Why I read it: I was fortunate enough to pick this one up at NetGalley. I've heard many great things about this author (I'd heard she's good at the dark and angsty and I love the dark and angsty!) and I wanted to give her a try. Plus the blurb sounded just up my alley. I'm glad I picked it up and I'll be looking to read more from this wonderful author.
What it's about: (this is the blurb from the author's website) 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. (Doesn't it sound just delicious?)
What worked for me: I've been lucky lately. I haven't read a dud book in a while (yay me!) and this one did not disappoint. Overall, I would describe it as "delicious" and the hero, Viscount Rohan (even though he has the IMO unromantic first name of Francis) is the most delicious part of all. He's wicked and bad and sinful and gorgeous and decadent and lovely.
For all that Rohan strutted around thinking himself the Prince of Darkness, his battered soul contained a bruised nobility that would appall him. Rohan much preferred to fancy himself heartless.But, more about him later.
I do love a Georgian book (is it still called "Georgian" when the book is set in Paris for the most part?) - I love the powder and patches, the jewels and the high heeled shoes encrusted with diamonds, I love the rich velvets and brocades - and that's just on the men. There is something so masculine about an alpha male wearing such clothes - they should look girly shouldn't they? But they don't. If their characters are painted right, they pull it off and its gorgeous. Some of my favourite books are set in this period and it was nice to have a book set in Paris for a change too.
Elinor piques Rohan's interest from the beginning. She's different to the women he normally comes across (ie she's not a whore - "Any woman in this house is a whore, my child. So, for that matter, are the men.") and his not-so-latent sense of honour is inspired. (I say not-so-latent because it was always evident to me that he was an honest, honourable man - he just wasn't "good".) Anyhoo, Elinor's mother is dying of syphillis and is about to gamble away the last of the family's money at a gathering of the Heavenly Host (a kind of Hellfire club) and Elinor follows her to get her home (hopefully before she loses everything). Rohan is the leader of the Heavenly Host and sets the rules (for example, no children - "A foolish inconsistency" but "not up for discussion" - see what I mean about honourable?) and presides in glorious malaise over the goings on. When Elinor first meets Rohan he has a half naked woman (breasts exposed because he's just been given them some, er, oral attention) reclining on his lap. This initial picture fits him perfectly. He's a gorgeous, languid, bored, jaded, artistocrat and he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him.
I loved reading his thoughts and words. They showed him in all his flawed glory and they were my very favourite parts of the book. This is not a book where the hero meets the heroine and his wicked sexual urges are immediately tamed by the power of her magic hoo-ha - he keeps Elinor around (he's interested in far more than her body and is not in a hurry to get to that) and bangs other women like usual - he just thinks about her when he's doing it. It's different and it's him. He's a very bad man. **sigh**
"The brandy is for me..." he said in his most amiable voice. The one he used before he destroyed someone.I did like Elinor quite a bit. I liked her strength of character, her determination and her optimism. I enjoyed her love for her younger sister Lydia and I liked her self-awareness (even though she didn't think she was attractive) and I shared her loathing or rats, but for me, Rohan stole the show.
There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a sad secret in Elinor's past (I felt awful for her - her mother was a real bitch) and when Rohan finds out about it his reaction is both expected but untypical of him. And ferocious. (Rwoarr!) It reveals to us (what we really already knew) just how much he cares for Elinor and how lines he would not cross before for anyone, are not an issue when it comes to her, her honour and her safety. Most excellent hero material.
There was quite a bit of humour in the book too which was a nice foil to the dark and angsty. There's a part where Elinor's thoughts are rambling a bit that tickled me.
He seemed to roam the halls like a bat, waiting to pounce. She had no idea whether bats actually pounced or not. And Rohan wasn't at all like a bat which were horribly ratlike and not to her preference at all. Rohan was like some kind of cat. ...
And she was a mouse. A mouse who snarled. And had teeth. ...What didn't (work for me): The trouble with having Rohan be such a deliciously decadent almost-but-not-quite-bad-guy hero is that as much as I enjoyed it, for there to be an HEA he obviously has to mend his wicked ways. I thought the ending a bit trite and therefore a little disappointing. His transformation from wicked man to faithful husband was a bit too quick and not entirely believable. I mean, I wanted to believe it but I would have liked a little something (I can't even describe what - which is not helpful I know), but something extra to help me truly swallow his metamorphosis. Although, I did like this:
"Like it or not I seem to have grown a heart. I have absolutely no use for the damned thing but there it sits, demanding Elinor. I can't live without her."Maybe my problem was that he was so well drawn as this wicked sexy unrepentant man that him being "tamed" into being a faithful monogamous husband in some way diminished him? Hmm. I don't know for sure, other than that I found the ending a little less satisfying than the rest of the book, which was otherwise excellent.
What else:This book is the first in a trilogy and is released on July 1. I've read book 2 already and I can't wait to get my hands on book 3. In fact, the covers are so pretty that I've a feeling that I'll be buying them even though I got the first 2 free as bound galleys from NetGalley. I feel a little guilty for not sharing some of my money with this author who gave me so much entertainment. I know I will go back to this book again at some point to soak up some more of a beautiful wicked man who has become a favourite already.
Reckless (book 2 - due out in August) is different and I wondered if I should wait a while before I read it and maybe I should have. It is a different book, about Rohan and Elinor's son, Adrian and it is set in England in 1804. Adrian isn't quite a wicked or delicious as Rohan - whereas most of my enjoyment of Ruthless came from Rohan, Reckless was enjoyable in an entirely different way and I 'shared' my love with both protagonists. The dialogue between Charlotte and Adrian was delightful, sharp, biting and double edged. I liked that it wasn't the same book with different leads and a different name. I liked that it took place over a shorter time frame. Also, because Adrian wasn't quite as wicked as Rohan had been, I didn't have any trouble with the the ending at all so it was a more consistent read for me in that respect. (But I still liked Rohan better) There is a secondary romance in Reckless that could have been a book in itself and I was a bit disapointed not to have more of it. I was really interested in Evangelina and Simon's story. Also, there were a couple of questions I had about how the family got back to England and a new title that the original Rohan had picked up that didn't seem to be answered and which bothered me a little - because I'm like that. I gave Reckless a B+. Really good, but not quite as good at Ruthless.
I can see from the author's website that Breathless (book 3 - look for it in September) is about a daughter of the house of Rohan so I'm thinking that will be a bit different and an interesting read. Can't wait.
Grade: A- (the minus is because the ending was a bit less delicious than the rest of the book. But, it was a really great book. And Rohan was made of awesome.)
Also, apologies for my overuse of the word "delicious" in this review. But really, that's the word I keep coming back to when I think of this book. Sorry.