Against the Rules by Linda Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can't believe I never read this book before. I really enjoyed it. I love the feel of a modern western. I'm addicted to this theme. I thought Rule was such an intense, rugged, sexy, appealing hero. He was raw and dominant, like many of Linda Howard's heroes. But he never stepped over the edge to domineering bully, for me. He had a vulnerability and a need for Cat that made my heart flutter. Cat is a heroine that I could sympathize with. She spent so many years running scared from her overwhelming attraction for Rule, a man who swooped in and took control of her father's ranch after he died. And he took control of her, stepping in as a sort of surrogate guardian. Although he feelings for her were far from avuncular. Their interlude when she was seventeen and he was in his twenties didn't strike me as wrong (although legally it is), because there was a deep connection there that seemed to spark out of control. It didn't have a sleazy, Lolita vibe for me. I think it was handled very well by Ms. Howard.
The western ranch setting appealed to me. I loved the descriptions of working on a horse-breeding ranch. But it didn't overshadow the love story, merely forming a backdrop that helped to better characterize Rule and Cat. I so wanted to be there on that ranch, as I read this story.
Cat's marriage wasn't delved into overly much, but it sounds like it was a happy one. It is nice to have a character have been happily-married, and the deceased spouse not treated as the bad guy. And the fact that she was fated to love Rule so much more didn't mean that she couldn't have loved her husband.
Rule's intense love and feelings towards Cat really won me over. There are few types of heroes that I love more than heroes in pursuit. He was really intent on getting her to stay, and somewhat ruthless in his seduction, but that was just fine with me. It makes the romance all that more thrilling for me. I love a man who goes after the woman he wants.
The reviews for this one by others are kind of low. I guess I'm in the minority here. I would actually add this to my list of faves by Linda Howard. Sometimes her alphas can be domineering brutes to me, and that makes some of her books less enjoyable. In the case of Rule, he was done so well, that his alpha and dominant nature was a highly enjoyable part of this book. It might be that Cat didn't come off as being bullied by him. She was susceptible to him, no question about it. But he was probably just as much in her thrall. Their relationship had a mutuality in the level of love and attraction they held for each other that made the alpha/possessive tendencies of Rule feel right. And Cat definitely showed some jealous/possessive tendencies towards him, as well.
The sensual elements were well-done. Something about the way the category romances that were written in the 80s that I love. The books had the chemistry and the fiery love scenes that I like, but they aren't over the top, where you wonder, are these people really in love, or they just having some explosive sex? You can feel the love in the private moments. But that's just my opinion, and you know how much opinions are worth.
I'm really glad I had the chance to finally read Against the Rules. It's worth its weight in gold for this reader. It's going on my Linda Howard keeper shelf.
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