Revealing Ruby by Lavinia Kent is a novella set in the same universe as her marvelous erotic novel Mastering the Marquess. Madame Rouge or Ruby obviously knows how to play the game of running a discrete brothel, but her actions with Louisa in Mastering the Marquess revealed the heart beneath the procuress’ jewel like exterior. This novella allows readers to peak behind Ruby’s well-crafted persona to see the woman who knows most of London’s deepest secrets.
The timeline of Revealing Ruby is slightly before the events of Mastering the Marquess if I interpreted the little hints correctly. Ruby cares for her girls and skillfully manages her clients, but when an American sailor enters her life Ruby remembers she hasn’t indulged in intimacy with anyone for a long time. Captain Derek Price just wants one of Ruby’s girls to come to his ship to cheer up his first mate, who lost a foot in a terrible on board accident, but he never thinks that dealing with the luscious madame will send his mind elsewhere. Each of them has strong reasons why they shouldn’t give in to the sexual heat between them, but surely just one night can’t hurt…
Kent moves away from the world of BDSM for a deliciously vanilla adult romp in this novella. Ruby’s establishment may cater to all tastes, but she’s a simple girl who just enjoys sex that feels good. Again the story hinges on consent and while Derek clearly lusts after Ruby, she is in control of the nature of their encounter. The power ebbs and flows between them throughout the course of the novella, but our hero shows how to respect a woman even while wanting to do (and doing) naughty, explicit things to her body. Kent clearly recognizes that men respecting women is one of the most erotic things to include in a story, and I applaud the inclusion.
Despite being a short piece Ruby and Derek are both developed enough to feel like three dimensional characters. Of course, having read Mastering the Marquess I had prior knowledge of the heroine, but Derek’s imposing physique and intense masculinity is balanced with concern for his shipmate, his family, and ultimately Ruby. I initially rolled my eyes a little at the description of Derek’s tattoo; there was no reason for an American to have that type of inking without more explanation (it’s a type specific to one region of the world, which is not the US). Rather than brushing it aside Kent provides one later in the novella, which made my heart sing! The author’s respect for the readers showed in her attention to detail and not expecting us to gloss over important details (the tattoo plays a large role in the latter half of the story!).
My only slight complaint is that Derek and Ruby do not get a typical happy ending at the close of their tale. Admittedly, I didn’t really expect one given Ruby’s occupation and Derek’s personal obligations, but I wanted magic for the two of them. However, things feel open-ended enough that there may be more stories about this pair. What they want and what they need just need to be reconciled a little to bring them back into each other’s orbit.
4.5 Delightfully Sheer Chemises out of 5