Review: Heartless

Review: HeartlessHeartless (The House of Rohan) (Volume 5) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #5
Published by Impeccably Demure Press on May 14, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 316
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Loved the couple was completely lukewarm about the plot of the book which seemed to have some pointless complications. Struggled through the first half and enjoyed the second.

THE STORY: Emma Cadbury is having a second life as a surgeon after years of being the youngest madam in London and a prostitute before that. What she doesn’t need is the complication of Brandon Rohan. Emma met Brandon when he was recovering from serious war injuries and she urged him to live. Several years have passed and Brandon’s memories of those times have been clouded by his prior addiction to opium. When someone tries to murder Emma, Brandon is determined to protect Emma even if she wants to stay away from the man she knows is not for her.

OPINION: This book was okay but a disappointment to my expectations. I read the prior book years ago and I had anticipated Emma and Brandon’s book so much. While I still loved Emma and Brandon together, I was greatly disappointed by the story in this book.

The entire first half of the book was a slog to get through. There was not enough of Emma and Brandon’s relationship and a lot of stuff that was intended to complicate their relationship and ended up being annoying and abandoned by the end. There is the “other woman” story that went absolutely nowhere but was the primary reason that Emma and Brandon couldn’t get together quickly.

The murder attempts didn’t work as well in the beginning as the setup.

The second half of the book was much better. When the focus turns to just Emma and Brandon, the pace picked up, the intensity of the character’s relationship increased and I enjoyed reading the second half very much.

So this is a book that ultimately ended up okay for me, but I didn’t enjoy the first half of the journey which seemed mostly pointless.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked the epilogue, but can’t help but wish that we actually got to see the events.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEARTLESS is the fifth book in the House of Rohan series.  While each book in this series is about a different couple, there are overlapping characters. Indeed, the story of this book began in the prior book in the series, SHAMELESS, and I think this book is better read after that book (even though the events are summarized here).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Shameless

Review: ShamelessShameless (The House of Rohan, #4) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #4
Published by Mira Books on June 21, 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 411
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved the romance between Benedick and Melisande which is more traditional than the other books in this series (Benedick is not as rakish or as close to irredeemable as the other heroes in the series). The two are so perfect for one another from the start but are determined to resist the possibility.

THE STORY: Viscount Benedick Rohan has been exceedingly unlucky with women. He’s buried two wives and had a fiancee commit suicide. He needs an heir and this time he intends to find a woman that he can marry and then ignore while he finds his pleasure elsewhere. His attempts to find that pleasure are interrupted by Lady Melisande Carstairs who is a social reformer who has taken on protecting prostitutes as her cause. She’s called “Charity Carstairs” and she and Benedick can’t do anything but fight and bicker, but when Melisande needs Benedick’s help in foiling the Heavenly Host, the two end up striking all kinds of sparks off of one another.

OPINION: The most traditional of the series, Benedick is a man who doesn’t want to be hurt again so he’s determined to keep away from the woman who threatens his peace. I found Benedick’s desire to protect himself the most poignant part of this book. He comes from a place of hurt and that makes him strike out to protect himself. He hurts Melisande, but hurts himself during the process. He’s not the nicest or kindest hero, but compared to his sister’s husband (Lucien from BREATHLESS) he’s pretty much a choirboy.

Melisande is a woman who is incredibly strong and determined. After a marriage to an old and ill man, she has tossed convention aside in her desire to help prostitutes. It has scandalized the aristocracy and left her reputation in tatters, but she does not allow the opinions of others to keep her from doing what she believes is right. Eschewing marriage and family, Melisande insists she is content with her life.

Both Benedick and Melisande, however, hide an inner desire for love and family. And they are immediately attracted to one another. They hide and protect themselves with arguments and anger towards one another.

I loved their romance and Benedick in particular because he so desperately wants to love Melisande and is so afraid of doing so.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Miranda and Lucien again. Although we get to see their happy ending in BREATHLESS, I liked seeing how their relationship has grown and changed after several years.

Benedick is not the typical Stuart anti-hero. He’s much more traditional even if he is a jerk to the heroine for a lot of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also begins the story of Brandon and Emma. It took 7 years but Stuart finally has written their story which was painfully incomplete in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMELESS is the fourth book in the House of Rohan series. There are overlapping characters in this series, but the romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Breathless

Review: BreathlessBreathless (The House of Rohan, #3) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #3
Published by MIRA on October 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 379
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book is definitely not for everyone. The hero is one of Stuart’s dark antiheroes who teeters on the edge of being completely unredeemable — and some readers might find his action unforgivable. But for someone who likes Stuart’s antiheroes, Lucien is one of my favorites.

THE STORY:  Lucien de Malheur, Earl of Rochdale aka The Scorpion is out for revenge against the Rohans. Blaming them for the death of his only sister, Lucien arranges for the ruin of the Rohan daughter Lady Miranda Rohan. When things don’t go as planned, Lucien sets out to arrange a friendship with Miranda which he intends to lead to marriage as part of his revenge.

OPINION: The romance between Lucien and Miranda is dark and combative and there is something that I just love about them together. I have truly loved many of Stuart’s dark antiheroes, and Lucien is certainly one of those.

Lucien is almost unredeemable. He orchestrates the heroine’s loss of virginity at the hands of a truly awful man. He threatens her throughout the book. But he is totally not in control of the relationship. In the battle of wills, I believe that Miranda is the ultimate victor because she pulls Lucien from his plans and revenge and evil deeds. Miranda is the center and the strength of what is going on between them. She finds her strength and her passion with Lucien.

This book is definitely not for everyone. Readers who are sensitive about rape and threats of coercion probably should skip this book. While the hero does not rape the heroine, he certainly orchestrated what many will see as rape — even if the heroine will not name it as rape.

There is something compelling about these two. Most of the story occurs with them playing games with one another. The romance happens in what is not said between these two. In the moments that bring them together even if their words are a battle.

This ended up being one of my favorite Stuart books even as I dislike Lucien intensely as the book begins every time I read it.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a secondary romance that is almost a novella in itself and is wonderful itself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREATHLESS is the third book in the House of Rohan series.  The romance is completely a standalone although the heroine here is the daughter of the hero from the second book and the granddaughter of the hero from the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Reckless

Review: RecklessReckless (The House of Rohan, #2) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #2
Published by Mira Books on September 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 408
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really loved this book because Adrian is never as bad as he thinks (and certainly not as dark and dangerous as his father). Charlotte and he make a great match with some suspense and drama tossed in.

THE STORY: Miss Charlotte Spenser is firmly on the shelf so she convinces her cousin to allow her to attend a meeting of the Heavenly Host to see vice and sin first hand. She also happens to want to see Viscount Adrian Rohan who Charlotte has been fascinated with for years. Adrian has been engaged in sinful activities for years and while he has kept his distance from the innocent Miss Spenser, he can’t resist her when he appears at his revelries.

OPINION: This book wanders closer to the typical rake hero. Adrian is not as dark as many of Stuart’s heroes and the romance while focusing a great deal on the sexual experiences between the hero and heroine does follow a more typical storyline.

Charlotte immediately breaks down Adrian’s walls. He struggles for a while, but he doesn’t have a strong reason to avoid her. In fact, the real drama in this story ends up being mostly external.

I really liked the heat between these two. Adrian is a little bit of a jerk, but Charlotte is strong and willing to put him in his place. I loved watching her gain strength and determination as the story progresses.

The funny thing is that these two end up being pretty sweet as a couple.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a secondary romance in this book that I enjoyed but wish we had gotten a whole book about because they are that interesting.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RECKLESS is the second book in the House of Rohan series. This book is about the son of the couple from book 1 so this book can be read as a standalone but also has some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Ruthless

Review: RuthlessRuthless (The House of Rohan, #1) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #1
Published by MIRA on July 20, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 409
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Dark and not always likable hero but I really enjoy that he is a real jaded rake and not just a happy go lucky guy. The story is dark and angsty and very hot.

THE STORY: Elinor Harriman’s family is sliding into poverty as her mother has the pox and she has a lovely younger sister to care for. When her mother takes what little the family has left and runs off to gamble at a gathering of the Heavenly Host (a group of people dedicated to sin and vice), Elinor has no choice but to follow and bring her mother home. Searching for her mother, Elinor meets Viscount Francis Rohan, a jaded and depraved man with dark desires. Rohan finds Elinor intriguing and the two begin a relationship that sits on the razor edge between caring and using.

OPINION: I loved this book. The hero is dark and until the end it is never clear whether he will turn out to be the villain or the hero. He acts in a despicable manner for much of the book and yet Stuart has a way of making me root for him. Because while he seems to have fallen far into the dark and evil, he still has a soul worth saving by the end.

Elinor operates as his salvation. She is a difficult character to read and her actions are not always reasonable — until we discover her secret.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or those looking for the typical romance story. These characters travel into dark areas of sin and vice and their own tortured souls.

WORTH MENTIONING: Anne Stuart write anti-heroes. These are alpha men who ride the edge between being so unlikable as to be the villains of the story and being the redemptive heroes. Her book are not for everyone. These are not modern nice guy heroes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RUTHLESS is the first book in the House of Rohan series. There is a prequel book, but this book is a standalone from that story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Wicked House of Rohan

Review: The Wicked House of RohanThe Wicked House of Rohan (The House of Rohan, #0.5) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #0.5
Published by MIRA on July 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 39
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A hot little story that introduces the premise of the series. The story is very short, but I enjoyed the interaction between the characters.

THE STORY: Kathleen Strong is desperate. Tossed from her position as a governess for immortality, Kathleen is homeless and starving when she is brought to a group of aristocrats for a job. But what she doesn’t know is that they want her innocence for one of their “games”. Alistair Rohan is intrigued by Miss Stong and despite her wanting nothing to do with him, he wants her.

OPINION: This is a short story and thus is not as developed as a novel or even a novella. Despite this, I really got a sense of the characters and I enjoyed their interaction. Taking place before the novels in the series, this book introduces the Heavenly Host society that is featured in the other books in the series.

This was a sexy and fun little story. I really loved Alistair who is a man who has seen and done everything and just is entranced by Kathleen.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story takes place in the mid 18th century.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE WICKED HOUSE OF ROHAN is the prequel to the House of Rohan series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Break the Night

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Break the NightBreak the Night by Anne Stuart
Published by Bell Bridge Books on June 8th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A gothic-type romance where the line between the hero being the “hero” or being the one who threatens the heroine is blurred, this book has an intriguing concept and at times a very interesting plot. Not as well developed as Stuart’s later books, this one is still a fun and only slightly scary read.

THE STORY: Jack the Ripper is terrorizing Los Angeles. Lizzie Stride has become involved because her custom masks are being used by the Ripper in the murders. J.R. Damien is haunted by the murders and he fears that he might have a closer connection to the murders than anyone expects. Lizzie might be the next target for the Ripper and Damien and Lizzie work together to protect Lizzie. But what are their connections to the murders?

OPINION: Anne Stuart is known for her anti-heroes that walk the edge between being the hero and being the villain. This book also has that device although I wasn’t as convinced as I should have been that Damien was the villain — but he did some atrocious things. And at times he treated the heroine abominably.

Yet, I always enjoy the Gothic feel of these types of stories. The book combines a murder and suspense story with a creepy feel that always keeps me unbalanced as I read the story. I know this type of story is not for everyone and isn’t even the best example of Stuart’s work. The Jack the Ripper story was approached in a different manner. This book’s best feature is it’s story concept. The characters were not as developed as I like (especially Lizzie who we never really know much about) and there are some gaping plot holes, but the entire feel of the story led me to enjoy the journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was originally published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREAK THE NIGHT is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: Wildfire

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: WildfireWildfire (Fire, #3) by Anne Stuart
Series: Fire #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 290
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I really enjoyed this story because there is serious drama and suspense as Sophie and Malcolm are trapped on the island with Sophie’s insane husband. The pacing and characters makes this a very enjoyable book.

THE STORY: Sophie Jordan was an operative with the Committee until she fell in love and married a target of her investigation.  He turned out to be a psychopath and an arms dealer.  Once her husband found out that she had lied to him, he tried to have her killed.  Instead, Sophie was left parallelized and at the mercy of her husband.  Malcolm Gunnison, undercover as an arms dealer, comes to the island in order to finish the job that Sophie botched.  He’s going to discover Sophie’s husband’s new biological weapon and then kill him.  Mal will also kill Sophie if necessary or if she gets in his way.

OPINION: I am a huge fan of Stuart’s Ice series.  Several of those books are on my all time favorites list.  Until this book, the Fire books have been okay but don’t begin to approach the amazing Ice books.  I’m happy to report, however, that WILDFIRE, while not as superlative as the best Ice books, is definitely worthy of being in the same universe.

I really liked Sophie in this story because as the book begins she has been in a deadly battle of wills with her evil husband. I prefer this damaged and dangerous heroine over the sweet innocent.  Sophie made mistakes in her past and has paid for it for years.  Now she is ready to win her freedom and kill her husband, if possible.  She also is immune from handsome dangerous men — or so she believes.  Of course, she find herself reluctantly attracted to the dangerous Mal. The combination of innocence, cynicism, ability to survive and desire to be free makes Sophie’s character one that I desired to follow her journey.

Mal is a nicer Stuart hero than most in these series.  While he begins the book entirely willing to kill Sophie if necessary — or even if she is somewhat inconvenient to him — he quickly begins to fall for her as well.  And although he does some bad things in this book, he is not as dark as some of Stuart’s heroes.  I liked his competence, his determination to do what is necessary and his total commitment to his mission — until, of course, Sophie begins to upset this world.

The story is tense and filled with danger and drama.  There is always the question of the motives of the various characters. I liked that there is almost constant danger with the characters.  From the first page, the characters are in precarious positions and that made the story go quickly.  By having all the action of the book take place on a private island with limited characters and danger all around, the constant sense of peril is preserved.  I liked the story and the development of the characters as they progress.

While not reaching the heights of the best Ice books, this book is the best of the Fire series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The Fire series is about the American branch of the Committee, an anti-terrorism group that uses whatever means necessary, including murder, to stop terrorists.  The series this spins off from, the ICE series, has characters which are mentioned or make appearances in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WILDFIRE is the third book in the Fire series.  This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: The Spinster and the Rake

Review: The Spinster and the RakeThe Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart
on August 15, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 162
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A sweet historical romance between a woman who has spent her life raising her brother’s children and a man who has plenty of notoriety behind him.  He brings animation into her life and she bring stability to his.

THE STORY:  Gillian Redfern has reached the age of thirty never having even been kissed.  Living with her brother and his family, Gillian takes care of the children and the household.  One night she meets Ronan Blakely, Marquis of Herrington who has been absent from England for twenty years.  Ronan is a true rake who left England in scandal.  Now he has returned as the Marquis.  When he meet Gillian, he thinks of making her break out of her comfortable world by turning his charm toward her.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this book tremendously.  It has a little dated feel to it (having been written in the early 1980s) but I loved Gillian as a character.  She is a woman who comes out of her shell and into her own as the book progresses.  She learns to reach out for what she wants in life rather than letting things happen to her.

Ronan is a true rake.  (Sometimes in modern books, rake is overused).  He has had notorious relationships (including an attempt to make off with a married woman).  I miss the opportunity to see his development as a character because much of his thinking remains murky (not uncommon in older romances).

I like how Ronan doesn’t know how to deal with Gillian.  Everything in the book was great until the ending.  There is a big twist that really wasn’t necessary and was brought up and resolved far too quickly.

I was amazed that so much story and character development was contained in so few pages.  I enjoyed it and this book reminds me that Anne Stuart has been a great writer for a long time.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a reissue (with a bit of new material) of a 1980s Candlelight Regency romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars