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A Notorious Ruin

A Notorious Ruin, October 2014
Sinclair Sisters #2
by Carolyn Jewel

Self Published
Featuring: Lucy Sinclair Wilcott; Lord Thrale
317 pages
ISBN: 015065734X
EAN: 2940150657342
Kindle: B00N8CFIRW
e-Book
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"A long awaited sequel blends eroticism and Regency elegance"

Fresh Fiction Review

A Notorious Ruin
Carolyn Jewel

Reviewed by Make Kay
Posted September 24, 2014

Romance Historical

A NOTORIOUS RUIN is book two in the Sinclair Sisters series. Published twelve years after the 2002 release of Lord Ruin, book one in the series, A NOTORIOUS RUIN blithely throws some vague references to a scandalous occurrence from book one without explicitly reminding us what happened, which I found off-putting. Other than this, the book can easily be read as a stand-alone. Characters from book one make extended appearances in A NOTORIOUS RUIN, so readers may find their enjoyment increased by refreshing themselves on book one before starting this read.

Lucy Sinclair Wilcott is the widow of a former prize fighter. She was sold to the man by her wretch of a gentry father for an enormous amount of money, to cover her father's gambling debts. This marriage to a commoner and a brawler puts Lucy beyond the pale to her peers. When her husband dies as the result of injuries from a bout, Lucy must come home to live in penury with her despicable father, shunned by the vicious villagers around her. All she desires is to save up enough to buy a little cottage of her own and live alone with her flowers and poetry. Her life is almost over-the-top tragic to me.

Then Lord Thrale shows up and throws a spanner in Lucy's works. Thrale is an amateur boxer himself and is astonished to meet the highly knowledgeable widow of the author of a much-vaunted tome of the art of pugilism. On meeting her, Thrale believes Lucy to be a brittle and thoughtless perfection. But slowly he discovers that beneath her astonishing beauty and apparent indifference beats the heart of a brilliant and loyal woman who is everything he wants in life. But can he convince her of that?

This was a fairly cerebral read for me. It took me a while to get into the groove of the story, but I'm glad I stuck with it, because the payoff was very worth it. The language is elegant and oh so slightly stilted, which made me feel suspended in the Regency period of the story, where etiquette and dress was so rigid. I felt Jewel did a superb job of evoking the era and locale. The lovely and explicit sex scenes also rang true and yet did not pull me out of the era, which I thought masterful. I am glad that Jewel has gone back to this series, and I'm looking forward to the next of the Sinclair Sisters to fall in love.

Learn more about A Notorious Ruin

SUMMARY

The Sinclair Sisters Series, Book 2 - A Notorious Ruin All the widowed Lucy Sinclair Wilcott wants is to save enough money to move to a cottage of her own and keep her younger sister safe from the consequences of their father’s poor judgment. No one is more aware than she how thoroughly her first marriage ruined her. She could not remarry if she wanted to. Then the Marquess of Thrale comes to visit and long-absent feelings of desire surge back.

Everything Lord Thrale believes about the beautiful Mrs. Wilcott is wrong. The very last woman he thought he was interested in proves to be a brilliant, amusing, arousing woman of deep honor who is everything he wants in a lover, for the rest of his life. If only he can convince her of that.

Excerpt

THE COOPERAGE. BARTLEY GREEN, ENGLAND, 1820

Lucy sat in the bow window of the second parlor and gazed at the scene unfolding below. Their new groom, looking smart in the suit she’d bought him from last week’s winnings, continued to struggle with the step to the carriage in the driveway. Oh, dear. She had hoped for a better debut from him than this. “Well, Roger, old boy.” The elderly hound at her feet rose and placed his head on her lap. She rubbed his shoulder. “This does not bode well.”

The dog, a wolfhound, if one squinted just so, did not reply.

The mechanism of the step defeated the groom still. She hoped and expected he would improve rapidly. At last, he managed the trick, but then he struggled with the carriage door. High atop the vehicle, the driver watched with disdain.

Outside, her father arrived to greet their guests. He stood a few feet away, hatless, arms held wide in greeting. Yesterday’s excellent weather had given way to clouds and enough of a breeze to riffle his iron-gray hair. She’d locked the door to the wine cellar three hours ago and was hopeful he was not drunk. He’d have found his way to the port and sherry, though. The groom held the door.

A gentleman exited; Captain Niall. She did not want them here, her father’s guests. Papa enter-tained like a man with ten or twenty thousand a year when, in fact, his income was far less and his debts far greater.

Captain Niall buttoned his greatcoat against the wind. He was a man of immense charm and refine-ment whom others had hinted would be a good match for her. As if such a thing were conceivable or in comportment with her desires.

This would not be, no matter anyone’s wishes.

The second occupant of the carriage emerged.

The Marquess of Thrale swung his arms and glanced at the sky a moment before he shook out his coat and wrapped his scarf around his throat. Despite his being unmarried and in possession of a title, he had not been a dashing figure in Town last season. Thrale, however, had made a friend of her sister Anne, and that was enough to recommend him to anyone. Though she appreciated his height and brawn, she did not find him interesting.

Captain Niall put his hands on his hips and arched his back. Thrale said something in that somber way of his, and Captain Niall laughed. They seemed unlikely friends, those two, yet they had traveled together from London all the way to Bartley Green. A month or more at The Cooperage and then another at Rosefeld after her brother-in-law and the others arrived.

She did like Captain Niall’s quick smile. Who did not appreciate a handsome, amiable man? She resented his being here. Lord Thrale, too.

The groom now held the head of Thrale’s lead horse. Here, he displayed the expertise that had made her hire him over an older man. He had his mouth by the horse’s ear and gave every appear-ance of whispering secrets while he stroked the animal’s neck.

Roger settled his head on her lap as she ab-sently rubbed his ears. Outside, her father and Lord Thrale shook hands. The same exchange occurred with Captain Niall. The men continued to converse, and then Papa went to the lead coach horse and ran a hand down its front leg. They were fine horses. Not ostentatious, but one saw the quality. One of the hunting dogs wandered from the stable, and her father gave its shoulders a pat. Lord Thrale did the same. Conversation turned to the carriage, for Lord Thrale thumped the side of the vehicle. The marquess’s carriage, since that was his coat of arms on the door. Talbot passant, and his coronet of rank.

Captain Niall, Lord Thrale, and her father re-mained in the driveway chatting. The groom rode postilion while the coachman drove the rig to the stable block. She continued with her excellent view of Thrale. He was a man of restraint and reserve who rarely extended his friendship to others. One must earn his regard. Her sister Anne, now the Duchess of Cynssyr, had done so. As if anything else were possible.

Papa gestured, describing, most likely, the gen-eral bounds of the property. He then pointed in the direction of Rosefeld, the home of her brother-in-law, Baron Aldreth. Not, at present, in residence, though he soon would be.

The two men were here to ride and to hunt and fish, and do all the sorts of things gentlemen did in the country. Lord Thrale’s presence was due, she suspected, to the fact that Bartley Green was a fertile location for a Sporting man to spend his time. Exhibitions and battles between talented and re-nowned prizefighters were frequent here owing chiefly to the presence of Johnson’s Academy of Pugilistic Arts in town. The Academy was one of England’s finest arenas for training and improving one’s skills in the art and science of pugilism.

At last, all three men turned to the house. Papa was grinning. No one could say Mr. Thomas Sinclair, Esquire, was not a congenial host. Because he never bothered to square expenses with income, there never was a guest who went away complaining of his experiences at The Cooperage. The best food, the best wine and spirits, cigars of rare and exotic tobaccos. Constant entertainments.

Roger came to attention when the front door closed. Voices he did not know meant new people to admire and pet him. She leaned over and stroked his head. Five minutes more of freedom. Five minutes in which she could be herself. So much grey around his muzzle. “We shall meet them presently, and you will be your noble self, yes?”

Most everyone believed the Sinclair fortunes were beyond reproach. After all, there were now two noble sons-in-law, one of them a duke, and long outstanding debts had been settled within days of Anne’s marriage.

In reality, he’d had a year to run up new debts and had done so with disheartening rapidity. Lucy kept the books now that Anne was married and was now intimate with the hopelessness of their finances. Papa had only to say; My second daughter’s hus-band is Baron Aldreth, and my eldest married Cynssyr. Yes. The duke. And credit was extended for more foolishness and waste.

She stood and ran light fingers over her hair, securing an errant pin or two, then adjusted her shawl and smoothed her bodice and skirts. If all one had was one’s looks, then appearing at one’s best was vital. Time and again she’d been told beauty did not matter, that what mattered was one’s mind and heart. The evidence for that, in her experience, was not persuasive. The exception proved the rule; her sister Anne’s marriage to the duke.

With Roger at her heels, she walked down the corridor to the stairs to meet her father and their guests, fully armored, to paraphrase the great Boswell, with perfection.

“Lucy.” Her father extended a hand and kissed her cheek when she met them. Captain Niall and Lord Thrale stood behind and to one side of her father, expectant. Smiling. Well. One of them was smiling. “Look here, it’s Lord Thrale and Captain Niall come to visit.”

She despised meaningless conversation. She did not wish to be cheerful or amusing or, worse, interesting. She had made an art of never being the latter. Subjects ladies were expected to find interest-ing seldom interested her. Sometimes, oftentimes, too often, she missed the bluntness of her old life. “Sit, Roger.”

Roger sat like the magnificent dog he was. He had no trouble meeting people. She remembered to curtsy to Lord Thrale first. She’d been away from London only a few months, and already she’d fallen out of the habit of genteel manners. Disaster awaited if she forgot herself. “My lord. Welcome to Bartley Green.”

Few men could stand silent and be so terribly present as the marquess. How had she forgotten that about him? His silence made her worry she’d already misstepped. He was taller than Captain Niall by three or four inches at least, much broader across his shoulders and torso, too.

In her time away from London, she’d not had to pretend she was a delicate and fragile woman. From the corner of her eye, she saw her father frown. He took it as a point of pride that men found her desirable, as if she were a pet dog who mattered only when it performed the requested trick.

Everyone falls in love with Lucy’s beauty.

Sometimes she wondered if her father kept a tally of the men he felt had fallen in love with her face or figure, and whether his satisfaction with her depended upon an ever- increasing list.

If she had managed to offend Lord Thrale so soon, well, there was nothing for it. He would have to live with his disappointment in her and she with his disapproval. Quite manageable, in her opinion.

At last, the marquess bowed. “Mrs. Wilcott.”

The next several weeks stretched before her, a desert of emptiness that must be crossed no matter how desiccated she became. With a smile, she turned to the captain. Ah, yes. This was the trick, wasn’t it? A smile that meant nothing at all.

In contrast to Thrale, the captain was a la mode; everything a man of taste and fashion could hope to be and more. “Good afternoon, sir. I hope we find you well.”

“Yes, thank you. Is Miss Sinclair at home?” Cap-tain Niall had been one of her sister Emily’s most ardent admirers last season.

“She is visiting a dear friend, but never fear. She will be home presently.” Roger bumped against her thighs, and she came near to losing her balance. Lord Thrale was close enough to steady her. “Thank you, my lord.” There was unexpected strength in his grip. “Before tea I expect.”

Roger left his sit to sniff Captain Niall’s boots and then his knees. He gave the dog a gentle push away with one leg. Thwarted in his quest for admira-tion, Roger turned to Lord Thrale.

“Now, Lucy, m’dear.” Papa’s frown deepened. “No one wants a dog coming up so bold as that.”

“My apologies.” She moved to pull Roger away, but Lord Thrale had already bent to give Roger’s shoulder a rub.

“This is your dog, ma’am?”

“Yes.”

Captain Niall’s mouth twitched. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a dog of such uncertain antecedents. Are you certain he’s yours, Mrs. Wilcott? I thought ladies kept dogs they can hold in their arms. This one is a monster.”

“I’m sure some do.” A thread of panic pulled tight. Such ironic words were not expected from her, for she did not miss Lord Thrale’s cocked eyebrow. She pasted on another smile. She would defend Roger to anyone, including charming, happy, Captain Niall. Even to the king himself. “Nevertheless, he is mine.”

Lord Thrale found the spot behind Roger’s ear the dog loved best, and Roger groaned in ecstasy, dignity abandoned.

“I hope you had a pleasant journey here, Cap-tain Niall. My lord.”

Papa spoke over her. “Now, Lucy, that mongrel of yours—”

Lord Thrale gave Roger one last pat and straightened. “Yes, ma’am. We did.”

Her father clapped Thrale on the shoulder. Rog-er, meanwhile, plastered himself against the mar-quess’s legs, tail wagging. “I’m going to show you the billiards room, had it put in last winter. What do you think of that?”

“Papa.” Careful negotiations were required with her father now that he had the stimulation of guests and spirits. “Lord Thrale and Captain Niall might first like to change from their travel clothes.”

“Are you saying our guests do not look present-able?”

“Not at all.” Anne knew how to deal with him when he’d been at the sherry. Anne knew the words to say and how to say them, and Lucy failed at that. She always had. Even before Lucy left Bartley Green, Anne had managed everything.

Thrale and her father both were watching her. Captain Niall, too, and her panic blossomed. She was to be unnoticed for anything but her appear-ance. She had not made an auspicious start.

She took a step back, and her elbow bumped a marble bust of Aristotle. A recent purchase of Papa’s she had been unable to prevent. He’d had the statuary sent all the way from Athens. She doubted it was genuine. For several seconds, she lost the feeling in her arm. Damn. She resisted the impulse to cradle her elbow. “Had I been traveling all day, I should want a moment to put myself to rights.”

Her father guffawed. “If there’s a light breeze, she wants to put herself to rights, ain’t that so, Lucy?” He shook his head and shared his merriment. “I never saw a girl so worried she might have a hair out of place. From the day she was born, I own.”

“I’m sure,” she said, “quite sure Lord Thrale will enjoy the billiards room.” And there was Captain Niall, standing here, so handsome and charming. “Captain Niall, too.”

“A moment to neaten myself would be welcome.” Whether Thrale said this because she was flounder-ing so horribly, she had no idea, but she was grateful he had. “Thank you, Mrs. Wilcott. Sinclair, shall we find each other later?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” he said. “I’ll show you your rooms, then, my lord. Captain. We’ll have a friendly game afterward.”

“I look forward to it,” Thrale said.

Captain Niall’s gaze lingered on her, and she gave him what she called her drawing room smile. “Will we see your sister later, Mrs. Wilcott?”

“Yes, certainly.” There were two of her. The woman she presented and the woman inside who wished these men gone. How was she going to survive the coming weeks?


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