Ruthless
by Anne Stuart, historical (2010)
MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-2848-3


I think I have finally outgrown Anne Stuart's books. I have not picked up her last few romantic suspense efforts because I didn't like the direction she was heading toward, but curiosity compels me to pick up Ruthless, the first book in a brand new historical trilogy from this author.

It is not a good sign when I burst into laughter the moment the hero, Francis Rohan, the Viscount Rohan, makes his appearance. He has a permanent sneer on his gorgeous face, dripping with utmost contempt for his "followers" - debauched aristocrats who attend his Parisian orgies - and calling the women whom he had slept with whores. He styles himself the King of Hell, calls his orgies the Heavenly Host, and proclaims melodramatically that he has long decided that he is destined for hell.

Samples of his conversations include:

"Any woman in this house is a whore, my child. So, for that matter, are the men. Let me get you a glass of wine and we can discuss this."

Viscount Lindsay Lohan is 39. Why is he calling people "my child" and, later, "poppet"? Oh yes, because he's a pretentious rear end of an emo llama, that's what.

"Don't attempt to play games with me," he said lazily. He strolled over to the windows, looking out onto the early-morning landscape. "I'm a master at them. Who else resides in your household besides you and your mother?"

This is hilarious. Everything he does and says, right to the way he positions himself in a room, is calculated to show off how much of a cynical and debauched drama-llama he is. The world is a cesspit! And only he knows its secrets! And if he penetrates you with his secrets, he will think you are just another fool to succumb to his llama drama!

"Are you really inured to temptation? I've managed to seduced nuns and Sapphists, and I'm unused to having my attempts ignored."

It's too funny - if a little depressing - that he manages to reach the ancient age of 39 without someone pointing out to him that his theatrics are best kept to the stage.

Let me see whether I can speak like him. Ahem.

Behold, people! Admire my fifty-inch prong that has seduced nuns, Sapphists, and the Pope and his entire hangers-on! How dare you ignore the way my prong is knocking on your luscious innocent petals! Open to me! Say hallelujah! By the way, I'm so much cooler than Jeff Buckley, don't you think?

What do you think?

Oh, yes, the story. Anyway, our heroine Elinor Harriman lives in Paris with her younger sister and her crazed mother who is clearly suffering from dementia caused by syphilis. The money is running out, and when the story opens, Mommy Dearest manages to grab the last of the money to gambol in the Heavenly Host of Viscount Lohan. Elinor meets Lohan, who is naturally intrigued because she's somehow different and he needs a brand new source of amusement - admiring his penis in the mirror has become tad boring lately. Normally you'd wonder why a sane woman will want to cavort with Viscount Lohan when she has a good example of what STD can inflict on her in the form of her crazy mother, but hey, this is a romance novel.

Hence, Anne Stuart systematically tears away every rock of support in Elinor's life, causing her to have no choice but to turn to Viscount Lohan. Then again, as heartbreaking as Elinor's contrived break-the-darling saga can be, it's rather befuddling to note that she'd not become Viscount Lohan's mistress - even if he's rich and has treated her surprisingly well if she overlooks his pretentious "My penis is long! And my cynicism is strong!" babbling - but the moment her mother orders her to sleep with an ugly pedophile brute, Elinor quickly spreads like peanut butter because she'd rather spare her sister the same fate. Elinor is a martyr to a most hateful mother - instead of taking her sister and running for their lives out of Paris, she stupidly continues to play her mother's doormat. Therefore, in this story, Viscount Lohan, with his juvenile emo pretensions and all, actually saves Elinor from herself.

As for Viscount Lohan's "Worship my penis! Bow before my hammy impersonation of Lord Byron on crack!" nonsense, Ms Stuart clumsily attempts to whitewash his antics by telling me that he watched his family die when he was twenty in the Battle of Culloden. Oh? Really? Somehow, throwing orgies and having lots of sex and still managing to become bored by the whole thing don't seem like a heroic attempt to overcome tragedy if you ask me. In fact, I think something is seriously wrong when he's supposed to be a hedonist and yet he behaves as if the only sexual activity he is getting on a regular basis is an electric prod being shoved up his rear end. A hedonist who can't enjoy himself... that's actually pretty depressing. Is there any hope for us mere mortals, then?

I don't know. Perhaps I should give the whole trilogy a try before I wave a fond farewell to this author - it's the least I can do for the books of hers that I've enjoyed in the past - but I think I've somehow reached a point where I've outgrown the author's books. Somehow, the typical larger-than-life bad boy in this story comes off like a large ham that probably doesn't smell too nice, the characterization feels paper thin, and the plot is like one giant ball of contrivance to break the heroine and force her to take the hero into her life whether or not he deserves to be there. Ruthless isn't just toothless, it's all gums and no bite.

Rating: 54


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