The Unapologetic Romance Readers group picked this as one of two buddy reads for June, the other being Mariana Zapata's Kulti, which I'll also be reading. Kulti is a contemporary romance, so Ruined by Rumor was chosen to be the historical counterpart. The story follows Roxana, who is jilted by her fiance of five years just months before her wedding and weeks after the formal announcement of their engagement to the whole county. To make matters worse, on the same night she finds her reputation utterly ruined when, in her emotional distress, she cries on and ends up kissing her older brother's friend, Alex, and is seen. Alex, who has been pining for Roxana for half a decade, convinces her to marry him to save her reputation, and besides, she'll become a countess into the bargain. Roxana agrees to this "marriage of convenience" and while she finds that she enjoys the physical aspects of this, she doubts her emotional investment in the relationship. Meanwhile, Alex is thrilled at being married to Roxana but is so terribly awkward that he doesn't really know how to convey it, and when George keeps showing up, he gains some doubts of his own...
Alex was adorable, and definitely the high point of this book. He really loved Roxana, from the very beginning, and while he was so happy to marry her and save her from complete social ruination, he could tell she wasn't really into it and was trying so hard to not make things awkward for her. He's not really a dominant personality, which means that the actual interactions between he and Roxana are...again, awkward. And kind of few and far between, because he's trying so hard to stay out of her way. He does have a bit of a dominant streak, when his temper flares up, and honestly I found those parts far more interesting to me. I like sweet, but sweet all the time gets a little bland, you know?
Roxana, on the other hand, was just bland all over. She was so fixated on George that she was very reluctant to even working on her marriage, and she made some stupid decisions about George and Alex that really came back to bite her even though I couldn't see her logic. Why keep it a secret? Nothing happened. Beyond that, her total resistance to the very concept of being in love with Alex was kind of frustrating. I understand that she believed herself to have been in love with George very recently, but come on. Because of Roxana's resistance and because she's the primary POV character in the book--there are parts with Alex as the focus, but not as many--it means that the romance doesn't come across as, well...romantic. It's basically as bland as Roxana is. While there are a few good kisses, I didn't really see the whole "falling in love" aspect throughout this book like I would have preferred.
That said, I'd be interested in reading more from Alyssa Everett. I think my issues with this came largely from the dynamic between the characters, particularly Roxana, rather than from the writing itself. I'm not sure how many other book she's written, but I might look in the future if I find myself craving some period romance.
2.5 stars out of 5; a pretty "meh" book overall.