Kit Ruthven’s Rules (for Rogues)
#1 Love freely but guard your heart, no matter how tempting the invader.
#2 Embrace temptation, indulge your sensual impulses, and never apologize.
#3 Scorn rules and do as you please. You are a rogue, after all.
Following the rules never brought anything but misery for Christopher “Kit” Ruthven. After rebelling against his controlling father and leaving the family’s Ruthven Rules etiquette book empire behind, Kit has been breaking every one imaginable for the past six years. He’s enjoyed London’s sensual pleasures and secured his reputation as a Rogue, but he’s failed to achieve success. When he inherits his father’s publishing business, Kit is forced back into the life he never wanted. Worse, he must face Ophelia Marsden, the woman he jilted but never forgot.
After losing her father and refusing a loveless marriage proposal, Ophelia has learned to rely on herself. To maintain the family home and support her younger brother, she tutors young girls in deportment and decorum. But her pupils would be scandalized if they knew their imminently proper teacher was also the author of a guidebook encouraging ladies to embrace their independence and overthrow outdated notions of etiquette like the Ruthven Rules.
As Kit rediscovers the life, and the woman, he left behind, Ophelia must choose between the practicalities she never truly believed in, or the love she’s never been able to extinguish.
Before Ophelia could gather her sister and head back to the kitchen, a knock sounded at the front door. Juliet clutched her notebook to her chest and bolted back into the library.
Slipping Guidelines behind her back with one hand, Ophelia grasped the doorknob with the other. She schooled her features into a pleasant expression in case it was Mrs. Raybourn or, heaven forbid, Mr. Raybourn, in need of more reassurance their girls weren’t on the high road to ruin because of the book no one knew she’d written.
When she pulled the door open, all the breath whooshed from her body.
Their visitor wasn’t any member of the Raybourn family.
“You remember me, then?” He grinned as he loomed on the threshold, his shoulders nearly as wide as the frame. Eyes bright and intense, he took her in from head to toe, and then let his gaze settle on her mouth. When he finally looked into her eyes, the cocksure tilt of his grin had softened. She read a wariness in his gaze that matched her own.
She’d spent years trying to forget those dark, deep-set eyes.
“I remember you.” Her book slipped, skidding across her backside and clattering to the floor as her throat tightened on sentiments she’d been waiting years to express. None of them would come. Not a single word. Instead, in outright rebellion, her whole body did its best to melt into a boneless puddle. Gritting her teeth, Phee fought the urge to swoon or, worse, rush into his long, muscled arms.
“I’m relieved to hear it.” He had the audacity to kick his grin into a smile, a rakish slash that cut deep divots into his clean-shaven cheeks. Then he took a step through her door. “I worried that—”
“No.” She lifted a hand to stop him. Looking at the man was difficult enough. Hearing his voice—deeper now but achingly familiar—was too much. If he came closer, she might give in to some rogue impulse. And that wouldn’t do.
That wouldn’t do at all.
Ophelia swallowed hard. She needed a moment to gather her wits. To rebuild her walls.
“You dropped something.” He moved toward her, so close his sleeve brushed hers.
She lowered her hand to avoid touching him and jerked back when he bent to retrieve her book, watching as he turned the volume to read its title.
“Miss Gilroy’s Guidelines for Young Ladies. How intriguing. Looks as though Ruthven Publishing has some competition.”
Seeing him again was worse than she’d imagined. And she had imagined this moment aplenty. Far too many times. Not just on her infrequent jaunts to London but most days since they’d parted. The man had lingered in her thoughts, despite every effort to expel him.
Taking a shaky breath, she braced herself and faced him.
He’d always been tall. When they were children, she’d looked up to him. Literally. But he’d never used his size to bully others. More often he’d born teasing about his physique. Ungainly, his father had called him, and Kit repeated the word when referring to himself.
Now he offered no apologetic hunch in his stance. He didn’t cross his arms to narrow his body. More than embracing his size, he wielded his generous dimensions with a virile grace that made Phee’s mouth water. He stood with his long legs planted wide, shoulders thrown back. His chest was so broad that she itched to touch it.
Stop being a ninny, she chided herself. The most essential observation was that he did not look like a man who’d pined for her. Not a hint of guilt shadowed his gaze.
He thrust his hands behind his back, and the buttons above his waistcoat strained against the fabric on either side, as if the muscles beneath were too sizable to contain. Phee’s gaze riveted to the spot, waiting to see which would win—the pearly buttons or the dove gray fabric. When sense finally wound its way into her boggled mind, she glanced up into gilded brown eyes. He was the winner, judging by the satisfied smirk cresting his mouth.
Kit stood too near, close enough for her to smell his scent. A familiar green, like fresh-cut grass, but mingled now with an aromatic spice. Each breath held his spice scent heightened by the warmth of his body. The heat of him radiated against her chest.
His eyes were too intense, too hungry. He perused her brazenly, studying the hem of her outdated gown before his gaze roved up her legs, paused at her waist, lingered on her bosom, and caught for a moment on her lips. Finally, he met her eyes, and his mouth flicked up in a shameless grin.
She looked anywhere but at his eyes. On his neck, she noted the scar from a childhood adventure in the blackberry briar. Then she got stuck admiring his hair. Apparently his scandalous London lifestyle—if the rumors she’d heard were true—called for allowing his jet black hair to grow long and ripple in careless waves. Strands licked at his neck, curled up near his shoulders.
Time had been truly unfair. The years hadn’t weathered Kit at all. If anything, his features were sharper and more appealing. His Roman nose contrasted with the sensual fullness of his lips and those high Ruthven cheekbones. And his eyes. Gold and amber and chocolate hues chased each other around a pinwheel, all shadowed by enviably thick ebony lashes. One theater reviewer had written of the “power of his penetrating gaze.”
Ophelia only knew he’d once been able to see straight to her heart.
Retreating from his magnetic pull, she dipped her head and stared at his polished black boots, the neatly tailored cuffs of his trousers. Black as pitch, his clothing reminded her why he was here. He’d come to the village to bury his father. He was no doubt as eager to return to London as she was to close her eyes and make the too tempting sight of him disappear. But why had he come to her home?
“My condolences to you and your sisters,” she offered, and almost added Mr. Ruthven. That’s what everyone in the village would call him now, and they would expect him to live up to the name. Just as his father had.
“You didn’t attend the funeral.”
“Would your father have wished me to?” They both knew Kit’s father had never welcomed her presence in his life. She didn’t bother mentioning that Ruthven’s rule book explicitly instructed ladies to avoid funerals.
He shrugged. “I only know what I wished.”
There it was. The heart of all that had passed between them spelled out in six words. Kit had never doubted what he wanted—freedom, fame as a playwright, financial success on his own terms. Unfortunately, she’d never made it high enough on his list.
“Forgive me for missing your father’s funeral. I promise to call on your sisters soon.” Ophelia slid the door toward him, forcing him to retreat as she eased it closed. “Thank you for your visit.”
Pushing his sizable booted foot forward, he wedged it between the door and its frame. “I don’t think we can count this as a visit until you invite me in.”
Publisher and Release Date: AVON Impulse, November 2016
Time and Setting: England, 1894
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Heather C.
Kit and Phee were close friends and very nearly lovers before he left the country life for the siren call of London and the thrilling life of a playwright. During the next four years apart, Kit and Phee both tried to convince themselves that they were not hurt by the decision and could move on, but when the death of Kit’s father brings him back home to settle the estate, the past doesn’t seem so much in the past between these two. Can they get their feelings sorted out and make a go of it again or are they destined to remain apart?
I very much enjoyed Rules for a Rogue and I credit most of that to the fact that the situations that unfolded within the story do not feel contrived, but are instead natural and believable. I wasn’t required to suspend reality for one moment. Kit leaves for the city because he doesn’t fit with his father’s strict regime at home and he wants the thrill of the stage in London, yet he leaves behind his heart. His father’s death is due to a long-standing illness, not some sudden onset, and Kit returns home with the plan to just put his family back together then return to the place he has made his home… that is, until he runs into Phee again. Meanwhile, Phee has a secret; she has penned a guidebook for young ladies that pushes the envelope toward modernity and she doesn’t want her close-minded community to find out that she is the author. Her secret and Kit’s family’s business dealings come together in a way that could bring them closer or set them farther apart and I liked how both Kit and Phee vacillated between the possible outcomes. The author strikes the right balance between the light, comedic moments and the more serious elements that contribute to the believability of the story.
I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. Ms. Carlyle makes each one into a full figure – even the peripheral characters like Kit’s sisters, Phee’s sister and aunt, and their friends. Very quickly each is given a distinct personality that is anything but cookie-cutter. While they might seem to represent tropes (the hard-headed heroine, the rogue, the spinster friend, etc.) there are so many layers here that are peeled back as the story goes on to discover more complexities than previously thought. Even the villainous character isn’t a representation of evil; in Christy Carlyle’s hands he is more of a persistent prig that causes our couple hardship by getting in the way rather than intentionally wreaking havoc. Additionally, I believed in the character’s motives. Both Phee and Kit have been hurt and are trying to protect their hearts, but also make the hard decisions to do what is right by their families, and each other. We also have just enough back-story to fill in the details of their relationship before Kit goes to London to make the reader understand just what they gave up by making that decision.
The romantic element here is spot on. The author did not need to spend lots of time on the build up as these two had been nearly lovers in the past, but did need to give readers something to connect with first. It’s sweet, but necessary and doesn’t feel all that scandalous despite how it would have been perceived by society.
I don’t often pay much attention to quotes that authors sometimes use at the start of each chapter, because they are too oblique for me to pick up on the reference while reading, but that isn’t the case here. The majority of the chapters begin with either an excerpt from one of Ruthven’s Rules or alternatively, Miss Gilroy’s Guidebook for Young Ladies. These two books do play a significant role in the greater story arc and each rule or guideline directly connects to an action taken by either Kit or Phee in that chapter. There is a clear purpose here and I appreciated it.
Overall, I was very satisfied with this story as I just ate up the pages and was left wanting more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there’s nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.