Author: Bronwyn Stuart
The Road To Ruin is the first print book by local Adelaide hills author Bronwyn Stuart, with her new publisher Harlequin. I was fortunate to attend the launch of the book at Dymocks in Rundle Mall, and meet many other fabulous authors, the feeling I came away from the launch with is that this is only the beginning for Bronwyn Stuart and we will be seeing more from her.
Historical romance is generally not my genre but Beauty and Lace has certainly broadened my reading horizons and I’m game to give pretty much anything a go these days. I am beginning to cultivate an affection for well written historical romance that isn’t too heavy going to read.
The Road To Ruin is a historical novel set not in the ton, as is usually the case, but largely on the road though under the rules of the ton as much as is possible.
Our heroine is a feisty young thing whose ladylike mannerisms are, well not quite what they should be for a lady of class. Daniella was raised on the decks of her father’s pirate ship and after being unceremoniously parked on her brothers doorstep to join society she has done all she can to try and gain his attention.
Daniella was raised with adventure and a modicum of freedom on board the Aurora without the constraints of the ton but the decks of a pirate ship, or a merchant ship as Daniella is quick to defend, with a crew of men is no place for a woman. She finds living in London with her brother frightfully tedious and stages many a scandal trying to capture the attention of her father and have him come rescue her.
Instead it is her coachman who comes to her rescue, just as she is about to sell her virginity to the highest bidder, after just buying herself 12 pure young virgins to move along the proceedings. Soon after she finds herself kidnapped and held hostage by said coachman and so begins the story of no-one being quite what they seem.
Daniella is fiesty and loves her freedom, the constraints of London society stifle her until she fears she may die of the boredom and even if one of the insipid gentlemen her brother tries to marry her off to were to agree she knows she could never be content in the role of docile wife. It seems that won’t ever be a problem because none of London’s gentlemen think she is marrriagable material.
She is quite handy to James Trelissick, Marquis of Lasterton, though. He plans to use her as bait, or a bargaining chip, to get something dear to his heart back from Daniella’s father the pirate captain.
Trelissick is a Marquis by necessity but before being called back to take the title he was in the army and he did some terrible deeds, earning him the nickname Butcher. There are two very distinct sides to Trelissick and Daniella comes to know them both. What begins as a kidnapping evolves into two stubborn people working together towards a shared destination, if slightly different goals.
Stuart has written an engaging tale filled with fiesty one liners and a very strong willed heroine who is incapable of allowing a man to control her, only allowing him to think that he can.
The characters are vividly drawn and written beautifully nuanced, there are aspects of many different personality types in each of them. Their public personas are quite different from who they really are and when it all comes together in the end it is quite entertaining to reflect on their journey.
Daniella has spent her entire time in London trying to create a scandal large enough to bring her father out of retirement to retrieve her and yet they are still very careful of her reputation in their cross country trek to call out Captain Germaine.
The cross country journey gives both Trelissick and Daniella many opportunities to reflect on all of the things they always thought were of utmost importance and start to rethink their priorities.
It is hard for me to even imagine how one would adjust to becoming a lady of society with all the correct mannerisms, answers, and temperament in company after years on the deck of a pirate ship, surrounded only by men and able to wear pants.
There are some steamy scenes that bring the Mills & Boon bodice rippers to mind, and even typing that the images that come to mind are all covers featuring ship decks, though there is definitely more sexual tension and anticipation. But what stands out the most is the ahead of her time heroine determined to have the life she wants, the one she is sure she was bred for with a childhood on the sea. She is intelligent, she can hold her own with any man, she is a beauty not overly caught up in the showcasing of said beauty and she is not afraid to speak her mind. I love her.
Thank you Bronwyn for an entertaining, engaging and lusty read, I look forward to the next one.