Only the wildest woman can ruin a devilish lord…
Claire is the dutiful, proper Cleveland sister, and the only one who’s not embroiled in a scandal. Until now. With her sister’s marriage to an earl, the weight of responsibility to save her family has been lifted from her shoulders, and for the first time in her life, Claire is free. A rebelliousness she’s long denied has her acting out in ways she would never have imagined. Like chasing her brother through the dark streets of London… and kissing her brother’s best friend and notorious rake, Lord Nicholas.
Nicholas thought he knew everything there was to know about his friend’s proper and boring younger sister. Beautiful though she might be, Claire holds no allure for the worldly rogue. At least, not until he holds her in his arms. Could this passionate, daring, feisty woman be the same Claire Cleveland with the simpering smiles? Even more alarming, has the woman of his heart been right in front of his eyes this whole time? He may be late to realize that there is more to Claire than meets the eye, but now that he’s seen her true nature, he’ll do anything to keep her by his side. Even if that means marrying her.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: A Rake’s Ruin
Publication Date: 4/10/18
I first met Claire Cleveland in the Earl of Davenport (Wicked Earl’s series) and I just knew those still waters must run deep – and they surely do. This is Dallen’s second Regency novel and she’s coming along nicely in the genre. There were still some timeline issues, but other than that I think she pretty much nailed it. It is a sweet and very short read that is well written and well plotted. There is little if any conflict in this book and that is perfectly fine with me.
Claire was raised to be the savior of her family. She was the pretty one, the one who was going to marry well and save her family from financial ruin and give them a connection to the aristocracy. She is the one who got the pretty dresses, the latest hairstyles, and the most attention while her siblings got her hand-me-downs. You might think that would make her self-centered, arrogant and condescending, but it didn’t. What it made her was – numb. She shut down all feelings and desires to become the perfect simpering, biddable ton miss. Nothing ever rattled her at an event – she always acted with complete decorum – almost as if she felt nothing.
When Claire’s sister Anne married the Earl of Davenport, the family was saved. Now, Claire isn’t sure what her role is or even who she is. Anne keeps telling Claire that she is now free to marry when and where she wants or not marry at all, but the message hadn’t really sunk in – until the night of Anne’s first ball. Then, it suddenly hits her – she’s free and she is giddy with that realization. She can actually be something other than perfect – and she giggles and she smiles… She even considers saying something impolite. Then, she sees her brother Jed and heads toward him only to overhear him talking with his best friend about leaving the ball. She asks where he’s going, but he won’t tell her. The old Claire would have docilely stayed where she was and just worried about what he was going to do. However, the new and improved Claire had to know where he was going – so she does what any other young lady would do – she follows him, right to a gaming hell in a seedy part of London.
Lord Nicholas Galwin, the best friend of Jed, notices that a coach has followed them to the gaming hell. While Jed goes inside, Galwin goes to confront whoever followed them. Shock, amazement, and awe await him as the coach door opens and Claire steps out. What! Demure and biddable Claire has followed them, unaccompanied, to a gaming hell. He’d always sort of suspected that there was more to Claire than she let the world see, but the spitfire who greeted him was awesome. They had themselves quite a row and a mind-blowing kiss – and the story is off and running.
One thing that would have made it better for me would have been mending the rift between Jed and Galwin. They had been best friends since childhood and to leave them in a strained relationship just wasn’t right. It would have been an easy fix and the book had plenty of room to add that to the story. The perfect time would have been the afternoon before the wedding, just after she had spoken with her sisters.
This was a lovely read and I’ll definitely be looking forward to Georgie’s story.
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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”
He saw her skirts first, bursting through the carriage door in an explosion of crinoline and silk. Pale blue silk, just like Claire Cleveland had been wearing.
No, it couldn’t be. She would never.
Then came blonde ringlets and those long white gloves. He knew those curls, he recognized the gloves, and the dress should have given it away completely. But he still couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
It couldn’t be. Claire Cleveland would never do something so rash.
But then she was out of the carriage, without any assistance from him or the driver. She glanced in the opposite direction before turning to face him.
There was no denying it now. She stood before him in all her magnificent glory. There were clear, bright blue eyes and those beautiful, lush rose red lips.
And yes, there was the scowl he knew so well.
“What are you doing here, Miss Cleveland?” He kept his voice hushed. The last thing he needed was to call attention to the fact that a lovely, young, unattached woman was here. With him. In an alley.
He peered past her. “Who let you come here?”
“No one.” She shrugged, tilting her chin up higher. “I brought myself.”
He gaped at her. “You brought yourself,” he repeated slowly. The words shocked him so thoroughly that all he seemed to be able to think about was how beautiful her eyes looked when they glittered with mischievous determination. Shaking his head, he tried to focus on the urgent matter of her being in an alley. Alone. With him. “What are you doing here?”
She ignored the question, leaning slightly to peer around him. “Where is Jed?”
Ah. So that was it. Some of his questions were answered then and there. She’d come to save Jed.
How very…naïve. Sweet, he supposed. He couldn’t imagine either of his elder married sisters rushing after him if they thought him to be heading into trouble. In fact, he couldn’t imagine them rushing anywhere for anyone for any reason unless perhaps it entailed buying a new gown. Yes, he could see them hurrying if it meant winning their ceaseless quest to be deemed the best dressed in the gossip rags.
Claire’s eyes were darting around the alley as though Jed might be hiding behind that pile of rubbish.
“I’m afraid you’ve missed him, love.” He watched with some amusement as her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed at the term of endearment. Lord, but it was fun to tease this one. He’d always taken an inordinate amount of pleasure out of teasing Claire, but tonight? Tonight there was something different about her. Tonight he actually managed to provoke a response.
And tonight, he reminded himself, this little twit had put herself in harm’s way by coming to a terrible neighborhood alone at night. Alone.
He reached for her arm, steering her back toward the carriage so she would be out of view. “What were you thinking coming here by yourself?” he scolded. The schoolmarm tone in his voice was perhaps more alarming to him than to her.
Claire was acting rebellious and he was the one scolding her. Had the world tipped over and turned upside down? Surely that was the only explanation for this reversal of roles.
Shaking off his grip, she tilted her chin up once more. “I am not leaving here without my brother.”
He stared. And then he stared some more. This could not be Claire Cleveland. “Who are you and what have you done with Miss Cleveland?”
She narrowed her eyes further so she was glaring at him through slits. “I am Miss Cleveland, you fool. And stop trying to distract me. I am here to retrieve Jed and I am not returning home without him.” Her voice rose as she spoke until she was shouting that last bit.
His mouth fell open and for the life of him, he wasn’t certain whether he wanted to laugh or shout back.
Claire shouting? What in God’s name had come over her?
She tried to take advantage of his shock by darting around him. Claire was small, but he’d never thought of her as wily until this moment. He had to spin around quickly to snag her, and even then it was like holding on to a slippery creature as she wiggled and writhed in his arms trying to free herself.
“Just hold still, you little heathen,” he muttered.
“Oh, I’m the heathen? That’s rich,” she said, her voice coming in pants as she fought against his arms, which he’d managed to wrap tightly around her upper body in an odd embrace that fell somewhere between a hug and a wrestling hold.
He tightened his grip so her arms were pinned to her sides, but that didn’t stop her lower body from wiggling against him and his body responded, apparently completely unaware that this was a struggle, not an embrace.
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MAGGIE DALLEN is a big city girl living in Montana. She writes romantic comedies in a range of genres including young adult, historical, contemporary, and sweet. An unapologetic addict of all things romance, she loves to connect with fellow avid readers.