Ruthless (The House of Rohan #1)

RuthlessBy Anne Stuart

Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: August 1, 2010
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Purchased

Few outsiders will ever witness the dark misdeeds of the Heavenly Host. And among this secret society, where exiled Georgian aristocrats gather to indulge their carnal desires, fewer still can match the insatiable appetite of their chief provocateur, the mysterious Viscount Rohan.

Pursuit of physical pleasure is both his preferred pastime and his most pressing urge, until he encounters the fascination of a woman who won’t be swayed. And while his dark seduction appalls the pure and impoverished Elinor Harriman, she finds herself intrigued…and secretly drawn to the man behind the desire.

Goodreads Summary

Forced into a life of ever-increasing poverty because of their promiscuous, reckless mother, sisters Elinor and Lydia find themselves desperate when she suddenly vanishes with their last source of income; worse still, she’s headed toward Viscount Rohan’s hedonistic estate, where all sorts of sexually deviant behavior is said to occur regularly. Afraid she’s about to gamble the last of their money away, Elinor runs off after her and is brought to Rohan himself, who decides she’s more fun than his guests.

I liked this. I don’t generally read a lot of serious historicals, so when I venture in, I’m picky; knowing this had a reputation of being a little on the dark side, I walked in gingerly. There wasn’t any reason to, because this ended up being a good story with really unusual characters. The dialogue was terrific; next to Rohan himself, it was easily my favorite part of the book.

The near entirety of plot conflict of the book is Rohan playing cat and mouse with Elinor. He’s an obvious anti-hero: Stuart deliberately keeps him as a man who’s lived his life a certain way for many years (he’s old enough to be Elinor’s father, technically) and he really sees no reason to stop just because he’s pursuing her. He’s the man at the crossroads, bored with the life he has and ready to be intrigued by a new toy and she’s it. While told mostly from Elinor’s perspective, his waffling between confusion and determination when it came to her was intriguing, especially when he continued the lifestyle he’d lived before she came along. Yes, he was, well, a pig. But I never thought he was unredeemable or unlikable.

Thankfully, the author also didn’t fall into the trap of making Elinor the standard beloved, brilliant Daddy’s girl with a charmed life who befell into a life of genteel poverty. She intrigues Rohan only because people are normally fawning all over him and she doesn’t. While Rohan succeeded in interesting me because of his personality faults, Elinor occasionally annoyed me. She crossed the line between charmingly stubborn into harpy territory more than a few too many times and my eyes rolled dangerously close to the back of my head when she finally offered herself, it was so inconsistent with the rest of her shrieking about her modesty. For anyone wondering, the sexual content here is nearly all implied; there is little explicit wording beyond some weird fascination Stuart has with various women’s nipples.

The miniscule subplot involving the romance between Elinor’s sister Lydia and Rohan’s friend Reading was bland; he has the makings of a very interesting character but she just screamed boring to me (unbearably pretty, virginal and slightly stupid facade hiding a serious and intelligent woman yearning for love but prepared to sacrifice herself for the good of her family – yawn). There was also a sort of mystery involving Elinor’s inheritance from her father that was the other plot conflict; it pushed her and Rohan’s story along, but it really wasn’t well-thought out in my opinion.

Yes, there are dark moments and Elinor has an issue in her past; it’s a story that has a couple of seriously debauched characters whose actions have a ripple effect through the story but these aren’t over-riding themes in the book, they aren’t the entirety of the story and they aren’t what Rohan and Elinor were figuring out about each other. I haven’t read any of Stuart’s other books, so I can’t compare this, but as a standalone for me, I’d recommend this. I enjoyed it; although at 409 pages it’s not a short book, it went quickly for me and I’d read it again.

My Rating: A-

Barbara

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