I love historical romance. My usual subgenre is Regency, but I love a good Victorian as well. One reason I love Victorian is that there is a subgenre within the subgenre – gothic. When I saw the blurb for The Ruin of Evangeline Jones, I knew this book was for me. This lightly gothic romance was a joy to read with just the right amount of angst and mystery.
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The Ruin of Evangaline Jones by Julia Bennet
Alex Stanton just inherited a dukedom but his true passion is uncovering charlatans and frauds wherever he finds them. Spiritualist and medium Evangeline “Evie” Jones is the biggest fake of all and he’s determined to expose her lies for all of London to see. Her prim manner and ladylike airs don’t fool him. He sees the hunger beneath and recognizes a worthy opponent. He can’t deny the dark undercurrents of lust between them.
Evie worked her way up from the gutter and she’s not about to abandon the life she’s built for fear of this aristocratic dilettante. She knows his type. She sees the attraction simmering beneath his animosity, and she knows how to use it to keep him off balance. They strike a bargain. He has one week to prove she’s a fake. If he fails, he has to abandon all further attempts. If he succeeds, she’ll not only retire but make a public statement explaining all her tricks.
Neither expects to find anything in common, not to mention anything to love, in the other. Both are blindsided by the affinity and blossoming tenderness between them. But even if it were possible for a lowly charlatan to live happily ever after with a duke, more is going on than either suspects. Someone else has brought them together for a sinister purpose of his own.
While this ended up being a great read for me, I did not immediately connect with our characters. Chapter One is from Alex’s point of view. He is cold and calculated. In Chapter Two, we see Evie’s point of view, and while I immediately empathized with her, she too is distant and mercenary. Alex is a nobleman, and he is interested in the spiritualism movement. In particular, he wants to defame fake mediums. Evie is just what – a fake medium. But she has a reason for what she does and has no drive to cause harm to others. These two are rough around the edges – the quiet, mysterious types. But they are drawn to one another, and when the two of them get together, sparks really fly.
The plot of this one has so many twists and turns, and while it’s romantic with a guaranteed HEA, it has that creepy, gothic feel to it. The settings are run down theaters and creepy manor houses and apartments in the slums of London. The book starts with Alex making a wager with Evie, one she will benefit from whether she wins or loses: He uncovers her fraud and gives her 500 pounds to walk away with, or he is unable to and she keeps on working as a medium. But while working so closely, Evie and Alex realize a mutual connection is rolling out a rather sinister plot.
This was Book Two in the series, but functioned well as a standalone. I haven’t read Book One, The Madness of Miss Grey, but oh boy, now I want to! The characters from Book One have supporting roles in Book Two, and I would love to read more about them.
I wouldn’t say The Ruin of Evangeline Jones is an outright feminist novel, but there are some quietly feminist moments that really stuck out to me. Evie is self-sufficient. Her roommate (and also bedmate, because that’s how things were back then) is a lesbian, and it’s not made out to be a big deal. Evie has never had sex, but she grew up in a brothel and knows a lot about it. She often takes charge in sexual encounters with Alex, namely in their first sexy scene – she commands him to masturbate in front of her! And when Evie and Alex finally seal the deal, she never tells him she’s a virgin and he never finds out for sure. A creepy mutual acquaintance alludes to her “purity”, and Alex is intrigued by the possibility of someone so knowledgeable about sex remaining “untouched”, but he realizes it doesn’t matter because this is the woman he loves and wants.
There’s a lot separating our couple from a HEA, but they get there nonetheless – perhaps through cons and schemes, and maybe through insurance fraud… But hey, look at who we are talking about. I enjoyed this one immensely – it was a 5 star read for me! Thank you to Julia Bennet, Entangled Publishing, NetGalley, and HF Virtual Book Tours for hooking me up!
Julia writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden English woman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. Before she began writing, she spent many years searching for something to do with her English Literature degree. Nothing satisfied her until she decided to commit the stories in her head to paper. These days, if she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys or procrastinating on the internet.
This semi-gothic, quietly feminist, erotic romance exceeded my expectations. Thank you to the author, NetGalley, and HF Virtual Book Tours for hooking me up with such a lovely read. I can’t wait to go back and read Book 1 (though this book functioned well as a “stand alone”) and I look forward to a Book 3. (Do NOT leave me hanging on Ellis!) Look out for my full review on bitchbookshelf.com on 4/30!
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, April 27
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Wednesday, April 29
Feature at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, April 30
Review at Bitch Bookshelf
Friday, May 1
Excerpt at Probably at the Library
Saturday, May 2
Feature at Reading is My Remedy
Monday, May 4
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Friday, May 8
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Monday, May 11
Feature at I’m All About Books
Tuesday, May 12
Review at Books2lovenow
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P.S. I like to read my romances and prefer nonfiction audiobooks, but different strokes for different folks, right? I love Audible, and if you like audiobooks and romance, I suggest you try the Audible Romance Free Trial. Get unlimited listening free for one month. Who doesn’t like free?
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