Ruthless by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Do What Thou Wilt, But Don't Fall in Love!
I don't even know what to say! I loved this book so much. I savored it, stretching it out, not wanting it to end. I was completely immersed in this book. I was no longer in Texas, modern day. I was in France in the 1700s.
I don't know how Ms. Anne Stuart does it. She can take the most objectionable type of hero, and make me fall in love with him. Let me say, I am a devout Christian. I can't even imagine even pretending to worship the devil, or to hold orgies in which one does things that are unspeakable, just because you can. That should have turned me off of Lord Rohan. But, with Ms. Stuart's incredible writing skill, it wasn't even an issue for me. I am very glad that she didn't dwell on those aspects, although they were there in the background. This is a book about a rakehell who was the leader of festivities along the lines of the real Hellfire Club, so that aspect had to be present. But, I didn't have to see him doing any of that. I was fine that I didn't. Now, he definitely did some fornication (even after he met Elinor). I was okay with that, because that was who he was, before he fell in love. Once, he had Elinor in his heart, that was over for him, even if he didn't want to admit it to himself for her. And I was gratified that he didn't allow anything to go on there that wasn't between consensual adults.
No question about it, Elinor and Rohan are one of my favorite couples now. Anne Stuart-wise, and period. There was something so delectable about their interactions, the by-play between them. Even though Francis was sixteen years older than Elinor (old enough to be her father, and he was quite active at that age, in his own words), Elinor was able to hold her own with him. Elinor had some serious pluck. I love a heroine who is strong, and no question about Elinor's strength. She is no Xena, and she didn't have to be, in order to captivate Rohan, and to make me love her. She is true to herself, forthright, and brave (in ways I can't even fathom). Francis was a very bad boy, but he had a core of him that was good and decent. He did things for Elinor that he really had no reason to do. He showed her love even before he knew what the word meant. How could I not love him for that? The sexual tension in this story was off the charts, and the love scenes aren't even until near the end. That's talent to me. I felt the sizzle through every conversation, the exchange of glances, the way Rohan pursued and Elinor fled. It was magic on the page.
Yes, I know. It's clear that I love Anne Stuart so much, that some may doubt my objectivity. But, I will say it if I don't think a book by a favorite author is my favorite. But, with Ruthless, there is no question that this one is a stellar read. I wish that Ms. Stuart released books every year. When she doesn't have books out, I mourn the dearth, and I pine for her books. I have especially longed for her historicals, because she writes them so well, with the dark aspects, the multi-faceted characters, the writing subtlety that conveys so much, the intensity that I crave in a romance story. I am happy to say that this book truly makes me happy. I am still replaying the scenes in my head. The skillfully nuanced courtship of Rohan and Elinor, and the powerful love story here. The sad, heartbreaking things in their pasts. I got choked up a few times. I was touched on such a deep level, I feel it right now as I write this review. I think that readers who enjoy meaty, intense, darker historicals with strong, vibrant characters will be very happy with Ruthless. I foresee myself rereading this book soon and often. Bravo, Ms. Stuart.
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