26 July 2015

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue by Sophie Jordan (The Debutante Files #2)

Summary from Goodreads:
There was once a lady who loathed a lord...

Lady Aurelia hasn't always hated Max, Viscount Camden, her brother's best friend. In fact, as a besotted girl, she thrived under his kind attention – sure that he was the most noble and handsome man in the land. Until her young heart discovered what manner of rogue he really was. Now, though she enjoys nothing more than getting on his last nerve, she can’t deny Max drives her to distraction—even if she tries to pretend otherwise.

...and a lord who was confounded by a lady.

Max cannot recall a time when Aurelia did not vex him. If she was not his friend’s sister, he would stay far away from the infuriating vixen. Unfortunately, they are always thrown together. At parties and family gatherings…she is always there. Infuriating him, tossing punch in his face, driving him mad...until one night, she goes too far and he retaliates in the only way he can: with a kiss that changes everything.

In A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin, Aurelia is the best friend who helps sneak the heroine out of the house for an adventure at an early Victorian den of sin.  Max is the hero's dissolute and dangerous best friend and also the best friend of Aurelia's brother.  It's a good set up for the next book in the series.

Now, having encountered Aurelia and Max before, I knew I was in for a certain amount of tension in the development of their love story in All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue.  What I was not prepared for was the level of animosity between them. As a besotted teen Aurelia spotted Max tupping a maid in the garden and it broke her heart; the subsequent public discovery of Aurelia's unflattering caricature of him caused no amount of embarrassment and earned an unwelcome nickname. During her night out at Sodom (yes, you read that right) with Rosalie in the previous book, she played a game of cards in a deliberate attempt to get Max back seven years later. He let on that he recognized her despite her mask, giving him a trump card to use against her.

Their sniping goes beyond mere bickering. Aurelia deliberately makes snide comments about how he uses women (she's not far off, Max is more "womanizer" than "rogue"). Max derides her appearance, her unmarried state, her temper. Case in point: at a scene in the park, when Aurelia encounters Max with an awful, spiteful woman who cruelly insults her, Max heaps another insult about Aurelia's mental state right on top of it rather than defend her. I know the scene is probably meant to play as comedy (and Max realizes he was an ass after the fact but he does so only after noticing the other woman bores him) but I didn't find it funny. Each of them lacks dimension.  Aurelia draws spot-on caricatures but we are never told why she becomes so upset at the loss of a drawing.  Max is cold, distant, and purposely avoids having children, though the reader can infer the reason in the last chapter (though I was glad to see that the "withdrawal method" fails as it does in real life).  Their problems could have been solved with a good, honest, non-snippy conversation.

There's also the issue of anger and attraction between Aurelia and Max. Almost every scene that progressed to some sort of sexual activity, be it heavy petting or the whole enchilada, began with a vicious argument. One scene progressed as Aurelia kept saying "Stop", with little hint that she really wanted him to continue - she was fighting him - and Max just said she wanted it and kept on kissing and fondling her. It was uncomfortable to read not to mention cruel.  There are few scenes of kindness or tenderness between our hero and heroine.  It makes me question whether their Happily Ever After could actually work.  I should be able to see it, not just hear about it or guess at it. Needless to say, my hope that this second book in The Debutante Files series was a good addition to the series did not pay out.

Dear FTC: I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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