A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin
Avon / July 29, 2014 / $7.99, print / $6.99, digital
The last woman on earth he would ever touch . . .
Declan, the Duke of Banbury, has no interest in ushering Rosalie Hughes, his stepsister, into society. Dumped on him with nowhere else to go, he's determined to rid himself of the headstrong debutante by bestowing on her an obscenely large dowry . . . making her the most sought-after heiress of the Season.
. . . is about to become the only one he wants
But Rosalie isn't about to go along with Declan's plans. Surrounded by fortune hunters, how is she supposed to find a man who truly wants her? Taking control of her fate, Rosalie dons a disguise and sneaks into Sodom, a private club host to all manner of illicit activity—and frequented by her infuriatingly handsome stepbrother.
In a shadowed alcove, Declan can't resist the masked temptress who sets his blood afire . . . any more than Rosalie can deny her longing for a man who will send her into ruin.
The best thing about A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin, the first book in Sophie Jordan's new Debutante Files series, is that it not only features that forbidden stepbrother/stepsister theme, it celebrates it. Declan and Rosalie were thrown together as children, raised under the same household when their parents married, but upon his father's death, Rosalie and her mother were cast out and Declan and Rosalie went their separate ways. Not only have they not seen each other in years, they don't have much in common anymore, he the wealthy prince – or duke, as the case may be – she the lowly pauper. Until the day when Rosalie returns to her stepbrother's doorstep, needing him once again.
From the days of rescuing her from her tree-climbing adventures in childhood to professing love when they find themselves up in a tree again years later, their bond, past and present, is the very thing that makes their romantic story so fulfilling. And it comes complete with an evil stepmother.
Satisfaction curled through her. It was a dangerous thing... this feeling that he had enjoyed their kiss, that he regretted its end. That he enjoyed her. That she was somehow different than the multitude of women to pass in and out of his life. In and out of his bed. Dangerous indeed.
She was an indiscretion. She was his stepsister. Two factors that meant this would never happen again.
Over and over again, the book reminds us that Dec and Rosalie are of some relation, that a romantic entanglement between them would be fairly unconventional. And how delicious that is. Noble Declan tries to talk himself out of the fact that he's now seeing Rosalie differently, while she takes a different approach: a secret club called Sodom where she can hide herself from all of Dec's reservations and where they're able to explore attraction free from convention. It's become more of a trend in romance lately to spice up historicals by way of private sex clubs, and Jordan uses it wisely. With this we have two sides: Declan gives the physical to a disguised Rosalie at Sodom and the emotional to his stepsister Rosalie, not realizing they are one and the same, or that he does have everything – all he wants – in one woman. But once he puts it together – which somewhere he must've known all along – the sexual tension explodes like none other, helped along by the taboo of their relationship as stepbrother/stepsister. It all leads to that glorious scene portrayed in the stepback cover. And it delivers in every way.
His movements were predatory. He backed her up until she couldn't move any farther and collided with the bookcase. Several leather spines dug into the back of her gown, but she didn't care. She could scarcely feel them there with his eyes devouring her... with the encroaching heat of him enveloping her.
Neither one of them spoke. Neither moved.
Her palms flattened at her sides, brushing well-read tomes. There was nowhere else to go. No retreat at her back. No retreat at her front. Not with the hard wall of his body directly before her. His silence was killing her.
“Say something,” she whispered, the same demand he'd made of her moments ago, her voice a broken little rasp on air that was stretched too thin around them.
“You went to the club because you wanted to live for yourself. Have you own experiences? Correct?”
She nodded jerkily, her eyes unblinking and so wide in her face that they actually ached.
“Then let's continue.”
She couldn't react. Not with him looking at her that way. Not with him this close. Her gaze unerringly went to his mouth, and she knew. She already knew how good it could be. But this was different than before.
There were no masks. No disguises. Not that he had ever used one, but she had. She had clung to hers. Perhaps not so much for anonymity as for the sense of courage, however false, it imbued into her.
There wasn't even darkness. It was simply her. Rosalie. And Dec. Plain and simple. Wells, perhaps not so simple, but they faced each other as a man and woman. Not strangers, hungry for a tryst at an illicit club. Not stepbrother and stepsister. Not guardian and ward.
His hand curled around the back of her neck, hauling her mouth to his. His tongue traced the seam of her lips and she shuddered, opening her mouth. Instantly, his tongue touched the tip of her own, tasting and stroking. She moaned, her hands coming up to cling to his shoulders. Everything changed then.
The twists and turns, helped along by some truly nasty villains trying to keep Declan and Rosalie apart, are unexpected and shocking enough that, along with secondary characters that offer a promising continuation of the series, make this a must-read. And the stepbrother/stepsister trope is still rare enough that where it's done and done well, it's not to be missed.
Learn more about or order a copy of A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin by Sophie Jordan, available July 29, 2014:
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.