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Thursday, April 21, 2011

'The Devil's Waltz' by Anne Stuart

From the BLURB:

When you dance with the devil, you hold hands with temptation...

Christian Montcalm was a practical man, if a destitute scoundrel, but his plan to bed and wed the delectable Miss Hetty Chipple would take care of that sticky wicket. However, there was a most intriguing obstacle to his success.

Annelise Kempton desired nothing more than to come between this despicable rogue and the fortune (and virtue) of her young charge. Certainly, Annelise understood the desperation that comes from hard times, but Montcalm would fail--she would personally see to it. All that stands in her way is a man whose rakish charm could tempt a saint to sin, or consign a confirmed spinster to sleepless nights of longing...to give the devil his due.

Christian Montcalm is a playboy viscount who needs a quick out with a wealthy debutante. Christian is swimming in debt and his card games aren’t playing so well anymore. Luckily for him, Josiah Chipple is a man of new money with an eager young bride. Hetty Chipple is beautiful, if a little tedious and rough around the edges. Her father is desperate for a title, and Christian is desperate for money. It seems the perfect match . . . until Miss Annelise Kempton arrives.

Annelise is a ton lady who has fallen on hard times. Her title means she cannot work as a governess, but her dire circumstances mean she needs to offer her valuable services to the wealthy ton in order to get by. And so Annelise, a thirty-year-old over-the-hill spinster, finds herself working for Chipple and trying to marry his young daughter to a respectable title. Hence, Annelise will do anything in her power to keep the rakish Christian Montcalm from getting his claws into Hetty’s fortune . . . but while Annelise is busy saving Hetty’s impressionable young heart, will she let hers succumb to Christian’s double-talking charms?

I read my first Anne Stuart novel last year and was utterly blown away. I have now started exploring her back list, beginning with the 2006 novel ‘The Devil’s Waltz’.

Anne Stuart is infamous for writing unforgiving rakes. That’s her trademark in the historical romance genre. Where other authors may write ‘rake-lite’, and have their scoundrel men instantly reformed with the love of a good woman, Stuart commits to writing truly rakish villains. Christian Montcalm is just such a blackguard – he is only interested in Hetty Chipple for her money, though her beauty is a nice boon. He openly admits his devilish plans to Annelise, and is thoroughly delighted by her indignant fluster. And so Christian decides to marry and ruin Hetty (not necessarily in that order) and then pursue her pseudo-governess whom he has nicknamed ‘dragon’.

Christian is wonderfully scandalous. He is infamous among the ladies of the ton – known for breaking hearts and jumping beds. He is the rakiest of rakes, and completely brilliant. He’s so frustratingly villainous while also effortlessly fascinating. Christian had a tragic childhood, linked to the Terror in France. His background is mentioned, but never as an excuse. Christian is just plain selfish – out for instant gratification at whatever cost.

Even when his head is turned by Annelise, he is motivated by purely selfish reasons. He is intrigued by this plain-looking, straight-backed spinster and her inability to be flattered by him. Annelise never backs down and Christian is inflamed by her fight. He decides that once he’s married to the young Miss Chipple, he will happily pursue Miss Kempton in order to scratch his itch where she is concerned.

Annelise was a wonderful contrast to Christian. Whereas he has always gotten his own way with good looks and charm, Annelise was put ‘on the shelf’ at a young age for being physically unremarkable, overly tall and far too combative. Annelise has resigned herself to spinsterhood – thrust upon her by her drunken father’s recklessness – and now all she wants out of life is a little cottage and plenty of cats. Christian is a decadence she must deny herself. Nobody of his beauty or easy charm would ever be interested in her . . . but she can dream.

But just as Annelise is blind-sided by Christian’s flirtations, he is likewise shocked to find his infatuation with the dragon growing day by day. They have an explosive and burning attraction, made all the hotter by her disdain and his reluctance;
He tugged at his loosely tied cravat, sending it sailing. He ripped at his own buttons, opening his shirt and reaching for his breeches, when he stopped. “One last warning, love. This is no fairy-tale business, no pretty dream. It’s real. It’s dark and messy and for you, painful. In the beginning, at least. You’ll end up hating me.”
“Don’t worry about it, Christian,” she said. “I already hate you.”
I love, love, love Anne Stuart. She is queen of the rakes – writing unforgiving, sensuous and evil scoundrels who are also impossibly charming. Christian Montcalm is just such a scoundrel – and when he finds himself falling for the sweetly spinster, Annelise Kempton, he is both astounded and reluctant. ‘The Devil’s Waltz’ is a fantastic historical romance from the brilliant Anne Stuart. I will indeed be reading more of her back-list and meeting more of her awfully delicious rakes.

5/5

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