Signet Eclipse, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23779-8
Historical Romance, 2012
Lady Elena Marrow – considered one of the most desirable catches of the Season – and Randolph Raine, Viscount Andrews, – a notorious rake who has a nickname “Raven” but is addressed as “Ran” in this story for some reason, maybe because the author realizes after writing “Raven” down how cheesy that nickname is – are in an awkward situation. They know of one another, but this is their first meeting, and already they are naked. Only, instead of the usual reason end up with the hero and the heroine naked together in a romance novel, they are in that situation because of some kind of plot. Someone has knocked them out, kidnapped them, and put them together in a locked room naked. What is going on here?
That is what Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heathton and former spy for the Crown, is determined to find out. Elena is his wife’s cousin, and Elena’s father called in a favor with Ben’s former boss, so Ben is obligated to look into this matter. He has recently snagged himself a wife, Alicia, but Alicia is not happy with the romance-free state of their marriage. She wants something more from him, and Ben now has to juggle between the wife and the missing cousin-in-law without jeopardizing his marriage.
There are two main story lines in Ruined by Moonlight. Normally, in a good story, this means more value for the money I paid for a book. In this case, though, there isn’t enough page count to allow both stories to develop into something more substantial.
I’m not sure whether the story of Ran and Elena is meant to be comical, but it is, often at the characters’ expense. For one, both characters seem bewilderingly unconcerned about the situation they are in, and seem more interested in examining the other person’s naughty bits. Ran is quite the joker when he starts putting his fingers where they don’t belong, making Elena get loud, if you know what I mean, and still assumes that he’s not really compromising her. What, Romeo didn’t realize that they are both utterly compromised the moment the story begins? If he goes, “Hey, I’m going to be the fall guy here, so I may as well ruin her for real!” I can understand that, but that’s not the case here. Ran never develops beyond “the little rake that goes for big” while Elena is basically “the heroine with a feisty attitude who is gagging for it”.
Ben and Alicia have a more… realistic, for the want of a better word, story here, but because of the space constraints, he’s that utterly clueless dude when it comes to romance and Alicia is that patient dear who is waiting for fireworks to ignite in her life. They seem to be just going through the motions here, and the characters never develop into anything memorable. I’d rather have the author focus more on this couple and reduce the other story into a minor subplot, if I have my way, because this story has more opportunities to deliver the emotional drama.
Also, the two stories may be linked by the kidnapping plot, but I never get this feeling that the two stories belong in one book. Ran and Elena don’t seem strongly connected to Ben and Alicia despite the relationship between Elena and Alicia. They just happen to be in the same book because of the plot, and I never get this impression that they’d be BFFs after the story ends. Therefore, the author squishing the two stories together in one book ends up being one missed opportunity after another to deliver the goods.
Ruined by Moonlight is an easy read due to the clean and engaging narrative, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am getting two half-baked tales for the price of one here. I’d rather have just one solid story.