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Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of Lady Drusilla’s Road To Ruin (Ladies In Disgrace #2) by Christine Merrill
Historical Romance published by Harlequin Historical 20 Mar 12

One thing is for sure, whenever I pick up a Christine Merrill Regency, I know I’m not going to get some been-there-done-that retread.  She always has such an interested take on the time period and populates her stories with such interesting characters, that even when I’m not totally enthralled, I still consider the story reading time well spent.  This second book in her Ladies In Disgrace series isn’t without a few bumps in the road, but I inhaled it in two sittings.

Lady Drusilla Rudney is trying to save her bubble-headed younger sister from total ruin.  The stupid chit has eloped to Gretna Green with her smarmy dance instructor!  Luckily they only have a day’s head start on Dru, and the weather is frightfully abominable.  She just might catch up to them yet, assuming she can keep herself from being accosted by the lout sitting next to her on the mail coach.

Coming to her rescue, but only after she literally kicks him in the shin, is former army captain, Mr. John Hendricks.  John was working as a secretary for an Earl, until he made the mistake of falling in love with the man’s wife (who did not return his ardent feelings).  So he does what any sensible love-sick fellow does – he falls into the nearest pint and gets so drunk that he mistakenly boards the wrong coach.  Now that he’s been roped into Lady Drusilla’s mad adventure to get to Gretna Green to stop a marriage, he decides why not?  If he helps the girl out, glowing recommendations from her father (a Duke!) will surely come in handy now that he’s unemployed.  Of course, he didn’t exactly plan on falling in love with the girl…..

There’s quite a bit going on here as far as conflict goes.  Dru wants to avoid scandal, so isn’t about to tell John every sordid detail of why she must get to Gretna Green.  Naturally this leads to a misunderstanding that she’s hoping to stop her true love from marrying another woman.  Then there’s the fact that Dru has spent her entire life playing second fiddle to the favored younger sibling.  Lady Priscilla is fragile, delicate, and the sort of simpering female men seem to fall all over themselves for, while Dru is tall, dark, witty, but with a sharp tongue that tends to put men in their place.  She’s spent her whole life trying to please a father who cannot be pleased, and her entire existence in the family is dictated by what is best for precious snowflake Priscilla.  That any man, anywhere, would be attracted to her over her sister is a revelation.  Never mind that the very man she falls in love with is a mere Mister, and the odds against them getting their happy ending are steep indeed.

The romance isn’t without some issues, though.  For one thing, when he meets Lady Drusilla, John is drunk in response to losing the woman he loves.  Three days with Dru and he’s having a hard time recalling What’s-Her-Name and he fancies himself in love with Dru.  Alrighty then.  Likewise, these two have the sort of courtship that consists of one step forward, two steps back.  They just won’t spit out their true feelings for each other and instead play it safe by pushing each other way.  After a while this sort of thing got a wee bit tiresome.  It also doesn’t necessarily make them the most likeable of characters all the time.

However, that pales in comparison to the secondary characters.  We don’t even meet Dru’s father until the end the story, and I spent the whole novel wanting to throw large, heavy objects at his head.  Or crotch.  Either one would have worked.  And Priscilla?  Good Lord!  She could give Cinderella’s evil step-sisters a run for their money!  And to think the author gives the girl her own romance in the next book in the series!  I’m so conflicted just thinking about that possibility that I’ll have to read it just to satisfy my morbid curiosity.  Hopefully the stupid feather-head suffers….considerably.

This is a bit of a mixed bag for me in the romance department, but the road/travel aspect of the story is really well-done, and the author keeps it lively and fun.  I also adored the ending.  Without giving too much away, the author laid her groundwork in character development and didn’t then throw the baby out with the bath water to make the happy ending…well….happen.  Would it be sunshine and rainbows for such a couple in real Regency times?  Well, certainly, it would have been tough.  But in Romance Novel Land?  I’m glad the Mister got the, admittedly, well-above-his-station girl in the end.

Wendy TSLGrade: B-


Considered a spinster, Lady Drusilla Rudney has only one role in life: to chaperone her sister. So when her flighty sibling elopes, Dru knows she has to stop her! She employs the help of a traveling companion, who looks harmless enough….

Former army captain John Hendricks is intrigued by this damsel in distress. Once embroiled with her in a mad dash across England, he discovers that Dru is no simpering woman. Her unconventional ways make him want to forget his gentlemanly conduct…and create a scandal all their own!

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series: