Revenge never tasted so sweet…
When Clayton Campbell shows up on her doorstep, Olivia Swift is stunned. For long ago, Clayton was the boy who stole her heart. He’s also the man her betrayal had sent to the gallows. A man she believed dead, now standing before her, looking leaner, harder, more powerful than ever, his haunted eyes filled with a lust she had never seen—for vengeance…
Or burned so hot…
He’s a Crown spy who once faced death and escaped unscathed. Yet Clayton Campbell cannot deny that the sight of Olivia rouses in him something more than a thirst for revenge. Or that the bold beauty would lure him once more into a dangerous game. Only this time, Clayton plans to be the victor—with the tempting Olivia in his bed as his prize. But once passion ignites between them, the hard-hearted agent will face his greatest battle yet—for his heart…
And here is Laura L.'s review:
His name is Campbell, Clayton Campbell. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound as sexy as Bond, James Bond, but our hero is a spy, a quick-thinking 007 type of spy who has recently ended his service to the Crown. And the former Cipher, Clayton, is back in his hometown, seeking vengeance in Sins of a Ruthless Rogue, second in Anna Randol’s Sinners trilogy.
The prologue opens in 1807 with Clayton Campbell confronting Olivia Swift, his boss’ daughter, with his suspicions about the Swift Mill making more banknote paper for the Bank of England than is needed to print its banknotes. Clayton is a clerk in the Swift Mill’s office and wants to do the right thing after finding some extra banknotes in the office. To complicate matters, Clayton and Olivia are young lovers and she has promised him a special present for his birthday in the next week. Clayton ends up taking the fall for Mr. Swift, and the young lovers are separated as Clayton is sent to the gallows for committing treason.
In chapter one, it is 1817 and Olivia is struggling to keep the mill and town afloat. On a day when much is going wrong, Olivia deals with one more surprise.
… she pasted a bright smile on her face. Looming disaster or no, she couldn’t afford to offend potential customers. Her eyes slid up a gray waistcoat, across a surprisingly broad chest, and fixed on a set of piercing blue eyes.
Eyes that belonged to a dead man.
Clayton Campbell is back to get even with the owners of Swift Mill and the adventure begins, which includes a promise of service to the Crown instead of death, a kidnapping, the mistaken identity of Olivia for an English spy named La Petit, Russian thugs, a trip across the Bering Sea to Russia, an evening in a glittering Russian ballroom, dungeons, a party with the Czar’s family, yes, the adventures go on, at Bond movie speed. This is all against the backdrop of a frigid winter with descriptions that take the reader to pre-Revolutionary Russia with its closed sleighs, knee deep snow and the contrasts between the serfs and their masters. And, within all this, Clayton and Olivia struggle with the feelings they have for each other, and sexual tension builds through the story.
For a brief moment, his gaze slid from her face and across the display of bosom visible above the cups of her stays.
Her skin heated as if he caressed it.
Clayton had just walked in at an inopportune moment with fresh bandages for wounds Olivia received during her voyage…
However, there are sins and secrets to be revealed and royalty to save. The secondary characters, including said royalty, are well drawn and contribute to the adventure and the story. Princess Kate, an adventuress in her own right, offers aid to Clayton and Olivia and houses them in a castle full of revolutionaries. The Wraith, Ian, one of Clayton’s former partners, makes an appearance and helps save the day while eating his way through St. Petersburg. A peasant named Blin swears to protect Olivia and endears himself through the story. Finally, there is Golov, the cadaverous Russian minister of police. He and Clayton the spy have been adversaries in the past, but they are more alike than they thought.
“Freedom. Justice. Equality!”
“I hate when they get like this,” Golov said.
Had he just shared a look of commiseration with Golov? Clayton shuddered.
But most of all, we see how Olivia and Clayton have grown since their teens.
… she’d come up with the daft notion to worry about him. She wiped the dust from his gloves with the tips of her fingers.
Hell, but he’d missed her all these years. Why not be honest with himself now? He didn’t want to lose her again.
Olivia is no longer the self-involved girl who demanded seat covers in the family coach changed to match her dress. She has learned to care and is working hard to save her mill town. And Clayton, who suffered heinous wounds and torture during his time as a spy, and has a problem with trust, holds the papers to save that mill town. In the end, everything works out in a satisfying way, with sins and secrets forgiven and trust built.
I had some problems with suspending my disbelief with a few elements of the story, which prompted me to give a B+ grade. For example, Olivia showed some mad spying/espionage skills which were worthy of a Bond girl of the 21st century, but maybe not a 19th century paper mill owner’s daughter. Clayton had been in England a number of times over the previous ten years and I had a hard time buying that he was not sighted, as it seems Olivia spent quite a bit of time in London during their ten year separation. Of course, she thought he was dead.
One of my favorite things: The word “ensure” was properly used a number of times in this story. (A personal tic of mine.)
Sins of A Ruthless Rogue had triple catnip for me with a second chances story, a hurting hero, and its Regency period setting. That James Bond element and the fast pacing really added to the story. I enjoyed seeing Olivia and Clayton reconnecting and going back to their old ways which brought the love they forged in their childhood together full circle. Olivia and Clayton’s story is a standalone book and tempts me to read the rest of the Sinners trilogy.