While the Duke Was Sleeping (Rogue Files #1) by Sophie Jordan (audiobook) – Narrated by Carmen Rose

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Sometimes the man of your dreams . . .

Shop girl Poppy Fairchurch knows it’s pointless fantasizing about the Duke of Autenberry. Still, dreams can’t hurt anyone . . . unlike the carriage Poppy spies bearing down upon the unsuspecting duke. After she pulls him to safety, the duke lapses into a coma and Poppy is mistaken for his fiancée. But one person isn’t fooled: his arrogant and much too handsome half-brother, Struan Mackenzie. Soon Poppy isn’t sure what she wants more . . . the fantasy of her duke or the reality of one smoldering Scot who challenges her at every turn.

. . . is not who you think.

An illegitimate second son, Struan may have built an empire and established himself as one of the wealthiest men in Britain, but he knows he will always be an outsider among the ton. Just like he knows the infuriating Poppy is a liar. There’s no way the haughty Duke of Autenberry would deign to wed a working class girl. It doesn’t matter how charming she is. Or tempting. Or how much Struan wants her for himself.

Rating: Narration – C+; Content – C+

How much you enjoy the storyline of While the Duke Was Sleeping (the first in Sophie Jordan’s new series, The Rogue Files) may well depend on how familiar you are with the plot of the 1995 Rom Com, While You Were Sleeping and whether or not you enjoyed it. Adapting a plot from a well-known source can be a double-edged sword, as fans of the original are bound to make comparisons, although some such retellings have worked extremely well. Clueless, for example, is a brilliant re-working of Jane Austen’s Emma,successfully translating the action of the novel to Beverly Hills while keeping very much to the spirit of the original. And Sophie Jordan’s isn’t the only Historical-Romance-Rom-Com-Makeover currently doing the rounds; Maya Rodale’s current series, Keeping Up with the Cavendishes also uses famous films as the inspiration for its plotlines, having so far mined Bridget Jones’ Diary and Roman Holiday.

Coming back to While the Duke… now I’ve listened to it, I think anyone considering it would be best off NOT thinking about the original movie while listening. In fact, the only real similarity between the two is the premise; in the film, lonely Lucy falls for the gorgeous guy she sees every day from her booth at the train station and after she saves his life, a mix up leads his warm, loving and wonderfully scatty family to believe she is his fiancée. In the book, shop-girl Poppy Fairchurch worships the handsome Duke of Autenberry from afar, eagerly awaiting his weekly visit to the flower shop where she works. When he becomes involved in an altercation with another man in the street and is knocked into the path of an oncoming carriage, Poppy pulls him to safety, and is afterwards mistaken for the duke’s fiancée.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

All The Ways to Ruin a Rogue by Sophie Jordan (audiobook) – Narrated by Carmen Rose

all the ways to ruin audio

First friends, then enemies…

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.

Now something more…

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. Mocking 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.

Rating: C for narration; B- for content

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue is the follow-up to Sophie Jordan’s A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin, and having really enjoyed the sexually-charged interactions between two of the secondary characters (one, the heroine’s friend, and the other a childhood friend of the hero), I was looking forward to their story with great anticipation. I rather like the enemies-to-lovers trope, and while I do have some quibbles with this particular book, if you’re looking for a story about a couple whose pointed and sometimes cruel barbs barely conceal the fact that they’re dying to rip each other’s clothes off, then it’s definitely worth looking at in print. In audio, however, I confess to being very disappointed.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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

all the ways to ruin a rogue

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.

Rating: B-

This is one of those books I almost hesitate to confess I enjoyed! The storyline is unoriginal, and the hero, while as manly and gorgeous as any other to be found in the genre, acts like such a prick at times that I wanted to smack his manly, gorgeous face! But what saved All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue from being consigned to the realms of the unreadable is the fact that the chemistry between the two protagonists is so strong and vividly evoked that I couldn’t stop reading in spite of those criticisms.

Max, Viscount Camden, and his best friend’s sister Aurelia, appeared in the previous book (A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin) and whenever they were together, the sparks didn’t just fly, they hurled themselves into the inky abyss from a great height! As a result, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their book, as I was looking forward to more of the same; these two made no bones about their mutual dislike, even as the heat between them threatened to melt my Kindle.

Max is your typical “I’m never going to fall in love because love hurts” type of hero, who shags his way around the ladies of the ton, never spending more than a night or two with any of them and certainly not letting any woman get emotionally close. The loss of his family in tragic circumstances at an early age is what set him on that particular path – and was also the reason for his being practically brought up in the household of the Earl of Moreton, becoming as much of a son to the earl and countess as their own son, Will.

Will’s sister Aurelia is, at twenty-three, dangerously close to being on the shelf. As a child, she’d tagged along with her brother and his friends, and Max had always been kind to her. She’s loved him since she was nine years-old, and has been eagerly anticipating the time when he would look upon her as something more than his friend’s rag-taggle sister. That time comes when she is fifteen – but her hopes are cruelly dashed when she inadvertently stumbles across the eighteen-year-old Max “trysting” with a housemaid. She pours her adolescent hurt and rage into a cruel caricature which depicts Max as a horned satyr with miniscule endowments – and while she hadn’t intended it, it is seen by some of his cronies, who instantly nickname him “Cockless Camden”.

Max promptly responds by shagging everything in a skirt that crosses his path, and ever since then, it’s been a not-so “merry war” between him and Aurelia, their childhood friendship replaced by an implacable enmity.

When Will – now the Earl of Moreton – announces that he and his wife are expecting their first child, Aurelia’s life is turned upside down. Since their father’s death, she and her mother have resided with Will and Violet, largely because, due to the late earl’s profligacy, there is nowhere else for them to go. But both Aurelia and her mother know that it would be unfair of them to continue to live there as the young couple starts their own family, and soon, Aurelia has a stark choice to make. Her mother decides to go to live with her sister in Scotland –and Aurelia can either go with her at the end of the season, or find herself a husband. She has not been all that interested in matrimony before, and given that she has no dowry, it’s not as though she has a queue of suitors. She is determined, however, and starts her campaign to find a spouse in earnest – much to Max’s irritation.

The reasons behind Max’s annoyance are obvious to everyone except him and Aurelia, and naturally, as far as he’s concerned, nobody is good enough for her. When, after another flaming row, Max kisses the hell out of her, Aurelia has to admit to herself that nothing has really changed for her since she was nine, and that whoever she chooses, if she can’t have Max, she’ll be settling for second best. But Max still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge why the thought of Aurelia with another man so enrages him even as his desire for her is becoming more and more difficult to control.

One of the things Sophie Jordan does incredibly well is to create absolutely scorching sexual tension between her protagonists, and there’s no doubt that Max and Aurelia are dynamite together. But Max is a problematic hero, because he really does say some horrible things to Aurelia at times and doesn’t seem to have much of an understanding of her situation or be all that interested in making amends. He does show himself to have a more sensitive side on occasion, but then he reverts to form and does something horrible again. Of course, he does eventually redeem himself and own up to being an idiot, but it happens at the eleventh hour and his turnabout is so fast that it’s of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. The ending, too, is somewhat contrived, and also feels rushed.

So, yes, I enjoyed All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue in spite of its flaws, none of which were sufficiently terrible as to force me to stop reading. If you’re looking for a responsible, sensitive hero who proves himself worthy of the love of the heroine over the course of a deep and meaningful story, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you don’t mind the well-used enemies-to-lovers plot and the similarly overly-used neuroses of the hero, and enjoy a hero and heroine who can rip each other to shreds and then rip each other’s clothes off with hot, steamy abandon, this might be worth a few hours of your time.

A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin by Sophie Jordan (audiobook) – Narrated by Carmen Rose

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The last woman on earth he would ever touch…

Declan, the Duke of Banbury, has no interest in ushering Rosalie Hughes, his stepsister, into society. Dumped on him with nowhere else to go, he’s determined to rid himself of the headstrong debutante by bestowing on her an obscenely large dowry, making her the most sought after heiress of the Season.

…is about to become the only one he wants.

But Rosalie isn’t about to go along with Declan’s plans. Surrounded by fortune hunters, how is she supposed to find a man who truly wants her? Taking control of her fate, Rosalie dons a disguise and sneaks into Sodom, a private club host to all manner of illicit activity – and frequented by her infuriatingly handsome stepbrother.

Rating: B- for narration; B for content

A Good Débutante’s Guide to Ruin is the first in a new series from Sophie Jordan, and if you can get past the rather daft idea of two innocent, well-bred young ladies sneaking out to a sex club, being provided with suitably skimpy clothing by the owner/madam, and not being recognized by the male relatives they encounter there, it’s an enjoyable story which boasts plenty of sizzling chemistry between the two leads.

Twenty-year-old Rosalie Hughes completed her education at a Yorkshire school two years earlier, but her mother has ignored all the polite reminders to come collect her daughter. Rosalie’s only other family is the step-brother she hasn’t seen for over a decade. Declan, now the Duke of Banbury, was fifteen when his father threw him out of the family home. He is not best pleased at finding a young woman he hardly knows on his doorstep, but he is at heart a gentleman and allows her to stay, calling on his aunt to move in and act as chaperone.

Rosalie is relieved at the fact he doesn’t turn her out, but rather bewildered by his coldness and thinly veiled hostility towards her. It’s clear that she worshipped him as a child and continues to carry a torch for him. But for Declan, Rosalie only dredges up painful memories of her mother Mélisande , who caused his rift with his father and whose lies and deceit have coloured his attitude towards women ever since. All he wants to do is get rid of Rosalie so he can return to his normal round of drinking, gaming and whoring.

Declan decides that the best way to be rid of Rosalie is to marry her off, so he lets it be known that he has settled a large dowry upon her. Rosalie isn’t against marriage, and, trying to set aside her childish fancy for Declan, knows the best she can hope for is to be able to find a kind and considerate husband. But before she settles, she wants to live a little, so when Declan’s cousin Aurelia suggests they slip out and pay a visit to Sodom, the notorious sex club frequented by the young men of the ton, Rosalie agrees. On the appointed night, skimpily gowned and heavily masked, the girls are escorted through the club by its mysterious lady owner, and get an eyeful of various amorous encounters (!). While Aurelia is quite happy to hang around and watch, Rosalie decides that what she’d like is to be kissed for the first time, and by someone who knows what he’s doing.

The identity of the selected orally experienced paragon will come as no surprise.

Rosalie is intelligent, kind, and unafraid to speak up for herself, without being stupidly feisty or independent to the point of being TSTL. Declan is a prize arse at the beginning of the book – cold, unpleasant, haughty and doggedly determined to persist in his dislike of Rosalie because of who her mother is. But in the weeks they spend under the same roof, he begins to remember what he used to love about the young woman he once nicknamed “Carrots” – and then, to his dismay, he begins to realize he’s starting to feel more than “like” for the young woman she is now. Declan can’t get the masked, lithe-limbed beauty he’d kissed at Sodom out of his mind, but his fascination with her does not quench his growing desire for Rosalie. But just as he learns to separate his animosity for Mélisande from his feelings towards her daughter, a massive spanner is thrown into the works: the woman herself reappears, out to get her hands on Rosalie’s dowry by fair means or foul.

I enjoyed the story, although there were points at which I had to suspend my credulity just a little bit too much. I also struggled to find an emotional connection between the pair that was matched their desire for each other. Rosalie has clearly been nursing a tendre for Declan for years, but he’s not given her a second thought – so his sudden, overwhelming lust for her comes as a bit of a surprise. Much more satisfying in terms of the storytelling is the way in which Ms Jordan hints at the reasons for Declan’s hatred of Mélisande, and then doesn’t delay the big reveal or allow those reasons to come between him and Rosalie.

Still, the chemistry between the couple is scorching. All credit to Carmen Rose for her portrayal of Declan in the love scenes: he’s a deliciously naughty, take-charge kind of guy, and she has a way of injecting an element of sternness into her delivery that expertly conveys his dominant personality which is quite sexy and very appropriate.

Her naturally low-pitched voice enables her to portray Declan convincingly by giving an added resonance and harder edge to her tone. She portrays Rosalie using an attractively husky timbre and a slight northern accent. Her performance of Mélisande is excellent – the woman is a self-centred bitch beneath a beautiful façade – and Ms Rose expertly captures the calculating menace beneath the veneer.

I generally enjoy Carmen Rose’s narrations, and this is no exception, although minor issues I’ve mentioned in other reviews (her tendency to breathe in odd places or to emphasise the wrong word in a phrase) are still present. There’s one glaring mispronunciation that occurs throughout: Rosalie’s school “Harwich” is pronounced “Harrich,” NOT “Har-Witch.” Still, the strength of Ms Rose’s characterisations and her differentiation are good enough that these become minor concerns which did not detract from my enjoyment overall.

Taken as a whole, A Good Débutante’s Guide to Ruin is an enjoyable audiobook. The story is entertaining, well-told and well-performed, and I will definitely be looking out for future instalments in the series.