Not your typical historical romance! A dark hero meets a sharp-tongued leading lady in this page turning story of a most unusual romance. If you’re looking for a light and fun historical you won’t find it here, don’t let the cover fool you, RUTHLESS is not for the tame reader who prefers a sweet romantic courting.
Known to many as the King of Hell, Viscount Francis Rohan leads a life of decadent indulgence and debauchery as leader of the Heavenly Host, an exclusive group of individuals who share his carnal appetites. When the less than shy Elinor Harriman storms into one of Rohan’s infamous parties looking for her mother, he’s instantly captivated by her bold and feisty personality. To Rohan Elinor presents an unexpected and challenging conquest, one that he gladly welcomes.
This is my first audiobook with Susan Ericksen as a narrator but it definitely won’t be my last. Her transition between accents is flawless and the male characters are believable. Ericksen’s narration really brings the story to life with her inflections and tone, you’re quickly transported back in time with Elinor and Rohan! Her depiction of Rohan is stellar, his arrogance and charm is is perfectly conveyed and Elinor’s quick wit is very entertaining. I’d venture to say listening made this book a better read.
While most readers will think Francis Rohan is not worthy of the hero title I found him enigmatic, intriguing and sexy…don’t judge me! Rohan is confident and mysterious, with a touch of darkness that makes him both dangerous and alluring. He’s said to be very experienced in the game of seduction, but I like that Anne Stuart leaves most of Rohan’s past sexual escapades to our imagination. Rohan might be an aristocrat but he is no gentleman, he lives life on his own terms and doesn’t apologize for it. I’ll admit he’s not swoon-worthy, I’d probably even say he’s detestable at times, but I couldn’t get enough of the King of Hell. I really applaud Anne Stuart for taking a chance and giving us somewhat of an anti-hero in Rohan that inspires empathy.
Elinor Harriman is not the standard leading lady you find in historicals. She’s an odd beauty with an opinionated personality who’s had a tumultuous upbringing with a not so loving mother, but is still a strong woman. I get her devotion to her younger sister, but I didn’t have much sympathy for her bitch of a mother who took advantage of her. She reminds me of Elizabeth Bennett, in the way that she compares herself to her sister’s beauty and finds herself lacking, it didn’t help that her sister’s name is also Lydia! She constantly refers to her nose as her worst feature, calling it the Harriman nose (inherited by her father) which got old after a while, but I guess every girl is her worst critic. Elinor’s loyalty is to her family for which she’s sacrificed her own happiness and the possibility of a future, her selflessness is admirable. She’s a complex character who struggles with doing the right thing or giving into temptation. I love that Elinor doesn’t let her tortured past define her and realizes that there’s nothing wrong with putting herself first for once.
Aside from the main characters, we’re also introduced to Rohan’s best friend and right hand man, Charles Reading. He’s more of a mystery than Rohan and I was intrigued by his character and the possible romance between him and Elinor’s younger sister Lydia. Their moments together were brief but sweet and I found myself liking their chemistry a little more than our main couple. I hope Anne Stuart gives us more of Charles and Lydia soon!
The chemistry between Rohan and Elinor starts off as flirty banter before anything gets serious between them. Rohan is instantly drawn to Elinor’s sharp tongue and while his intentions are to bed her, he soon realizes that his charms won’t work so easily on her. It was great to see Elinor play hard to get and Rohan’s frustration at the start of their relationship. Their relationship isn’t insta-love, coming together after a tragedy when Elinor loses her mother and home in a fire, which allows them to spend time together under the same roof and really get to know one another. My only tiff with this romance is that I expected more smexy times with this couple, especially with Rohan’s reputation. We go from one steamy scene in a stagecoach to nothing for a very long time. If I recall there were two sex scenes towards the end of the story but nothing memorable to rave about. All in all I did enjoy them as a couple. It’s not your typical feel good romance, but these two characters compliment each other perfectly.
If you’re like me and love to step out of the box with romance novels, this book is for you. RUTHLESS is a slow paced, dark romance with a little mystery that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The ending felt a bit rushed for my tastes, but I was glad that Rohan and Elinor got their HEA after everything they’ve been through. Anne Stuart delivers a refreshing take on a “cookie-cutter” genre with her Byronic heroes and strong female protagonists in the House of Rohan series. I’ve found a new series and author to covet!