Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel

Dear Ms. Jewel:

084395135401lzzzzzzzI had Lord Ruin in my TBR pile for a long time but for some reason I never read it until I had finished with Scandal. In some ways, I saw this as a prelude to what would become Scandal as the themes in the two stories are quite similar. I feel asleep after reading the book with my eyes wet and my throat a bit scratchy thinking why haven’t I read you before.

The heroine, Anne Sinclair, is the oldest sister of four. Her three younger sisters are beyond beautiful so that Anne, who is not unattractive, is forgettable except to one person.   Devon, who is now the Earl of Bracebridge, loved Anne four years ago and offered for her but her father turned him away given that he was without title and fortune. Four years later he has both and is ready to court and offer for her.

The situation is helped because his friend, Baron Aldreth has married one of Anne’s sisters. Devon invites Anne, her sisters, and his best friend, Ruan Bettancourt, the Duke of Cynssyr. Devon has the intention of declaring himself to Anne during this party. Anne realizes that Devon is paying special attention to her and the sparks between the two of them were not all one sided. She is glad. I say that intentionally because Anne is restrained in her emotions. She’s very internalized and she allows herself only small emotions.

Shortly after her arrival, Anne trips and falls. Because of the pain she is in, it is decided to drug her. Cynssyr hasn’t arrived so they put Anne in his room. Anyone can see what is coming next. Cynssyr arrives late at night. He’s a long time friend of Devon and so the retainers let him in and he proceeds to “his” room. When he sees Anne, he doesn’t realize that she is drugged, instead think that she is a whore gifted by Devon. Even when he encounters her maidenhead Cynssyr does not stop, but proceeds to find his own satisfaction. He is discovered with her at the tail end of their coupling.

What may be able to be swept under the rug or a scandal suffered and endured can not be in this case. Cynssyr has a very scandalous reputation and if Anne does not agree to marry him, he, his political ambitions, and his family will be totally ruined. Her family places it to her even though they want to kill him. Devon is crushed. He held a torch for Anne for four years.

In very short order Cynssyr realizes that he loves her but she doesn’t trust him, knowing that he has said that he loves others only to break their hearts. Complicating this is that Devon loves Anne and basically tells Cynssyr that its a good thing that Anne is morally upright because Cynssyr cannot depend on Devon to not betray him.

Anne wanted to marry Devon. She despise Cynssyr. She distrusts him. She does not like the reactions that his nearness, his attentions bring forth. Anne has been domineered by her father and cast in the shadow, albeit unintentionally, of her more brilliant sisters. Her personality has always been retiring and Cynssyr is anything but.

Ordinarily, I hate triangles. I become too emotionally attached to the third leg of the triangle and I am unable to extricate myself from the story to fully be happy for the remaining two. But because the triangle is resolved early on, I was able to appreciate Devon’s unrequited love and was moved by the way in which his feelings for Anne made the relationship between Cynssyr and Anne all the more fraught with suspense.

Cynssyr spends much of the time trying to atone for his sins in a very hamfisted way. While he is a notorious rake, his only skills are really flirtation and seduction; not wooing. He succumbs time and again to the physical expression of his feelings which only serves to reinforce Anne’s bad opinion of him. Sure, he can fuck but can he really love?

The external suspense plot regarding a serial killer targeting women with red hair and the weak treatment of the culmination of the love triangle led lowered my overall enjoyment of the book. This is a flawed story but original. B

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon. Your best luck will be with a Used Bookseller. I’m not sure the title is still in print. The publisher is Leisure and the ISBN is 0843951354.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Lorraine
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 19:18:56

    This sounds great! I love stories with stranger sex, forced marriage and hamfisted, bumbling, reformed rakes.

    I have Scandal in my TBR. Looks like I’ll have to hunt this one down to join it.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. Josie
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 19:33:15

    This book is such a guilty pleasure of mine.
    I agree Jane, it’s certainly not a perfect read but it’s one I’ve gone back to many, many times now! All of Jewel’s historicals have a place on my keeper shelf.

  3. vanessa jaye
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 19:42:58

    While I’ve read one of Carolyn’s paranormals, and have another in my tbr pile, I absolutely adored Lord Ruin and The Spare and they’re both keepers! When it comes to Historical Romance’s, she’s one of my few auto-buys, her voice *really* clicks for me. [/gushing]

  4. Jane
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 19:48:47

    @vanessa jaye: While this is totally OT, what did you think of the Susan Johnson book?

  5. Jennifer Y.
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 19:58:40

    I totally agree with your statements (especially your thoughts on triangles in general). This one was my first read by Jewel and is a fave of mine despite its flaws (and I agree with you about those). It has become a keeper and reread for me.

  6. GrowlyCub
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 20:21:24

    I’ve been looking for this one all over (stopped in UBS in 6 different states on my last two trips, no luck) since I really enjoyed ‘Scandal’. I found ‘The Spare’, so I guess I’ll read that next.

  7. orannia
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 20:31:30

    Thank you Jane! This sounds very good, although I do wish authors wouldn’t include a serial killer. Scandal also sounds good so I am obviously going to have to go hunting for some Carolyn Jewel books :)

  8. Kaetrin
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 21:13:14

    How is the rape resolved so that you didn’t have Cynssyr? Or, was Anne, so drugged that she “consented” in some way?

  9. Jane
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 21:15:18

    @Kaetrin: I’m not sure I understand your first question. Anne was insensate at the time. I mean, she wasn’t struggling, but she wasn’t in her right mind. Cynssyr was written as not understanding that she was a) drugged or b) in any way resistant.

  10. Kaetrin
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 21:30:17

    Is that usual for Dukes? I mean, to go to bed at a friend’s house and find an insensate woman in bed and just assume it must be a whore who can’t be bothered waking up?

    It seems to me that Anne would justifiably feel violated. After all, she was injured, medicated and some guy hopped into bed with her and took her virginity. To top it all off, she had to marry him. Wouldn’t she consider him her rapist?

    I understand that the same outcome (marriage) may have happened if there was no actual sex – just that they were “caught” together in a bed (or a bedroom for that matter) would be enough. But, the review says that he actually had sex with her.

    Did it ick you out as a reader? And if not how was it presented so as not to?

    (I’m not trying to be confrontational or anything, I’m just curious. It sounds like I’d like the book overall and I’d like to read it, but I’ve read a number of threads where the “rapist hero” is condemned (- eg Stormfire – Christine Monson – and I realise that one was a bit different because she was a) conscious and he b) was violent and c) meant it), but ultimately, didn’t Cynssyr rape Anne? and if that’s the case, doesn’t that have to be resolved somehow?)

    Hope that makes sense and clarifies what I’m on about!

    Oh, PS, I just re-read my first post and there’s a typo – it was supposed to say “so you didnt’ HATE Cynssyr” not have. my bad.

  11. Jane
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 21:41:30

    I had to go back and look up the scene. Yes, it was ultimately an icky sex scene but I thought that was the point. To some extent, Anne was like a drunk (she was giggling at points). She made clear through her dialogue that she recognized him and she responded to his caresses.

    Devon is referenced as having owned a brothel at one point and Cynssyr thinks that this is their last hurrah before they both become leg shackled.

    Anne herself thinks of the event as a dream and wonders at having such an erotic dream while drugged. She doesn’t even remember when they tell her that she must marry Cynssyr. But she does not want to marry him.

    But the reason that she must is because she was unconscious, Cynssyr will be forever known as a man who “deliberately and with malice, ravished a drugged woman, a spinster of heretofore irreproachable reputation. An innocent formerly innocent of men.”

    So the whole set up, while a bit convenient, worked for me.

  12. Kaetrin
    Mar 18, 2009 @ 21:48:04

    oh, that makes a lot more sense to me now. I can see how he could have been mistaken and therefore not a total a**hat.

    thanks for the clarification!

  13. Danielle
    Mar 19, 2009 @ 05:36:23

    This was a sleeper hit for me years ago when it came out. I’ve been waiting for years for her to do a sequesl to this book.

  14. vanessa jaye
    Mar 19, 2009 @ 07:59:17

    @jane. [/gushing] nuff said.

    Seriously, I literally just stared at the screen wondering what the heck you were talkin ’bout. … then it clicked.

    It didn’t help that I was reading Kindsale’s The Shadow and The Star prior to starting… erm, that book (can’t remember the title). It fared even worse due to the inevitable comparison.

    I didn’t have the same problems with the hero you did–he’s standard issue for SJ–and I skimmed to the end and there was an HEA that seemed believeable enough within the context of the story, but the characters read as “characters”, the plotting suffered because I wasn’t really engaged, and it wasn’t erotic or even the campy fun I’d expected. Very sad because I’ve stayed away from her contemps due to the poor reviews, but it sounded like she was back on form (as per other reviews) with the historical.

    I think I did intend to come back and comment and then I got caught up in other stuff.

  15. jessw
    Mar 19, 2009 @ 14:37:58

    I stumbled upon Lord Ruin in the public library one day and am so glad i decided to read this then-unknown-to-me author. I loved a story about a couple who found themselves married but were unable to communicate their emotional desire for each other, even as they were able to fulfill their physical desire.

    I have been waiting for a new historical from Ms. Jewel since I read Lord Ruin two years ago. (I have ordered the Spare. i think I read it and did not love it as much as Lord Ruin, but I can’t really remember.) I was not disappointed by Scandal, which I read in one night last week. The book had emotionally mature hero and heroine whose past with each other was gradually revealed as the story progressed, adding understanding of their actions/reactions when they meet again. Definitely a little weepiness was elicited from me, but in a good way.

  16. E
    Mar 19, 2009 @ 20:31:31

    Ok, I have some of the same problems with this as Kaetrin did. And unlike her, your description of the scene doesn’t make it any better for me. Actually it makes it worse.

    To me, it’s the equivalent of a girl getting drunk (or possibly roofied) at a college party, going to sleep it off and some guy coming in and taking advantage of her. It’s still rape. The heroine thinking it’s an erotic dream, responding, etc? Does not make it all right.

    Her being forced to marry her rapist? Yes, a product of the historical period the book is set in, but still incredibly disturbing to me. This would be more of a horror novel to me than a romantic one. When I first read the beginning paragraphs I thought it would be more about her and the first guy trying to save her from marrying her rapist. Then my jaw dropped with the rest of the review.

    I’m sorry, I know everyone has different tastes, but the subject matter here clearly disturbs me.

  17. SonomaLass
    Mar 19, 2009 @ 21:48:21

    This book is an example of “a good author can make ANYthing work” for me. The first sex scene is tricky, and I’m sure there are some readers for whom it wouldn’t work. I normally have BIG problems with non-consensual sex, but this stayed just on the right side of the line for me. The relationship between Anne and Cynsser developed very believably, and I felt that the book dealt effectively with the problematic beginning of their relationship.

    This book is on my keeper shelf. Thanks for reviewing it, Jane.

  18. GrowlyCub
    May 07, 2009 @ 20:48:25

    I just read this and while I liked it, I had some issues with it, but not necessarily the ones Jane did. It felt unfinished to me, like it was an early draft. There were so many dangling threads left unresolved and so many ‘huh?’ moments. What really got me, though, was the choppy language. Half the time I had no idea what was going on or what I was supposed to infer and it felt like there were bits and pieces deleted but references to deleted scenes not adjusted. I was a bit frustrated because I just knew there was a great story underneath there that I couldn’t get to.

    I loved Scandal, so I had hoped for something equally compelling.

    I’ve not been feeling the love lately in my reading, so maybe it’s me rather than the books.

  19. Rosie
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 20:23:52

    I’ve enjoyed her historicals and paranormals equally. I’m in a current glom of her books. I echo what Jane said, why haven’t I read this woman’s books before?

  20. CD
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 21:42:50

    To me, it's the equivalent of a girl getting drunk (or possibly roofied) at a college party, going to sleep it off and some guy coming in and taking advantage of her. It's still rape. The heroine thinking it's an erotic dream, responding, etc? Does not make it all right.

    I can see where you’re coming from but I don’t think that it really applies in this case: Ruan had no idea that she had been drugged – to him, she seemed both coherent and responsive, and he’d had previous experience of Devon setting him up with prostitutes. What’s interesting about the scene is that it’s written from his point of view and you can see the interpretations that he puts on what she says and does. As the reader, we already know that his interpretations are incorrect but you can see why he doens’t.

    Another thing to mention is that this scene is hot. I mean REALLY hot. Probably one of the best sex scenes I’ve read in a decade of reading romance. One of the things that make it so unusual in romance is that it is a scene of unapologetically anonymous sex but which also happens to be intense and mindblowing. That scene is really necessary because you then understand how his perception of her goes a complete 180 from never having really noticed her to being sexually obsessed with her to falling desperately in love – and you can clearly see that progression from sexual obsession to love in their sex scenes.

    This is a favourite guilty pleasure of mine: from the anonymous stranger sex to the “can’t keep my hands off you” frantic sex, to the hero falling hard for a women who he thinks is in love with another man and will never truly be his. I loved it.

  21. REVIEW: Not Proper Enough by Carolyn Jewel
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 12:02:10

    […] list of favorite historical novels—my Ballin’ Bodice Rippers compilation—Lord Ruin (reviewed here by Jane) and Scandal (reviewed here by Janine.)  I haven’t read the first book in your […]

%d bloggers like this: