Breathless by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold. But this revenge will catch the predator in his own trap.
When I pick up an Anne Stuart book, I know going in that this it is not going to be a 'sweet' love story. That doesn't mean it won't be a good love story. But certainly not the hearts and flowers one might assume for romance.
I had heard that The Scorpion was something else, too much for some readers. I pondered if that would be the case for me. Let's face it. I love bad boy heroes. Too much, probably. Especially for my straight-laced self. Good thing that my book boyfriend tastes don't reflect my real life taste in the slightest. Because I'm not anywhere near as strong and fearless as a bad boy romance heroine like Miranda Rohan.
Usually when I read an Anne Stuart book, it's all about the hero. In this case, I found that Miranda more than holds her own, and she even steals the show. And that was no easy task, since The Scorpion has a jaw-dropping appeal for me, even in all his dastardliness. I say, good on you to Ms. Stuart for that. It's no secret that I love Anne Stuart's writing. And that isn't a casual thing for me to stay. Writers come and go, but she’s been my favorite for a long, long time, and for good reason. In this book, I have found that she has taken what I expect about her books, written something true and characteristic to her, and still managed to push the envelope, even surprising me. I respect that. I think authors should be true to themselves, their muse, and they should grow in their work. Ms. Stuart is up for that challenge. When you ask for a dangerous, ruthless, villainous hero, don't be shocked when you get one. Lucien de Malheur is a dangerous hero that you might even try to “give back” the day after Christmas.
I love revenge stories. Why? Because revenge is a passion that roots itself in a person's heart. It changes all their motives, turns a steadfast heart into a driven machine, working only to keep pumping rage and anguish through the system until the debt is repaid. Add revenge to a love story, and it's one potent cocktail for tension and drama. As I read, I wondered, can love change a black heart bent on destruction? In this case, I felt that the Scorpion blamed unfairly, and his method of avenging what he had lost had focused on an unfair target. But then, this guy is twisted, I mean from the ground up. And he knows it. He’s not going to reason things out the same way as a normal guy would. Not with a past that is as dark and tortured as his. That didn’t exactly get him out of jail with me, mind you. I didn't like what he had done to Miranda. I thought that it was over the line. Despite that, I liked that no excuses are made for his behavior. Despite what he suffered not all being his fault, he made some bad choices that furthered the blackening of his soul. Let’s face it, Lucien is not a "good" man. I doubt he'll ever truly be a moral man. Maybe with Miranda’s help. We’ll see. Does that mean that he is incapable of love? He thought himself inable to love. Imagine to his surprise that he falls in love with the unknowing instrument of his revenge.
I searched my heart and wondered what rhyme or reason would allow Miranda to be treated such a way and then fall in love with the man who'd engineered her mistreatment and ruination. How can that be fair by any stretch of the strange, twisted spiritual journey we call life? It came to me that she never had, never would have deserved that. But Lucien deserved to fall in love with Miranda. That is the 'sting in the scorpion's tail.' His actions coming back to bite him literally. It seems almost like divine justice to me. One then asks, but what about Miranda?
Miranda had a hard task set forth for her. She had one heck of a shrew to tame, and she surely did. She took this black-hearted fiend and turned him into a man in love. She drew lines in the sand, and dared him to cross them. And there was a scene that I knew was going to make or break this book for me. Like Miranda, I knew that if Lucien went along with his horribly nefarious plans, it was over for me. I mean, I can take a lot from a hero, but I have a few things I will not take, and this was one of them. My eyes were literally glued to the page. I thought, he won’t, will he? She won’t, will she? That was one of the moments when I knew that Miranda would be my favorite Anne Stuart heroine. Little Danielle would have tucked her tail between her legs and ran off to Scotland, anywhere to get away from the Scorpion. Not Miranda. She faced him head on, called his bluff, and laid her cards on the table. And she won that hand, won the World Poker Tournament. Lucien can think what he wants, but Miranda is the one who’s running things. He might be the Scorpion, but Miranda’s the Black Widow, and she’s got him wrapped up tight in her web. And that is divine justice.
Ms. Stuart has written yet another brilliant romance for this reader. She had me riveted and fascinated, savoring this dark, witty, sexy historical story that does have some elements that bring to mind a historical sex comedy, but with humor that is not crass or inane, but deeply, bitingly sardonic. This is the Battle Between the Sexes played out on the page, and no prisoners are taken. And she gave me a heroine that was up for the challenge. I loved her for that. I liked the secondary romance a lot, but I would have been just as happy to just see Miranda and Lucien play out their deadly game in living color.
This book won’t appeal to all readers, even long-time Stuart fans. The Scorpion does some very heinous, beyond the pale deeds to get his revenge. But for those who long for justice, I can say that I felt he gets his just deserts. They merely come in a most unusual form than one might expect, in the arms of Miranda Rohan. He’s not going to come out of this relationship unchanged. And he lost something very vital in his ruthless bid for revenge, his heart. This reader loved this story, even for the parts that were rather uncomfortable. I did stay on the edge, guessing if true love would win, and I was greatly rewarded in the process.
View all my reviews