Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tall, dark and naughty - nearly my kind of hero.

I prefer them tall, dark, tortured and vindictive, but Francis Rohan does pretty good.

Anne Stuart's Ruthless, the first book of the House of Rohan trilogy, is set a few years before the French revolution in Paris. As usual she does an excellent job of describing the setting in which the story takes place, including the aristocratic privileges that jointly with the financial crisis would eventually trigger said revolution.

Ruthless has two uncommon main characters.

Elinor is not as beautiful as the usual historical romance heroine, she has an ugly, manly nose. She is smart, brave, witty and loyal to her family, especially her young sister, for whom she would sacrifice herself. Elinor doesn't want anything to do with men because of a previous bad experience. She doesn't believe in God either. However, she has more in common with a traditional heroine than the hero has with a traditional hero.

Francis Rohan, Le Comte de Giverney, is a Scotsman exiled to France. He is clever, beautiful, sadistic, cynical, vain and loyal to his only friend. He doesn't believe in God or the devil, but he enjoys performing fake rituals for those who do. And as the leader of the Heavenly Host, (a.k.a. Debauchees"R"Us) he is worshipped like a demigod. He's nearly forty, and bored with his routine. He slowly but surely falls in love, for the first time in his life, with Elinor - maybe because she despises him and rejects him, something which has never happened to him before. Most of the book is dedicated to Francis eschewing the feelings Elinor inspires in him. He meets Elinor in a moment of his life when he feels twice as old as he is. She's nearly twenty years younger and in spite of the life she endures, an innocent compared with Francis's life experiences. Francis treats her as though he were her better and older benefactor. Their verbal duels are the best part of the book. These two can really say witty and hurtful things to one another! Because of his dark nature, and absolute lack of hope in anything good, Francis had decided not to procreate or ever marry. Marriage for him is a way to give a respectable woman the perfect excuse to take lovers. At one point, he tries to arrange a marriage between Elinor and his cousin and heir, so he could become Elinor's lover without tarnishing her honor. He does everything he can to gain her hatred, while he protects her. He risks his life for her at the end of the book, proving how much he cares.

Why did I like it? It's an amusing read. Being a romance I knew he would fall in love with her, and it gave me a `gotcha' moment. He wasn't so wicked after all!

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