Aug 23 2013 9:00am

First Look: Miranda Neville’s The Ruin of a Rogue (August 27, 2013)

The Ruin of a Rogue by Miranda NevilleMiranda Neville
The Ruin of a Rogue
Avon / August 27, 2013 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital

It's been years since Marcus set foot in England—why toy with the ton when he can fleece wealthy fools in Paris and Rome? Yet everything changes when he inherits a ramshackle estate. Marcus's first and only chance at a respectable life needs funding . . . the kind Anne Brotherton can provide. Such a wallflower should be ripe for the picking. So why does Marcus fell like he's the one hanging by a thread?

Anne Brotherton is sick and tired of being an heiress. She cannot bring herself to marry a fortune hunter. Why can't men like her for her sharp mind and kind hearts rather than her impressive dowry?

She nearly falls for Marcus's smooth seduction. But when Anne realized she's being strung along, a lust for payback empowers her like never before. Two can play the game of deception. The game of love, however, has its own rules.

Some titles seem to have little to do with the contents of the book, but in the case of Miranda Neville’s The Ruin of a Rogue, the title not only engages in clever word play but also announces the journey that lies at the heart of this story. “Ruin,” says the OED is generally a transitive verb meaning “to inflict great and irretrievable damage, loss, or disaster upon (a person or community).” Even a casual reader of historical romance can list novels in which a male, sometimes the villain in the pattern of Jane Austen’s Willoughby or Wickham and sometimes the hero in the pattern of Charlotte Brontë’s Rochester, inflicts or attempts to inflict such loss on the heroine or a secondary female character. Rakes and rogues who behave in such a manner are staples of romance. The romance reader does not expect a scoundrel to be the one who is the object of ruin, but this is exactly what happens with Marcus Lithgow.

Of course, on one level, the ruin referred to in the title is the Roman ruin on the property that Marcus unexpectedly inherits. That ruin plays a prominent role in the plot. Among other things, it serves to entice the heroine to Marcus’s estate, to increase the intimacy between Marcus and Anne, and even to introduce the villain. In all these ways, the Roman ruin contributes to the destruction of a rogue, but the more complex ruin is the one that destroys the roguish Marcus and resurrects a nobler man, one more deserving to be considered a hero.

Some roguish heroes are little more than wild oats-sowing boys who have to grow up in order to become heroes, but Marcus is the real thing. Although the reader learns fairly early on that he is capable of courage and kindness and even of experiencing a stab of guilt for his choices, Marcus acts in his own interests whether that violates moral codes or not. Skilled in games of chance since childhood, he would prefer to earn his living as a gambler, but when luck turns against him, he feels no remorse in targeting the heiress Anne Brotherton, confident that he will either force her guardian to approve their marriage or secure a sizeable payoff from said guardian to disappear from her life. After all, it won’t be the first time such a plan has worked for him.

The fifteen-year-old daughter of a Genoese nobleman had been mad for his eighteen-year-old self. Her father, on discovering that Marcus hadn’t actually ruined the girl, paid him a handsome sum to absent himself from the city, forever. Marcus, a man of honor when there was no reason not to be, had never set foot in Genoa since.

What Marcus fails to take into account, however, is the strength of Anne’s anger and thirst for revenge when she, on the verge of falling in love with him, discovers that he is using her. She puts him through his paces playing the spoiled, arrogant heiress, demanding everything and satisfied with nothing, forcing him to spend money he can ill afford to please her and making sure he knows that he has failed. But her plan is thwarted when Marcus leaves London upon learning of his inheritance. Anne’s frustration and fury are boundless.

She wanted him abject, groveling, and grinding his teeth as he obeyed her most outlandish demands. She wanted to lead him on for weeks and then turn down his eventual proposal with all the scorn the mercenary wretch deserved. She wanted to kick him somewhere painful and break his heart.

Her desire to see Marcus humiliated and to see the famous ruin that Marcus now owns send Anne to Marcus’s estate where they strike an unlikely bargain that allows her to fulfill her ambition to excavate the Roman ruin. Her plan to ruin a rogue seems to have been blocked, but what neither Anne nor Marcus realizes is that he will be transformed by the estate and the responsibilities it imposes on him and by his love for Anne that grows deeper and more selfless as they come to know one another more intimately.

Upon Anne’s arrival, Marcus the Rogue is still very much in evidence. He may feel a certain interest and even occasional tenderness for Anne, but his goal is unchanged. Indeed, since he desperately needs money to keep his estate and improve it, she is a more tempting mark than ever.

A lamb had entered the wolf’s lair, and as the wolf it was his duty to fleece her. Compromising her would be pitifully easy, and not even the strictest guardian would deny the necessity for marriage. But she was on his ground now, and she’d play by his rules. She no longer held all the cards, and Marcus knew he could outplay her. A couple more animal metaphors came to mind. The pigeon would be plucked, the shrew would be tamed.

Marcus fails to understand that his own taming is in process. Later, when he warns Anne, “I’m a rogue and I’ll take advantage of anything that might give me entrée to those who can be of use to me,” the reader knows that the very act of revelation signals that the ruin of the rogue is almost complete. When Marcus is confronted with a moral crisis, he finds that he can “no longer be happy as a scoundrel.” For Anne’s sake and for his own, he rejects the expedient choice to do the right thing for the right reason, the very definition of an honorable man. The rogue has been ruined, and the hero is headed for an HEA with the woman who helped to ruin the man he had been.

Learn more or pre-order a copy of The Ruin of a Rogue by Miranda Neville before its release (August 27, 2013):

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Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
I love Miranda Neville's books--they're always so clever, but in a very natural way. The "ruin" play on words is a perfect example. Can't wait to read this one.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
I'm reading an Advanced Copy of this right now and it is SO GOOD. I haven't read a lot of Miranda Neville's other books but I think I'm going to have to go on a search and destroy mission to read everything. This book was amazing! So subtle but so well done.
3. wsl0612
ooh I love Miranda's books too and this sounds awesome, can't wait!
4. Janga
MFrampton, Neville is definitely a writer who appeals to the head as well as the heart. I love intelligent romance!
5. Janga
Jennifer, since you are enjoying this one, I highly recommend you check out Neville's backlist. The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton is my favorite. I would have loved it for the title alone, but it's a wonderful story.
6. Janga
wslo612, it's a good one. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Miranda Neville
7. Miranda Neville
Thank you, Janga, for such a thoughtful review.
MFrampton: I can't take credit for the title: it was entirely my editor's idea.
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