Revenge Wears Rubies
by Renee Bernard
(Berkley, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-0425-23337-5
***
Here is a new series of stories that feels similar to others I have read…a group of nobles were in another country (in this case India) where they were subjected to horrors that bonded them together (in this case, they were captured by a sahib and tortured).  As they made their escape they found some gems and other treasure.  They took some of it, thus ensuring that there would be danger in their lives.  Now they have returned to England and are trying to get back to those lives. There are a lot of different personalities, from the rake to the philosopher to the quiet enigma; they call themselves the Jaded.  Revenge Wears Rubies is well done, but didn’t completely work. 

Galen Hawke is a second son who went to India as a favor to his older brother. He survived the torture and found real friendship with these men. Sadly, the one he grew closest to was John Everly, a man who talked of his sweetheart and entertained the men with tales of their romance.  He died during the escape, too weak to make it to freedom.  Galen promised him he would look after his love, a young lady named Haley Moreland.

Galen becomes a bit of a recluse upon his return. He does send word of John’s death, but really does nothing else. He has trouble sleeping and of course, hates dark places since much of their captivity was spent in cells. Galen is roused from his melancholy when he reads that one Miss Haley Moreland is engaged to marry an industrialist. Since it has only been eight months since John’s death, he becomes incensed at how little regard she apparently had for John. He sets on a path to court her, and then expose her for the uncaring, money-grubbing woman he is certain she is.

In actuality, Haley is a sweet woman who has had to grow up much faster than her years would indicate. Her mother died when she was young, pushing her father into drunken stupors, depression and acts that put all of them at risk financially. Haley had to learn how to balance their needs and ensure food on the table. Their home, which is entailed, was stripped of belongings. Many times, all Haley’s father can talk of is his loss and how much he loved his wife. While one part of Haley yearns for love and romance, she has resigned herself to duty and marrying for survival. Her fiancé is Herbert Trumble, a rather bumbling industrialist, who sees Haley as a means to help him be accepted into society and one who can help him maneuver without making major mistakes. He pays for their house in London, offering her credit accounts to gain what she needs to present herself.  He pays some of her father’s debts and enters into the arrangement knowing their circumstances. But there is no love. Haley has convinced herself that she will grow to feelings of fondness once they marry.

Galen, a very handsome and charming man when he wants to be, sets out to charm her and ingratiates himself with Herbert and her aunt, who is serving as her chaperone. He opens doors for them socially, making Herbert think he is out for friendship. He throws Haley completely off balance with his steamy looks and stolen kisses, and his insinuations that she could do better for herself. The naïve girl in her falls for Galen. She is enraptured and rarely can keep her head when confronted with his sexuality and his offers of romance. She is even partially encouraged to explore her feelings by her aunt, who sees the blooming attraction and hopes that her niece can find love.

I struggled with this on many parts. First, when Haley decides to fall for Galen, she goes to his house and they end up in bed. They continue to meet and there are many torrid love scenes. Yet she, who prides herself on her practical nature, completely acts the wanton and buys all the stupid things Galen says about why they have to wait to show the world they love each other.  Meanwhile, Galen is falling for her and has twinges of conscience about his plan. Yet he doesn’t listen to his friends when they offer words of warning nor does he ever seek to learn the truth about John’s relationship with Haley. I found that discomfiting. Finally, the danger plot is thrown in and at times, seems very sinister. But it is really just a set up for the series. While there is a climactic scene where the two must work together to survive, it seemed forced. I never fully understood the danger or the reason.

Having said that, I liked Haley most of the time and ultimately, I liked Galen. He spoke of revenge, but his innate gentlemanliness never allowed him to fully expose her. I was intrigued by several of the other members of the Jaded, and will be curious to see when Bernard takes this series.  It could be intriguing and set some new standards, or it might just be a rehashing of tales done better in other stories. The jury is still out based on Revenge Wears Rubies

--Shirley Lyons


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