After a nobleman’s heart is broken by his best friend’s sister, opportunities for scandal abound in the newest Birch Hall romance (A Lady's Guide to Ruin, 2015).
From Page 1, Colin Spenser, Marquess of Farleigh, is fretfully in love with Elinor Hargrove, whom he’d watched grow from an “irritating, nosy twig of a girl” into a 25-year-old beauty. He is minutes late trying to win her heart, however, beaten to a proposal by Matthew Newburne, a rival he didn’t know he had. Although Matthew dies tragically before he and Elinor can marry, Colin has given up on Elinor, and five years later he agrees to an engagement to a young Lady Penelope. Elinor, meanwhile, is once again a guest at the Farleigh estate, looking after Colin’s energetic teenage sister, Phoebe. As it turns out, Phoebe has discovered some mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of their older sister, Marie, in India several years earlier; she blames a rake named Edward Foyle and wants revenge. Separately, Colin has his own suspicions about his sister’s death and wants a very different form of revenge. As a close friend of the family, Elinor wants to get to the bottom of these mysterious rumors but also wants to keep Phoebe out of trouble and Colin from dying in a duel with Edward Foyle. In order to get to the villain in question, Elinor and Colin both end up, unbeknownst to each other, at a scandalous party involving “decadent displays of wealth, sex, and gluttony.” The notion of scandal is everywhere in this charming novel, and at times the reader has the entertaining dilemma of wondering what the real scandal will be. The sex comes rather late but it doesn’t disappoint. Elinor and Colin are well-matched in wit, vulnerability, and awkward sexual desire, and the mystery of Marie’s death in India is resolved in a satisfying and surprising way.
Great fun from start to finish.