Possibility and Improbability in A GOOD DEBUTANTE’S GUIDE TO RUIN



A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin Cover The Debutante Files
by Sophie Jordan
Harper Collins/Avon Romance  On Sale: 07/29/2014
Paperback/e-book  Pages: 384
Book provided by Publisher for reviewing purposes.  No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein are my own.

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.

In a shadowed alcove, Declan can’t resist the masked temptress who sets his blood afire . . . any more than Rosalie can deny her longing for a man who will send her into ruin.  HarperCollins



square "my take"This book manages to make a totally outlandish romantic fantasy  fun, and very sexy even though it still feels highly improbable.

An innocent young woman, essentially raised at a remote boarding school, arrives to her step-brother’s home. He’s a duke who despises his step-mother and hardly remembers his step-sister. He is aware enough of his duty to take care of her as far as required.  Rosalie is convinced to go to a sex-club frequented by the elite with all kinds of sexual activity. Of course Declan, her step-brother is also a member.  It’s not a bordello, although it’s fairly clear some of the women are professionals, it is a sex club in the line of Plato’s Retreat, or something in a BDSM novel but without the prevalence of B, D, S or M.

It’s  totally improbable, right? No, no I guess it is not improbable that there was such a club, in fact it appears there were and possibly continue to be a lot of such clubs in London according to 2009 article I found on Slate:

A flood of wealth from the budding empire allowed the leisured classes to fulfill their carnal fantasies without restraint. And perhaps the most striking feature of the age was the explosion of British sex clubs, where a colorful array of rakes, libertines, courtesans, and aristocratic adventuresses dressed up in outrageous outfits for kinky ceremonies. Each club accumulated its own peculiar regalia, such as erotic drinking vessels, sleazy curios, and obscene ballot boxes modeled on human torsos (yay or nay votes going into respective orifices). There would be ribald toasts, poring over the latest dirty books, and visits from comely young “posture molls,” who posed nude on tables and gyrated like modern lap dancers. Special rooms were provided so members could retire in pairs or groups, and ladies of fashion could unwind with handsome rent boys.
….And academics argue that the clubbers were more than upper-class twits; they were motivated by a philosophical yearning and were essential for promoting the Enlightenment ideal that sex was for pleasure, not just for procreation.
www.slate.com/ 2009, Well Traveled : Hell-fire Holidays — Secrets of the Great British Sex Clubs


Apparently, the concept of enlightenment did not extend to a woman one would wish to marry who  should be an inexperienced virgin. And, that’s where it becomes unlikely — Rosalie was raised in a boarding school without the influence of her wayward, neglectful, and downright skanky absentee mother. She hardly knows what sex is, but with a little urging is convinced to attend a club of this sort.

Such is the stuff of the romance novel, right? The improbable meets the unlikely and the result is many orgasms and either non-discovery or ruination. This story rides that knife edge between historical possibility and probability. The Duke may certainly have frequented any number of sex clubs, but would Rosalie have been persuaded to attend one?

Another aspect of this tale is the rags to riches, schoolgirl to duchess, virgin to siren story. Rosalie arrives in a threadbare cloak and leaves for balls in ermine-lined capes.  This Cinderella trope is also found in a lot of romances if for no other reason than a poor gentlewoman would never be able to live alone or make her own living. In fact Rosalie wouldn’t have any idea where to begin. And, in an instance of having such a dissipated parent as Rosalie’s errant mother would have had no other recourse than governess or companion. Her mother’s reputation wouldn’t have made her a good candidate for companion or chaperone in a romance novel.

We do get a good idea of Rosalie’s headstrong character; with the sad potential of a girl with a reasonable intelligence, in a period of gender-based limitations in a situation wherein her finances are non-existent, and who begins the story, however improbably, comparing all men to the man she has not seen in many years even as the head mistress of the school she has attended drops her on his doorstep. The flaw of being intelligent and yet over her head culturally, puts her at odds with the preferred standard of the time: docile, blonde, virginal. So she is a fairly complex character most women can identify with as few of us would meet all the characteristics of the ideal woman of the time (cough, civil rights, cough).

The Duke on the other hand is somewhat typical. He’s been wronged, he’s entitled (literally) and he’s never been able to redress his wrongs. So while he is duty driven to help his step-sister, he is not motivated to be kind to her, and he lives life outlandishly.  The two women for whom he has a soft spot are his aunt and cousin; his friends fall into that strange male world of jovial familiarity that is neither affection nor animosity.

The hook ups between the resulting couple are vanilla but scorchingly hot in their passionate drawing together of two characters with history as well as the risk of being caught and the potential societal disapproval of their semi-unseemly match. I was definitely caught up in the tension of the hate triangle between Declan, Rosalie and Melisande, Rosalie’s mother. I was most assuredly worried about what would happen when Melisande and her lover stick their noses into Rosalie’s business.

If you don’t mind the sort of silly premise of two innocent debs sneaking out to a sex club in the middle of the night and not being recognized when they run into relatives, then it’s worth it for the sexy scenes, and magnetic attraction,  and because you’ll be rooting for the couple against her creepy mother and her icky boyfriend.

This one is hotter than the sand on a summer beach!

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