Every touch made her feel safe and desired, and she clung to that sensation as she returned alone to her precarious life.– Revenge Wears Rubies, Renee Bernard
I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. It’s a decidedly not “sweet” Victorian romance (meaning there is fairly explicit on-page sex), but rather than simply getting lost in those bedroom scenes, as some do, it actually had an interesting plot that kept me wondering for most of the book.
The hero, one of (I believe) six men who survived a harrowing experience in India and who are now to be the various protagonists of the books in this series, starts out the book determined to avenge a friend for having been seemingly so quickly abandoned by his sweetheart. The friend died in his arms in India with Haley’s name on his lips, but when Galen (our hero) returns to Britain, she is celebrating a new engagement and shows no sign of even remembering her previous love. This enrages Galen and he sets out to “ruin” her in a somewhat overcomplicated plan that even his friends seem confused by.
True to the trappings of a romance novel, they fall in love and his plan is derailed by his own feelings until she discovers it and leaves him. Romance novels are nothing if not celebrations of the complications caused by misunderstandings, after all, and this one is so full of them that I am almost surprised they made it to their happily ever after!
The writing is good. It has a lot of the tropes of romances, especially ones with erotic scenes, but the characters are interesting and I actually ended up liking both hero and heroine even before I figured out what the core misunderstanding between them actually was. The secondary characters are wonderful as well. Aunt Alice (Haley’s less than effective chapperone) was one of my favorite romance support characters in a long time!
Even more encouraging, I liked Galen’s friends, who are nicely varied in type and personality, which bodes well for the rest of the series! This is the first of Renee Bernard’s books that I have read, but it won’t be the last. I’m curious to see what the next book brings and there is enough overarching plot going on to connect this series as more than just romances of men who happen to know one another. That overarching plot is fascinating and I’m interested to see what comes of it as well as read more of Bernard’s fun romances.