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 Ms. Cellanie's review:
Sins of a Ruthless Rogue is part two of Anna Randol's three part Sinner's Trio. I read part one because I need to read series from the beginning, but it isn't necessary to do so.
Ten years pre-book, Clayton and Olivia were very young and very in love. He was a clerk in her father's paper mill/printing press. She was a spoiled, rich girl. The two of them snuck around together, left encrypted love letters, etc. Until one day, he discovered that the mill was printing more bank notes than it was reporting. Clayton, with the stupidity that comes from being in love, told Olivia about his discovery before he went to the authorities. Olivia, with the stupidity that comes from being very, very naive, told her father about Clayton's discovery. Olivia's father, not being young, in love, naive, or stupid, got to the authorities first and had Clayton arrested for theft and treason.
Right before he was to hang, Clayton was offered the opportunity to live if he would spy for England. He took it. Olivia's father suffered an apoplexy almost immediately after the above events. She spent the first few years tending to him and ignoring the business. Then, after having it brought to her attention that the mill was the only game in town and that people were depending on its financial health for their financial health, she pulled an Edith Wilson and started running things. At the start of the book, Olivia has worked to get the mill very nearly on the brink of solvency; Clayton's been recently released from the spy department and is finalizing his plan to get revenge on Olivia's father by destroying the mill financially. And that's all in the prologue and first chapter.
To its credit, the book gets moving rather quickly. What looks to be a standard historical romantic comedy plot between Olivia trying to save the mill, Clayton trying to destroy it, and the two of them falling in love while hijinks ensue gets hijacked into historical romantic suspense when Olivia gets kidnapped and taken Russia by revolutionaries ('cause that happens) and Clayton has to go after her. There's running and people (usually Olivia) in peril and disguises and double crosses and fist fights and fire fights and more running. In Russia. In 1818.
Still, it's a really fun read. The plot moves quickly and the plot twists, while appropriately improbable, still do work.
I liked both Olivia and Clayton. She was always smart and always had a sense of humor, but the years of taking care of her father and the mill made Olivia capable and practical. Also, her guilt over sending Clayton to the gallows (or at least thinking that she did) made her more altruistic and aware of others. Clayton has both the physical and emotional scars from having been falsely accused and then spying for ten years. He's uber-competent and used to being in charge, but he does respect her and her abilities. The two of them work well together; they make sense together. I wanted them to have their HEA and was happy when they finally got to that point.
So, why the B?
The emotional obstacle didn't work for me at all.
SPOILER (Highlight text to read): At first, Clayton was angry because she'd (accidentally) sent him to be hanged, and I completely understood that. Death sentences, even unintentional and averted death sentences, are a lot to get over. It takes time to let go of that sort of thing and come around to forgiveness. I was right there while that was the issue.
But then there's a switch and the problem that stands between them is that she faked her dad's health and used whatever funds she could find, including what may have been the counterfeit bank notes, to pay the bills. Apparently, her giving orders to keep the mill running in her dad's name is somehow a deep betrayal to Clayton (even though she thought he was dead) and a horrible, evil thing to do. At one point, she's been kidnapped again, her kidnapper is having a man tortured in the next room, which she knows because she can hear the screams, and the kidnapper says that the two of them are the same, because they both do bad things for the greater good, and she agrees with him. She calls herself equally vile! Because torture and receipt of possibly counterfeit money – same thing! And everyone in the book agrees, including the side characters who find out, and especially Clayton (who also somehow equates Olivia's pretending about her father to his mother's not being wired for monogamy).
It just didn't make any sense to me. To me, these things are wildly different in kind and degree. I couldn't understand why everyone thought her act was such a grievous sin, or Clayton was taking it personally, or why it was getting between them, or why she needed to apologize to Clayton. It really didn't make sense to me why a spy (who trades in everything from half truths to outright falsehoods) would have such a huge issue with such minor, victimless deception. It was a pretty big part of the character motivations and it just confused me and took me out of the story.
Still, even with that exception, I did mostly like the story. It's a perfectly decent book, the writing and dialogue are solid, and I liked the characters. I did end up finishing and enjoying the series and I'd like to see more of this author.