Publisher: MIRA Historical Romance
Release: Aug 2010
Source: I bought this book to read and review
House of Rohan Trilogy: Book 1
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.
Ruthless by Anne Stuart is the first book in a trilogy. It was released in August of this year and already has received quite a bit of talk in the book blogs! Although I’d never read any of Anne Stuart’s work, I decided to buy this book and check it out.
Ruthless is set in 1768 in Paris. Viscount Rohan is a very wealthy man who holds several titles, both English and French and is the leader of “The Heavenly Host” – called The Prince of Peace or The King of Hell. The Heavenly Host revels are a group of friends and acquaintances, who hold carnal parties. As Rohan says as he starts a party: “ Welcome to the Revels of the Heavenly Host. You will partake of the holy wafer, you will take you’re fill, with no one to judge. For the next three nights the paltry rules of society are forfeit. Our motto stands…”Do what thou will.” Rohan, we find out later in the book, survived the massacre of Culloden after witnessing his father and older brother killed. He then escaped to Paris to avoid arrest by the authorities. Rohan is at the point in his life where is bored. “He’d witnessed almost every deprivation known to man, participated in a great many of them, and he’d yet to find anything to pierce his terrible ennui.”
Elinor Harriman was the oldest child of a woman who left her husband many years before and has made her way in life serving as a mistress to a variety of men. She (Caroline) is now dying of syphilis and Elinor, her sister Lydia, their old nanny, Nanny Maude and Jacobs, their coachman are scrambling to stay warm, find something to eat, and prevent Caroline from running off to gamble. As this story starts, Caroline has escaped and is headed to the latest part of the Heavenly Host, with the last of their money. Jacobs steals a carriage and Elinor heads off to bring her mother home before she loses the last of their money. Upon arrival at the party, she is introduced to Rohan and the romance begins!
Elinor attracts Rohan in a way that he hasn’t experienced in many years. He wants to take care of her. He wants her carnally, but he is challenged by her mind. Both Rohan and Elinor are very stubborn characters. Elinor is determined to find a way to take care of her motley family without involving Rohan and Rohan is determined to take care of Elinor and her family as well as get Elinor in his bed.
Although on the surface, this is a predictable, formula romance; Wealthy lord saves poor struggling girl. It in no way comes across as predictable. The mood of the book is dark and carnal, but it isn’t really written as an erotic novel. The setting is a difficult one to write about, as Pre-Revolutionary France is not a happy time! The characters are skillfully written. They are multi-layered people who are well developed and have a with a whole host of secondary characters to compliment the story line. I love it when the author creates characters that you can either cheer for, or boo at. This story has a selection of both and the passion to engross the reader in the success or failure of the characters. The story, although it is dark, it is written is an engrossing way; sweeping the reader along through page after page without being aware of the passage of time. The descriptive writing allows the writer to picture the settings, relate to the period of history and feel like an onlooker to the story as it is happening.
I thought two things stood out for this book. The first was Elinor. She was a great heroine! Her mother is dying of syphilis, her little sister is being eyed by every lecher in the neighborhood and she has two retainers to feed. There’s hardly any furniture left as it has been broken up and the wood burned for heat, there’s really no food left and her mother heads off with the last of the jewels for a weekend of whoring. Elinor keeps this family together and functioning. Even when it would be easy to give in to Rohan and allow him to take care of her, she continually rebels. She wants to be independent and provide for her little family.
The second thing that stood out was the complete dissolution of Rohan. I’ve read stories with morally corrupt characters before, but they haven’t been the hero! I think that the only way this story works is because Ms Stuart has Rohan remain true to character throughout the story. I think that if he had caved and become an upstanding member of society, the story would have lacked believability.
I thoroughly, and surprisingly (to me) really enjoyed this book. It was dark, carnal, bordering on erotic – a big step away from the glittering Regency romances that I’m frequently drawn to, but one of the best books I have read in a long time. I look forward to the next book in the trilogy!
RRAH liked this book and had this to say: “With enough flawed characters that it’s nearly impossible not to sympathize with somebody, this book shows that even those worlds apart might find themselves suited for each other.”
RT BookReviews gave Ruthless 4.5 stars and labeled it a Top Pick and nominated it for 2010 Sensual Historical Romance of the year. I love the opening paragraph of this review! Here it is: “The House of Rohan series begins with a scintillating, titillating, wickedly dark and sensual tale as Stuart brilliantly draws you in like a black widow spider. Intelligent characters swirl around a beautifully rendered, complex plot. The erotic overtones — one masterful scene after another — and dark hero simply add to the delicious story that captures heart and soul.”
For purchase on Amazon: Ruthless (The House of Rohan)