Review of RUTHLESS by Anne Stuart (see her website)
Mira, August 2010
Elinor Harriman doesn't expect much out of life. So long as she can keep her insane mother from destroying the family and help her beautiful younger sister find an acceptable marriage, she is willing to accept whatever fate deals her. Still, learning that her father's estate is entailed and that she gets nothing, and then having her mother escape to an infamous den of iniquity where she loses the last of the famiy jewelry pushes her calm past its limits. Vicount Rohan lost his innocence and his English title on the battlefield of Culloden and has taken up a life of dissapation, leading the "Heavenly Host" in sexual and heretical pleasures. When Elinor arrives at his chateau demanding her mother, he sees an opportunity for some pleasure. Still, there is something about Elinor that confuses him--he hasn't been this intrigued by a woman for years.
While Rohan plays a cat-and-mouse game with Elinor, his best friend Charles falls hard for Elinor's beautiful sister Lydia. Charles desperately needs to marry a fortune and has nothing to offer Lydia, but she falls for him as well and ultimately must choose between Rohan's French cousin, a rich but annoying doctor, or the romantic Charles.
A subplot involving Elinor's disputed inheritance provides an external story line and ultimately puts Elinor into danger, forcing Rohan to confront his growing feelings.
Author Anne Stuart (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Stuart) is a talented and popular author and RUTHLESS shows this capable writing. Rohan is very much the classic bad-boy, intent on self-destruction, wealthy beyond all measure, yet waiting to be saved by the right woman. Elinor, with her family depending on her choices, is a spunky and intelligent woman who thinks she's inured to men, sex, and enjoying life. For me, though, the story dragged a bit in the middle--once the cute meet was out of the way and while we waited for the exciting finale. The evil 'cousin' seemed thrown in to give us a bit of a plot to hang the story from and he certainly is not a worthy antagonist either to Rohan or Elinor. To me, Rohan's murder of Sir Christopher Spats, while understandable, is still murder. And I kept waiting for the issue of Rohan's exile (from England) to become an important story element.
If you're looking for a story of dark heroes and redemption, there is a lot to like in RUTHLESS. For me, it's a bit less than I had hoped for, especially from an author with the talent of Anne Stuart.
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