Dual Review: Invitation to Ruin by Bronwen Evans

Filed in 1 1/2 Star , 2 Stars , Bronwen Evans , Dual Review , The Latin Lover , The Smutty Lover Posted on March 11, 2011 @ 11:00 am 6 comments

Invitation to RuinFormat read: ebook
Number of pages: 320 pages
Release Date: 1 March 2011
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Kindle store


One Good Lady Is About to Go Bad. . .

The only thing Miss Melissa Goodly has ever wanted out of a marriage is love. But any hope of that dissolves one wild night, when she loses herself in the arms of the most irresistible–and unobtainable–man in all of England. For when they are discovered in a position as compromising as it is pleasurable, she has no choice but to accept his proposal.

Avowed bachelor Anthony Craven, Earl of Wickham, never meant to seduce an innocent like Melissa. Yet now that the damage is done, it does seem like she’d make a very convenient wife. After all, she is so naive he won’t have to worry about ever being tempted. Or so he thinks, until the vows are spoken and they are left alone–and his new bride reveals a streak just as brazen and unrestrained as his own. . .

Please be advised that Invitation to Ruin contains rape, torture, BDSM and some other disturbing scenes.

Our thoughts:

Stella: I’m a sucker for arranged/forced marriages. So when I read the blurb I was intrigued by seeing how the author would approach this scenario.
Has: Me too!!! When I first read the premise of the book, I thought it would be something I would love. Rakes, a marriage of convenience and a wild heroine. Instead I got something totally different and unexpected and not in a way that I liked.

Stella: Was one of those unexpected things the “compromising situation” for example? I was expecting an embrace, kiss, and well that’s not what we got at all…
Has: Oh yes!!! In fact after reading that part I found it very very difficult to get past it. I was expecting it was a wild night of passion or getting caught embracing or kissing too. But the fact that he took advantage of someone who was asleep and was unaware of what was going on especially in context of what we know later on. It threw me off. I have read similar books in the past – one book I have reviewed here which had this plot point and it’s a hot topic and I suspect that this will definitely upset a few readers.
Stella: (Just to speak plainly for those who haven’t read the novel: this compromising situation we are talking about is the following: the hero enters by mistake the wrong dark bedchamber and without much foreplay thrusts into the sleeping heroine who wakes up at this moment, and even after realising his mistake he continues to have sex with her.)
Has: However my real issue was the lack of real response with the heroine after what happened. She had no real reaction other than being affronted, she was going to dismiss this as something that wasn’t important. It also didn’t help the fact that the author explained this away by having the heroine having feelings/crush for the hero. For me this scene was rape or was close to it because there was no consent from the heroine. Dreaming about having sex and waking up to non-consensual sex is a huge difference. I found that really unbelievable she would not make a bigger issue let alone still having feelings for him and falling in love with him.
Stella: What I found the most disturbing that even after waking up, when the heroine realizes what has happened, that her virginity has been taken (not gently at all) and the hero realizes that he is in the wrong bedchamber with/in the wrong cousin he still continues to thrust until he orgasms!! I found this disturbing both from the heroine and the hero’s side.
Has: Oh totally and what was worse was how his brother and mother engineered this so he can get caught and be forced to ‘marry’ a good woman.
Stella: I agree! A woman, a mother with feeling engineering this: it would have been amply enough if the family saw them in the same chamber at night, there would not have been need to have him compromise her like this, without mutual passion (and consent!).
On the other hand, what stood out to me was how modern, independent of thought and way ahead of her time Melissa was in some ways. Despite her being too self-effacing and too good, her monologues about women’s freedom surprised me because she usually didn’t act that independent from her husband.
Has: I thought that there would be more about that aspect but we got a lot of telling and no showing about why it was so important to her and yet she was a doormat with the hero and the situation. I also felt that it wasn’t realistic because her brother was in huge debt and he would have ensured or pressured her earlier to marry instead of letting have free reign until the end. It didn’t make sense.
Stella: Despite being a woman in the 19th century, she despises marriage, and even after her virtue has been compromised adamantly opposes the notion of an arranged marriage because she wants to finally be free of her brother’s control and be her own person.

”Pleasure does not provide the financial freedom to make your own choices. Men, by ensuring we have no education, no skills, make certain we are reliant on them.”

I found this paragraph especially modern and kind of surprising in a regency romance.

Has: And yet she was in the mercy of her cousin and brother. Realistically there was no way she could survive alone and do these endeavours if she was independent without any funds. May I add that I hated the fact that her cousin who was a widow who had more freedom than Melissa, was relegated to an evil cliched image of a bitter/slutty vain woman. I’ve come across this trope in a lot of historicals, that a woman who enjoys sex like her cousin has to be ‘bad’. It really felt like an old skool trope.
Stella: What irritated me beyond everything was how the roles were very clearly dealt: the heroine Melissa GOODLY was the immaculate (until the hero’s ‘transgression’) goody two shoes heroine, her cousin was evil incarnate: promiscuous and without scruples and any morals. The same categorization exists between the twin brothers too: the one who is of fair colouring is the soft, sweet, good brother, the twin of dark colouring has this dark, dangerous vibe about him. This categorization made the characters too cliché and with the exception of the hero very one dimensional.
Has: I didn’t mind the dark and evil twin. But I agree about the good heroine called Goodly who participated in good causes and had a ‘good’ heart – and Anthony’s surname being Craven especially in context of his past and rakishness. But one of the negative aspects of this book was the issues of sexuality as well. I really didn’t like the implication of how bad sex was S&M and was evil because it was practiced and enjoyed by the evil characters compared to the vanilla type love scenes by Anthony and Melissa. I really didn’t like this implication especially in contrast with what happened with the compromising scene.
Stella: Yes, that reinforced the sharp contrast and cliché of separating good and evil characters and them having no redeeming qualities at all.
Has: I actually thought Melissa’s cousin had some redeeming qualities, there were moments I thought she would actually empathise and understand her. But that was quickly diminished early on and she became a cardboard cutout bitchy villain although I think she was actually more interesting than Melissa. However her motives didn’t really make sense. Was she working with her brother one minute to get more money but then she wanted to get rid of Melissa the next even though she had no interest in marrying Anthony? I wished this clarified more because it was pretty inconsistent.
I love that trope not in the sense I would want the rake to be tamed and toned down but to discover love but still keep that edge. But with Anthony – I really didn’t get the sense he was a rake. He used sex and brief affairs to drift from woman to woman but he wasn’t unabashedly a rake. I actually hated how this played in the book. I couldn’t see how he was redeemed because of how he treated the heroine throughout the book. I really got frustrated how he would change his mind or use obstacles which was forced to act like a total arse to her. Although she was a doormat for most of the time and I wished she challenged him more instead of trying to understand his his treatment of her because it was just excusing his bad behaviour. When she learned he had an abusive childhood to excuse his behavior, I couldn’t really buy it.
Stella: I agree, I also didn’t really see Anthony as a rake simply because he was promiscuous and a womanizer. My problem in Anthony and Melissa’s relationship was that I didn’t see Anthony changing his ways with Melissa, probably because she didn’t stand up to him, she always bowed down to him. I didn’t see much of an evolution of their relationship, especially regarding the dynamics of their relationship.
Has: Exactly! There was no equality or even respect in their relationship and that is key to a good one/romance. I think it didn’t help Melissa’s character was a bit too Mary Sueish. She had no real thoughts and had no real evolution over the story – she remained the same. Although Anthony realised his love for her and that his past should not affect him. I know what the author intended but for me it didn’t really work. I just found that emotional connection and the pathos/angst was not conveyed well because the issues of his past and how Melissa dealt with that was brushed aside although if it was handled well it would definitely made an interesting book.
Stella: Yes. I see why Anthony getting to know Melissa realised he loved her, but Melissa’s schoolgirl crush evolving into infatuation didn’t convince me of any emotional connection between them.
And it left me unsatisfied seeing how Melissa didn’t deal with any of Anthony’s demons and his past sins, I felt she just brushed them aside as a solution on the surface. And I can still see Anthony being haunted by his past grieving and I doubt he resolved all his problems with only his love for Melissa…
Has: I didn’t see how she could fall in love with him especially how he treated her. I also thought she had a very naive outlook and for someone who wanted to live an independent and unconventional life she was unaware and blind to issues/factors that she should have expected or realised.
Stella: Exactly. I understand that as a young girl living a sheltered life she had a girl’s crush on Anthony, but after what she went through, how Anthony treated her, after she saw the situation of slaves, etc. how could she remain in this aspect so immature? She talked about independence, freedom yet she was so dependent on Anthony and kind of in a clingy way, don’t you think?
Has: Oh yes. And the thing about the slavery issue which would have been an interesting subplot if it rang realistic but I am sorry to say that there were huge mistakes with accuracy here. I even asked a historian to double check but slaves were never sold in Britain’s soil or auctioned off in Smithfields market. It really threw me because if this was set in the US at the same time it wouldn’t have been an issue but in Regency England in a meat market?
Stella: Well the author wanted to combine the problem of slavery with aristocracy, and since that wasn’t possible in the US, hence Regency England…
Has: I could understand that plot point and it was definitely interesting and a few aristocrats were involved with the slave trade but slave auctions never really happened in Great Britain during the Regency era. Ships sailed from there and travelled to Africa and then left to sell/auction them off in the West Indies/America. I did think the abolitionist plot line was a highlight in the book, but this kind of undermined it for me.
Spoiler warning
Has: The ending also disappointed me, Anthony’s revelation and tortured secret left me a bit cold because I didn’t think that was conveyed really well. And add the fact there was a sexual assault on Melissa by the villain, I hated that she was told to forget about it and not to tell Anthony what happened because it would just hurt him. It wasn’t the fact she wasn’t able to cope with it but the idea not to hurt him or burden him with this knowledge left a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn’t her fault and neither was it Anthony’s and I didn’t like the message this was saying to the reader and for a relationship to work, wouldn’t you share the good and the bad and help each other? Especially what happened with Anthony’s past.

Stella: I have to say the big dénouement at the end with the revelation of Anthony’s past and big secret didn’t surprise me at all. I suspected exactly this since the beginning of the novel, so it was a simple confirmation of my suspicions. However, I feel very disturbed, shaken up and confused in the way the story and the author condoned rape. I’m sure things like that could have happened, but reading about this with such a conclusion in a romance novel made me feel upset (again not just the fact of rape but how it was dealt with – and no, I’m not talking about the bedchamber scene between Melissa and Anthony but Anthony’s past secret).

Has: Overall, I am sorry to say I was disappointed with this book. I really wanted to like it because the premise had everything I like but the historical inaccuracy, the issues with rape and the lack of connection with the couple didn’t work for me. I think Invitation to Ruin had great promise but sadly it wasn’t for me.
I give Invitation to Ruin 1 and 1/2 bookies.

Stella: Invitation to Ruin is a quick read, which unfortunately due to the controversal way it deals with severe issues (rape amongst others) upset me long after having finished it. I had high hopes for this novel because the blurb led me to believe it would be a wonderful romantic historical romance, but it was not. Besides the compromising situation my main complaint is the lack of character development and evolution and how Melissa and Anthony’s relationship didn’t grow. I felt they were thrown together but didn’t see or feel a connection between them, only superficial interaction. Unfortunately Invitation to Ruin was a disappointment.

I give Invitation to Ruin 2 bookies.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Stella

Stella is a proud bookaholic and a self-taught multilinguist in training. Besides reading, her other great passions are travelling and baking. When she is not globetrotting she lives in sunny Budapest, where she loves to spend her free time preparing (and feasting on) delicious cookies or devouring equally yummy books. Her favourite genres are urban fantasy and romance and she couldn't live without her daily dose of sunshine. Besides being the Latin Lover on BLI Stella also blogs about books and a bookish life on Ex Libris.

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Join the Discussion
  • Sharon S. March 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    ewww, thanks for the heads up. I've never been interested in Regencies cause of the way women had to behave. But I recieved a few regency ARCs this past week and I must say I like the whole forced marriage thing 😉

  • Has March 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    There is some wonderful Regencies out there – one my favourites is Lisa Kleypas – ADORE her books.

    I have read books with a similar premise and I highly recommend Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel which I really enjoyed.

  • Chelsea B. March 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    This book sounds…. well, bad. It just sounds bad. Thank you for the warning (s)!

  • marybelle March 12, 2011 at 2:51 am

    I don't think this will make my reading list. Thank you for the reviews.


  • Stella (Ex Libris) March 12, 2011 at 3:41 am

    @Sharon, do give Regency romances a chance, there are many where despite the social conventions and protocol the heroine still is an independent and strong woman.

    Though it is not Regency but EDwardian I would recommend The Wedding of the Season by Laura Lee Guhrke, very different than most historical romances, maye because it is set later (in 1904), but here the heroine is driving a car! women are smoking cigarettes and wearing *gasp* trousers! 😀 SHowing the dawn of the emergence of women's rights and indeoendence it is a very enjoyable tale.

  • Diane D - Florida March 15, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I love to read blurbs about new books. This way I know if I will be interested in buying it. I adore Historical Romance and, I don't mind the "naughty" bits. Thanks for giving us the opportunity.

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