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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Breathless' House of Rohan #3 by Anne Stuart

From the BLURB:

Ruined beyond repair and shunned by London society, lovely Miranda Rohan rebelliously embraces the freedom that comes from having nothing left to lose. However, this dangerous course throws her under the power of the darkly enigmatic Lucien de Malheur—known to many as the Scorpion.

Seeking to destroy the Rohans, Lucien traps Miranda in a marriage she thinks is based on friendship but instead is rooted in vengeance. Yet even when she realizes the truth, their enmity fuels a shocking passion—and perhaps even more.

Such a man might drive anyone to murder....

Miranda Rohan lost her virginity and her social standing with one stupid flight of fancy. But while the ton turned their back on her, Miranda discovered freedom – freedom from social obligation and standing on ceremony. As a fallen woman without a husband, she could live on her own, go out by herself and enjoy a life free from stifling norms. And with her powerful and loving family behind her, Miranda feels she has lost nothing with her fall.

Little did Miranda know that her fall from social grace was a precisely orchestrated debauching . . . planned to the letter by one Lucien de Malheur, aka ‘The Scorpian’. Lucien hates the Rohan family, believing the oldest brother to be the reason for his half-sister’s suicide. So he plots his revenge on the Rohan’s by stealing away their sister . . . forming an unlikely friendship with her, and then proposing marriage. A life lived with him in abject misery, and the Rohan’s won’t be able to do a thing to stop him, since he will be her rightful husband.

What Lucien doesn’t count on is falling for the beautifully exuberant Miranda Rohan, and realizing that revenge is not best served cold, but piping hot . . .

‘Breathless’ is the third book in Anne Stuart’s delectable ‘House of Rohan’ historical romance series.

I loved the first book in this series, ‘Ruthless’. It was my first Anne Stuart read, and I was introduced to her signatory blend of hotly-villainous heroes. I was less impressed with the second installment and the love between a shallow woman and bored man in ‘Reckless’. So I went into this third book with mild trepidation, wondering if I would be putting this series to bed if the third novel was another miss. . . Thankfully, ‘Breathless’ offers up more debauched brilliance from Anne Stuart, even if I found the secondary romance to be the more compelling.

Lucien de Malheur is an evil hero to rival all of Anne Stuart’s previous dastardly bastards. Not only is he the type of man to orchestrate a young woman’s fall from grace, he is also a slighted brother hell-bent on familial retribution. Coupled with immense facial scarring and a permanently crooked leg, he is a veritable ‘Beast’.

She shivered. Shivered because he was touching her, shivered because she reacted to it, to the caress. But she didn’t move, and her eyes flashed fire.
“You wouldn’t do it.”
“You think not? I had no qualms about endangering your life with a carriage accident. Trust me, the name Scorpian isn’t an accident. I’m cold and lethal – society shuns me for good reason.” He leaned his face down, and brushed his lips against her cheekbone. “I’m sorry I’m such an ugly brute, my precious, but you can always close your eyes and pretend I’m someone else.”
She did close her eyes then. Not because of the scars – those she’d ceased to notice long ago. The sight of his betrayal was new, though, and she couldn’t stand it.

Anne Stuart takes her rakes and villains seriously. She revels in writing anti-hero protagonists and love interests, and their villainy is never watered-down or tame. She writes dark-chocolate heroes – rich and blackened, bordering on too bitter. Lucien is more of the same, but without Adonis good looks to endear him to society. I loved him – scars and all. What I didn’t love was the lack of back story about him. . . I wanted a little more concentration on how he got those scars and on his dangerous journey from Jamaica to London at a young age. I felt like Stuart rushed the culmination of his character, she wrote so many great lead-ins to his history and dark character, but left many of them dangling by book’s end.

Miranda was a lovely counter-point to Lucien’s brooding. She is a fiery and beautiful young woman, not easily intimated but able to see beyond Lucien’s brutish exterior. Since this is the ‘House of Rohan’ series, I would have liked more interaction between Miranda and her family . . . particularly her brothers, the eldest of whom is the hero of the fourth book in the series, ‘Shameless’.

I liked Lucien well enough and thought Miranda was lovely. But the real selling-point of this book came in the unlikely secondary romance. This is a staple of the ‘House of Rohan’ series; a second romantic plot running alongside the main couple’s. I always enjoy Stuart’s second-fiddle romances, such was the case with Lydia and Charles in ‘Ruthless’, and once again between two unlikely opposites in ‘Breathless’.

In ‘Breathless’ this two-for-the-price-of-one romance is between Miranda’s plain best friend, Jane Pagett, and Lucien’s thief-on-hand and London's notorious King of Thieves, Jacob Connelly.

Jane is to be married in three months time, to the stuffy and cold-lipped Mr Bothwell. In the mean time, she is happy to take Miranda up on her offer of masked-soirees and scandalous balls, in the hopes of experiencing some real fun before her stifling marriage. It is at one of these masked balls that Jane stumbles upon a robbery-in-process, as Jacob Connelly steals the jewels of their lady host. Jane and Jacob share a heated kiss, and he stakes his claim by slipping a stolen diamond on her finger.

Jane puts their delicious kiss in a darkened room down to a one-off encounter, one she will cherish well into her dotage and unhappy marriage. What neither Jane nor Jacob count on is their affiliation with Miranda and Lucien, respectively, which throws them together and helps their romance along.

I loved Jane and Jacob. She is a veritable plain-Jane, succumbing to an unhappy marriage in order to avoid being underfoot in her parent’s household. By contrast, Jacob is the king of London thieves – a notorious rake and debaucher of innocents. Theirs is a glorious opposites-attracting love affair that I enjoyed far more than Lucien and Miranda’s. And I think Stuart started to feel the same towards the end of the book . . . Jacob and Jane’s scenes came more frequently and were lengthy towards the end, and their romance seemed fuller than Miranda’s by book’s finale.

Bloody hell. “Lass, you can’t imagine the things I want to do to you. I want to take you to bed and not let you out for days. I want to take you every way I can, so hard that neither of us can walk. I want you in my bed and in my life, for the rest of my life, and if you don’t want to believe it you can check your hand.”
“My hand?” she echoed, confused. She looked down, and saw the huge, winking diamond on it. “When did you do that?”
“Just now, love. You’re mine, Miss Jane Pagett, and you know it, too. I was just trying to be polite about it.”

I loved Jacob, best of all. He spends a good deal of the book wanting Jane, but believing himself to be beneath her. He was such a bad-boy hero, and so damned romantic by the end. He definitely stole the spotlight from poor, beastly Lucien.

I really did enjoy Anne Stuart’s third book in the ‘House of Rohan’ series, but not for the reasons I thought I would. I wished for more back story about the villainous hero and in the end was more invested in the second-fiddle romance between a plainly unhappy affianced lady and London’s King of Thieves.

4/5

3 comments:

  1. thanks for posting this, i'm into historical fiction and this series sounds very good.

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  2. so glad you enjoyed it, I always love reading your reviews...

    not my thing though =(

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  3. really enjoy your review. I always have thing with historical romances. I'm definitely gonna try to read this one. Besides, it's kind of different type of hereos from the rest of typical historical romances hereos.

    And I'm sure Anne Stuart is an amazing writer along with my other fav historical romances writers like Mary Bulogh and Lisa Kleypas. :)

    Thank you for the wonderful job. :DD

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