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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2010
The hero of Ruthless, Francis Rohan, le Comte de Giverney, is all that a reader could want--so long as that reader wants an unrepentant, degenerate and ruthless despoiler of all that society holds dear. He is a magnificent creation. Many thanks, Anne Stuart. No, as some reviews have stated, "Anne Stuart isn't for everyone." But, then, neither is champagne. Few writers are capable of creating such a dark and disturbing hero who, nonetheless, captures and holds the reader's interest. Fewer still can then manage to write themselves out of such a corner.

Francis Rohan, known in pre-Revolutionary Paris as the "King of Hell" for his hedonistic exploits and orgiastic society, meets his match in Elinor Harriman. Neither this demon count nor Elinor, his next victim, has any illusions about what life holds for them. Each has endured excruciating loss; one has given up, one refuses to. Elinor should be afraid of Rohan, but she just doesn't have time to be since she is attempting to rescue her feckless, selfish mother from ruin once again. Elinor confronts Rohan in his lair, refusing to be intimidated by him or the debauchery that swirls about them both. At first amused by her refusal to be intimidated, Rohan becomes intrigued by her. He simply cannot let her be. The reader wonders: Who exactly is the spider and who the fly in this story?

The dialogue alone recommends Ruthless. Yet there is much more in Ruthless to please the reader: two love stories, one for each sister; two heroes who need rescuing; slightly sassy, devoted servants; degenerate villains, the sort we love to hate; a Jacobite fugitive (Who doesn't love a doomed, Romantic cause?); brimstone and fire; suspense, mystery, and the redemptive power of love. The very best thing about Ruthless? It's book one of a three book series.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2010
Anne Stuart was once one of my favorite authors, but her recent novels all seem to be variations on a theme. In Ruthless, we have the same bored, hedonist hero, the same not quite his type heroine, who is supposed to be very frightened and ignorant of sexual pleasure. The whole novel is about he being fascinated against his will by her intelligence and her innocence and her denying any attraction at all to him. Elinor's reactions are reasonable, until we finally get to the big sex scene and then all of a sudden the hero makes a 180 degree turn into someone who cares! and after all of the buildup, he lets Elinor go! Just like that! And she becomes the aggressor WANTING HIM and insisting that they have sex! And of course she has an orgasm with no foreplay at all! Right! HAH! This is the basic story in all of her recent novels. Anne Stuart is becoming increasingly one note and it is very disappointing. I am not a devotee of rape and i didn't want to read anything like porn, but I like a hero to go after what he wants with some finesse! As a man who really enjoys a woman's body and knows what to do with it!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 27, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Elinor Harriman was born to a titled father and money hungry mother. When her mother left England for Paris, the downward spiral of their life began. Her mother moved from man to man, gambled and lost and eventually landed them in squalor. Now her mother is dying of the French disease and it's up to Elinor to protect the only thing Elinor truly values, her little sister, Lydia.

When Elinor's mother escapes in a moment of clarity from their home with the last of their meager valuables and cash, Elinor is forced to follow her. She locates her at the Heavenly Host, a place where anything goes and not a place for an innocent young girl. The Heavenly Host is run by the infamous Viscount Rohan and when Elinor is brought to his attention; he finds himself interested for the first time in years.

I really liked the plot, I liked that Elinor and her sister were struggling in life but had that unbreakable bond and a few loyal lifelong servants. I loved the characters. Elinor isn't beautiful but she is selfless and witty. Lydia who is beautiful isn't cold or shallow; rather she's warm and endearing. Rohan is an ass, but I loved him too. He's alpha male all the way and he's a deviant and unconventional. His good friend Charles was one of my favorite characters and his was just a minor part.

So why only the 3 stars? The book was way too long to have never delved into the characters any deeper than she did. Elinor's sister finds out about Rohan's past and what makes him tick, yet it's never brought up between the two main characters. Charles sweeps Lydia off her feet yet we never find out anything of real substance about him, either.

The author dragged out the whole sexual tension thing between the two characters for far too long. Then there is the matter of Elinor's deceased father's estate. Towards the end of the book Rohan discusses it with Charles in great detail, even proves all knowing on the new heir, yet never bothered to tell Elinor about it? Then I think eventually he will bring it up, nope, it doesn't happen! Another surprise at the end of the book pops up and I wait for Elinor to tell Rohan, again it never happens.

For a book with over 400 pages there seemed way too many loose ends. I think the makings of a great historical romance were here; it just was a little disorganized and needed to be tied up better.

I haven't given up hope; I liked it enough to want to read the next book in the series. I only hope it lives up to its potential.


Cherise Everhard, August 2010
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 25, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I read the back blurb on Ruthless I was prepared for a decadent, hedonistic story filled with corruption and a twisted dark plot. And in some areas this book does live up to its description.

But ultimately, I felt the book did not live up it the hype on the back. For anyone who is familiar with Anne Stuart's books she excels at dark and dangerous heroes that often the reader feels could fall to the `dark side' and even be the villain of the story. The heroine is often young, naïve and rather average looking. The heroine somehow finds something redeeming in him even if the world does not and is able to get under his skin where not other woman has before. This book follows the same pattern as a courageous if poor Elinor Harriman finds herself going to the Heavenly Host. A dark, wicked place where everything has a price. She must extract her troublesome and sick mother from further gambling. The owner is the King of Hell, Viscount Rohan. One rumored to `consort with the devil, have orgies and drink the blood of virgins.' Innocent Elinor's courage intrigues the Dark Viscount and he helps takes her in for the night feeds her and clothes her and returns her deranged mother back to her home. Although he soon returns Elinor to her home he quickly becomes obsessed with her and she with him. And as an evil creeps to kill her and her family the Viscount must re-evaluate his new feelings.

The problem for me I that I never felt the Viscount was that evil or hedonistic or even interesting. I think if there were more scenes that demonstrated his corrupting or black character rather than giving vague glimpses that didn't really pan out I would have felt he was more of the `bad boy.' Rather than just being told he was evil. In this story it felt like he was masquerading as the bad boy the entire book, going through the motions. Because of this the book didn't really have the edginess I thought it would and since this book really hinges on the hero's character being the King of Hell. So it didn't completely work for me. The heroine was spirited and had an interesting past that haunted her but for some reason seemed to lack personality for me. I was actually a lot more interested in the Viscount's best friend the scarred and decent Charles Reading who loves Elinor's beautiful and extremely smart younger sister. I also felt the author threw in the end a plot to kill Elinor and her family that felt a little tacked on. So while this is a solid read, I have to admit I have enjoyed her earlier books more.

Overall, this is a decent book and if you already a fan of the author's books I believe you will enjoy it. If you enjoy a `bad boy hero' who changes from the heroine's love you will also like it. But the problem for me is because I have read this author's books before and because of this, the plot and characters seemed a bit recycled and predictable for me. I was really hoping for a lush, decadent background and dark/complex intrigue in this historical that I felt it did not fulfill.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2011
I will say some good things about the book. There parts of the dialogue where I laughed and I do think the writing was good, I just found myself getting restless in some scenes, tempted to skip ahead. But It did have its moments of sensuality. The characters were good and likeable.

Spoiler Alert!

Okay now the bad, first of all the first half of this book was a bit I wouldn't say boring... but it took so long for the main characters to have time to just be together and get to know each other, not that they really did in my opinion. I thought the characters motivations were a bit forced. I dunno I could almost buy the whole "I'm bored and I find you interesting" angle but I don't think it was enough to make it an interesting plot. I mean who cares about some dude who's infatuated by some girl he barely know only because she acts like she doesn't like him...or some vague reasoning. Elinor acts like she can't stand Francis pretty much throughout the first 75% of the book and then suddenly she wants him and then soon after loves him. Then Francis kills the guy who F**ked her over in the past (not to give away the plot), It just didn't make sense to me. Why would he do this for a girl he barely knows? I think Stuart should have added more POV scenes for Francis, I found him too enigmatic throughout the whole novel.

Then the Heroine who up until this point is supposed to be "a reasonable girl" randomly accepts a rather shady proposal from some weirdo that her nanny had previously stated she should we wary of. Without going to check on her sister that she is super close with. Come on!

I could go on and on about the bad with this book. The vague motivations, the lame plot, the annoying way everyone keeps treating Lydia (Elinors `s sister ) as if she's a 3 year old, the way the nanny and mom just died, and everyone was like "well that sucks, I'm sad".....(next scene)"so anyway". I was like, Wait, no attending the funeral, no deep mourning period or conflicted inner turmoil about the unresolved familial issues between the mom and daughters. I saw a missed opportunity for some depth into the characters. Then after all the back story and Waiting and Waiting for them to do SOMETHING other than talk we get an okay love scene and a rushed ending. I would give some of Stuart's other books a chance but, this one is not one of her best.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2010
This is the first book in Anne Stuart's `House of Rohan' series.... and it is sublime!

Comte de Giverney is known among Paris high-society as the King of Hell. He also goes by Lord of the Underworld, Lord of the Heavenly Host and Francis Rohan. Viscount Rohan throws wild, debauched invite-only parties. Rohan opens his home for three-day-long revelries and orgies known as the `Heavenly Host' where his guests `do what thou wilt'. These lascivious affairs are the talk of town, and have turned Rohan into a coveted legend.

Elinor Harriman leads a very different life... she is elder sister and protector of the beautiful and desirable Lydia. She is main provider for her loyal Nanny Maude and coachman, Jacobs. And Elinor is the dutiful and patient daughter to Lady Caroline, her pox-ridden poor-excuse for a mother.
It is her delirious and sickly mother who reluctantly leads Elinor to Viscount Rohan's door-step on the night of his Heavenly revelries. When the innocent Elinor crosses Rohan's path he is enchanted and intrigued, his interest pricked for the first time in years and now that Elinor is in his sights, Rohan has no intentions of letting her go without a fight...

I loved this book. This is my first-ever Anne Stuart novel, and I am officially converted!

Let me just start by saying that `Ruthless' doesn't have as much sex in it as you'd think, but that also won't bother you as much as you'd imagine...

When we meet him, Viscount Rohan is a ruthless rake somewhat disenchanted with his orchestrated orgies and contrived risqué. Elinor stumbles into his life right at the moment when he is most bored and looking for a distraction.
Anne Stuart does what so few romance writers are willing to risk... and that is, write a truly devilish rake.
Viscount Rohan is not a nice man and he lives up to his `King of Hell' title. He is laconic, brutally honest, egotistical and wholly consumed by his own amusements. I loved him! I mostly adored Rohan because he was so well-written and so intensely awful. Viscount Rohan is a very rare male character in historical romances - whereas most `rakes' are easily cured by true love; Anne Stuart kept up his character's pretences to the point that Rohan was a mystery unto himself. Rohan's redemption became a suspenseful side-story that kept me guessing until the very end.

Elinor was equally wonderful and a perfect heroine for Rohan. She has had so much heartache and unfairness in her life that she could have turned into a `woe is me' misery guts. But Anne Stuart has written Elinor with guts of steel and an unbreakable backbone. I adored her, and could very easily understand what Rohan found so fascinating about her.

`Ruthless' is really two romances in one. Rohan and Elinor are the main romantic focus, but Elinor's little sister Lydia also gets a HEA in the form of Rohan's scarred second-in-command, Charles Reading. The moment I read Lydia and Charles's first encounter I thought "I hope their book is next in the series" - and then, lo and behold! Anne Stuart writes their romance alongside Rohan and Elinor's. Lydia and Charles get less page-time and focus, but theirs is still a thrillingly sweet romance.

I will say that I thought there would be more smut and gratuitous sex in the book. After all, the `Heavenly Host' is whispered about in equal parts reverence and disgust by several characters... but we never actually read much of the goings-on at Rohan's estate. Anne Stuart's lack of description about the orgies isn't a hole in the novel; in fact the minimal explicit accounts keep things mysterious and a little bit edgy. It is up to readers (and Elinor) to let their imaginations run wild and put their heads in the gutter where the Heavenly Host is concerned...

There also isn't much in the way of smut between Rohan and Elinor, because the romance for them is in the chase. Reading Rohan and Elinor duck and parry with one another is half the fun. And because their romance is a real `will they or won't they', as a reader you get more caught up in Rohan and Elinor's weird courtship than their coupling. I will warn that if you are in the mood for a good steamy read, then `Ruthless' is less about the release and more about the build-up. Don't expect this to be a historical romance with light erotica; it is instead a high-brow historical romance with an intense storyline and unique romance.

My one complaint about `Ruthless' is a somewhat rushed conclusion. In the last couple of chapters there is one too many happy coincidences and easy resolutions. I would have appreciated more time with Rohan and Elinor, and a slower slide into the ending... but it's a small complaint in a whole book of wonderful.

`Ruthless' is brilliant. I would recommend this historical romance for lovers of the genre, as well as apprehensive readers who have been too sceptical to delve into such books. The smut is light, the characters intense and the story a real page-turner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 29, 2010
Anne Stuart loves to write about bad boys and her latest Viscount Rohan is quite a naughty one. He lives in Paris and conducts all kinds of debaucheries. He is bored, jaded, exiled from England and when he is confronted with heroine Elinor Harriman his ennui comes to a grinding halt, here is someone worthy of his attention.

Elinor shows up at Rohan's hedonistic party in search of her mother who is in her final stages of syphilis, she is unhealthy and not lucid. Elinor is brought to Rohan and he agrees to find her mother in his home but she is forced to stay with him through the night in what can only be described as a totally innocent overnight visit, she sleeps on his couch.

Elinor is the backbone of her family. Her mother, an indolent selfish woman, left her husband for a lover years earlier, dragging her children with her. Elinor takes care of not only her mother, but her beautiful younger sister and her two servants too. They are beyond poor but hope arrives in two forms, firstly Elinor's father has died and hopefully the man gaining the title, a distant cousin, can help, plus Rohan has set his sights on Elinor and provides for their comfort and quite literally keeps them from starving.

Elinor's biggest fault is pride, she has a healthy dose of it and she can be very bossy. She is protective of her sister for good reason but it was a bit annoying how Elinor called her sister dearest and acted as if she was 12 and not the young woman that she is.

Rohan aggravates Elinor and he like Elinor is prideful and can be condescending, he called Elinor child constantly. Rohan is almost unfeeling and he certainly is a sensualist but he has a history too.

For the first two thirds of the book, Rohan plays with Elinor like a cat with a mouse and she resents him for it. In fact, her conversations with him are laced with anger but they desire each other, although Elinor denies it. Her sister recognizes their feelings even as she is wrestling with her own emotions for Rohan's best friend.

I was prepared to give Anne Stuart's latest novel a 3 star rating until I got to the last third of the novel where I was absolutely blown away. Anne Stuart knows how to write an amazing emotional scene and there are plenty of them here that tug at your heart and make you just root for these characters. I read several scenes twice. Finally the reader sees Rohan's mask slip away and Elinor's insecurities revealed. It is both heartbreaking and liberating. Finally the characters understand their feelings for each other and act with honesty and passion. These heart-felt scenes are what propel this novel to my keeper shelf and make this a 4.5 star novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2010
Elinor Harriman and her sister are living hand to mouth. Their mother, once a beauty in her own right but now riddled with the pox, spends whatever they can't hide gambling and drinking. One night Elinor's mother sneaks out to go gambling at the notorious house of Viscount Rohan. Known as the leader of the Heavenly Host, Rohan's home is a den of iniquity unlike anything Elinor has ever seen. She has no choice but to try and find her mother - but instead finds herself the prey of the Viscount himself. She wants nothing to do with this sexual predator, well that is what she keeps telling herself anyway.

Anne Stuart's Ruthless takes her heroine on a journey of discovery. Elinor does her best to not give in to the Viscount's animalistic sexuality, but I can honestly say that I would have given in way before she actually did. Viscount Rohan is sexy, sinful, and just plain naughty. He bows to no one and his main lot in life is to explore pleasure. But then he falls in love for the first time in his life and I loved watching this happen. Ruthless is definitely a historical romance to read carefully - you wouldn't want to miss a thing!

Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 19, 2012
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I remember my first historical romance, I found it in a box of free books at the laundromat, it was The Marquis Who Hated Women by Barbara Cartland, it was written back when woman hating men were called women haters instead of *$%bags. Anyways, I liked the book okay, the romance wasn't great, but I loved the setting and started to look for more books set in the past.

All through my teens and early twenties, historical romances were all I read. Over the years, I've added other romance subgenres, paranormal, scifi, suspense, etc. Ruthless was the first historical I'd read in months and I loved it!

Ms. Stuart has a way of getting into a characters head and inviting the reader along for the ride.

Elinor Harriman is having a bad day, as the head of her tiny, destitute family, she has a lot of responsibility, including keeping her syphilitic, delusional, crazed mother from escaping their tattered apartment. But on this day her luck runs out when crazy mama runs off with the last of their worldly possessions to gamble them away at a house party. This is the set up and from here the story goes to deliciously romantic places as Elinor heads out after her mother.

Francis Rohan is an evil man. His life is one of excess and debauchery (ever notice how the only time you get to use the word debauchery is in relation to a romance novel?). He doesn't care for anyone or anything, but Elinor Harriman's determination intrigues him and best of all, dispells some of the boredom he's been feeling.

What follows is a delicious romance between the moral, loyal, hardworking Elinor and the dissolute and damaged Francis.

What I loved best about this story is the real banter the characters have with each other, like when Francis tells Elinor that she slept with him after she fell asleep in his parlor and he came in and watched her! There are many more moments like this and I was kept awake flipping the pages to see what would happen next.

I usually get annoyed when the side characters have a romance, but the feelings her younger sister and the dashing Charles share were so adorable, I wouldn't have minded spending a little more time with them.

This will be a reread for me, which is about the highest praise I can give a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 26, 2012
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to admit, I ordered this book not realizing it was a romance novel. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to realize my "mistake" but I kept reading and I wasn't disappointed.

Viscount Rohan, the male version of a high end street walker, spends the majority of his existence pursuing physical pleasures. This comes to a seemingly screeching halt when Elinor Harriman shows up at one of his parties looking for her mother. As his fascination with Elinor grows, we are left to determine what it is about this poor, inexperienced woman that has captivated the man who could have any woman his little heart fancies. Is it her beauty? Highly unlikely. Is it her innocence? Doubtful. Or could it simply be that she is the only woman that Viscount Rohan has ever met who does not throw herself at him while simultaniously removing every stitch of clothing she has on? This is a more likely explanation, in my opinion.

While Viscount Rohan spends the majority of the novel pursuing Elinor Harriman for the sole purpose of having sex with her, I found him to be a rather likable fellow. He is witty and sarcastic and, if he weren't so horny all the time, would probably be fun to hang out with. He certainly knows how to throw a party! But then again, he has endless amounts of money at his disposal, so of course his parties are going to be wild.

If you can get past the graphic nature of this story, it turns out to be a sweet romance. Viscount Rohan has been tamed and it is quite entertaining to see.
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