Ruined by Moonlight

Emma Wildes
September 2012, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Signet, $7.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 045123779X
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

In general, I like when there is more going on in a story than just the primary couple's romance. When secondary characters are also involved in the plot, I feel like the story is more realistic. But there is such a thing as carrying that too far.

On the back cover blurb of Ruined by Moonlight, it indicates that the main couple is Ran and Elena. Ran is a notoriously scandalous bachelor who has no intention of marrying. Elena is a debutante who is from a wealthy family and that has attracted a lot of attention through her first London season. Enough so that she is engaged to a respectable aristocrat. However, one night both Elena and Ran are abducted and thrown together in a room in a secluded castle. Considering that the two have never even been introduced before this, the situation that they find themselves in, and the fact that they are barely clothed, is rather awkward.

There is another couple that is introduced immediately after Ran and Elena. Ben and Alicia have only been married a few months but already poor Alicia is disillusioned. She wanted a partnership that included intimacy while Ben felt that a considerate husband let his wife do her own thing while he did his. As a result, though the two had relations, they still had no relationship. Alicia issues her austere husband an ultimatum – no sex until we get to know each other better. After that announcement, Ben is visited by Alicia’s uncle, who is also Elena’s father, and asked to quietly investigate the disappearance of Elena and Ran before an irreparable scandal ensues. Poor Ben is now trapped between opening up to his beautiful wife, while keeping a secret from her about a beloved cousin. Fortunately for everyone (because if that had gone on too long I might not have finished the book), Alicia is well aware of her cousin’s disappearance and the two soon become a team investigating the situation.

Of the two stories, Ben and Alicia were by far the more engaging and lovable couple. Often times, Alicia didn’t really act like a newly married and sheltered English girl, but I was able to deal with her forthrightness and excuse it based on the fact that she had older married sisters. So despite her atypical behavior I liked their story line. Ran and Elena did far less to make me care about their predicament. A notorious bachelor, with no interest in a virginal debutante, is explaining sexual dominance and the use of bondage in a relationship and yet still believes he isn’t compromising her virtue? Not to mention the orgasms that he gives her? Sure he left her a virgin, but I am pretty sure that in Regency London what he did do was undoubtedly considered “ruining” her. Eventually even he realizes that he put himself in a tough situation with her fiancé, but it honestly took him too long to realize it.

As I said, I usually enjoy a secondary couple in a romance. These two really weren’t primary and secondary and that was the problem. There was just too much competition for the spotlight and no one really won in the end. In fact, because there were two equal stories that were really unconnected to each other, I felt more like I was reading two separate books. Until Ran and Elena are “rescued” by Ben in the midst of their escape attempt, there wasn’t any interaction between the two stories. And even afterwards I don’t think all four were ever together. It created just too much distance. The fact that the two couples were at totally different points in their relationships and had very little in common meant that there weren’t even parallels. In the end, it became two stories. One was a predictable story of the notorious bachelor and the virginal debutante, and the other was equally predictable story of the young married couple coming to terms with their expectations of marriage and each other. Though the kidnapping plot “mystery” wove the two stories together, it just didn’t do a good enough job for me.

This book is the first in a series. It seems that Ben and his investigative skills may be the common denominator in the series, if the teaser chapter is any indication. I will admit that Ben and Alicia were the highlight of this book, but not enough of one to make me follow their story in a series. It is a shame really, because had they been the primary couple in this book I likely would have felt differently. As it stands now, they aren’t enough to pull me to follow this series in the future.

-- Louise VanderVliet

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