Never Kiss A Rake
by Anne Stuart, historical (2013)
Montlake Romance, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-477-80732-2


Never Kiss A Rake is the first book in a new series called The House Of Russell. How is this different from Anne Stuart's previous The House Of Rohan series? Well, I guess the publisher is different, and this one is in trade paperback format so it's naturally more expensive. And this is about three sisters running around in their hamfisted efforts to investigate the death of their father.

Adrian Bruton, the Earl of Kilmartyn, is the most debauched hero ever, who would go on and on about how evil and dark he is, and how he has no remorse or guilt about seducing and breaking the hearts of everybody. He's married, but hey, the wife is evil so it's okay for him to be what he is. Our heroine, Bryony Russell, is posing as his housekeeper because she suspects that he is behind her father's death. She exudes innocence and purity, it seems, so Adrian immediately points his, er, finger at her direction and makes the moves. She soon puts out to him, while wondering whether he's evil like he says he is, but oh, she can feel him (oh, not that way... okay, not only that way) and he's really not as bad as he says he is, right? She loves him, and her remarkable hoochie of virtue soon convinces him that he's in love too.

Oh, don't worry about his wife. She gets an unceremonious boot from the scenery. If she has a penis, she would probably star in the sequel. Life in romance novels can be unfair like that.

I bought this book, wanting to see whether a change of publisher would rejuvenate my interest in the author's historical romances. I'm sad to say that this just isn't working for me. This book seems like it's a homage to Jane Eyre (not a new concept in itself), but everything about it feels instead like a rehash of the author's own past efforts hundred time over.

The hero insists to the heroine that he has no conscience and no decency. The heroine shuddering and shivering as she succumbs to his "ruthless" seduction after some lip service about how she found him disgusting and what not. The heroine's attraction to the hero makes her come off as often too dumb for words. (Actually, she does come off as pretty dim as she is clueless about running a household when she's said to have managed the family home after the father croaked.) The abrupt shift from hate-lust to true love when it's convenient. The over-the-top melodrama now feels mechanical.

Everything about this story feels like a stale retread, like a sad echo of the author's finer moments in the past, often executed in a shoddy and half-hearted manner that makes the story inferior to the stories it reminds me of.

I guess I just have to accept that I'm over the author's books. It's very hard for me to admit this, as I've had great times with the author's books in the past. But I guess we all have to move on to other people and other things eventually. So here's me, moving on, and here's this book, moving out.

Rating: 48


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