determined to win her husband over. I love that she didn't nag or harangue Ben, but reminded him in subtle, gentle ways of his neglect of her and their marriage.

It was rather difficult to imagine someone as detached and sophisticated as her husband to give up his inner thoughts easily, and Alicia had already come to that conclusion, hence her extreme strategy.

Even now while he still stood there, his eyes were watchful and his tall body noticeably tense.

Good. She wasn't particularly skilled at it but she'd exacted some sort of response, and the disclosure he'd just made was one of the first truly personal revelations he'd given her in six months of marriage.

It was a start.
- p. 42

The resolution to the mystery felt a bit vague and rushed and quickly swept up to give way to resolving the love stories of the two couples.

Ruined by Moonlight is the first book in Emma Wildes's Whispers of Scandals series. It seems that Benjamin Wallace will be a recurring character (or major plot thread) throughout the series. The second book, A Most Improper Rumor, has Benjamin investigating the case of a late friend's widow. (I honestly think the blurb is misleading again, two names are featured prominently: Ben's and Angelina's -- who is the hero and where is the romantic story?)

Will I be reading the next book? Yes, because:
1. It is by Emma Wildes,
2. I want to read more of Ben and Alicia and
3. I'm curious about who the hero is.

To find out more about Emma Wildes and her books, click below:
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13 comments:

  1. Ruined by Moonlight sounds like an intriguing read! Thanks for the excellent review :-). You might also enjoy "A Thousand Years of Johnny Von," by Edith M. Cortese, which is a romance story about a dog walker living in Hollywood named Estella, who meets a movie star, Johnny Von, and is taken on an imaginative journey that goes between the modern age, and points in history of her falling in love with him as she is too shy to talk to him. It's a fun, and heartfelt story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading :-). http://www.trumpetboypress.com/

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  2. Oh, I am so excited about this novel and cannot wait to read it! :-)

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  3. Hi, Audrey! Thank you for your comment and for the recommendation! I rarely read contemporaries but will check it out.

    Hi, Connie! Have you read Wildes's other books? I really loved her Notorious Bachelors series -- this one, I'll wait to see with the second book. ^_^

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  4. Hi Tin! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did :-).

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