My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I tried and tried to like this book but there were just too many eww-factors and my pet peeves I couldn’t ignore. More than once I wanted to DNF it. At one point I want it to end, simply end and relieve me of my misery.
Ruan, the duke of Cynssyr, is a rake. Yes, one of those sparkly dukes whose lovers/mistresses are scattered there in every nook and cranny. He’s a lawyer and a detective. The book starts with him talking to his friends and contemplating a possible conquest of a married woman. His other friends are Benjamin aka Ben, Baron Aldreth and Devon, the viscount Bracebridge. Ruan has been in the war with Devon. Ben 4 yrs ago fell in love and married one of the Sinclair sisters, Mary. Mary is beautiful. So is Lucy, a widow and the youngest Emily. It’s only Anne, who’s the eldest, a spectacle clad spinster isn’t the beautiful one, no idea why. I get it she’s tall but she’s got wheat blonde hair, blue-gray eyes and a great body (which Ruan finds out soon and can’t seem to get enough of!). At Ben’s marriage, Anne met Devon and there was a hint of a relationship. They liked each-other quite a lot but Anne’s good for nothing, ignorant father said ‘no’ because Devon didn’t have a title. Devon, I thought, was almost in love with her so I liked him. But I should’ve known better. He didn’t ‘wait’ for Anne for all these years but now that he’s got a title, he’s willing to offer for her again. Ruan may have met Anne but doesn’t remember her (who remembers the spinster when you get to f*ck all the shallow, air-headed but beautiful whores? Very logical!). All the Sinclairs are at present invited in Devon’s estate, Corth Abbey. Devon hopes for Anne and Ruan has decided since he has to do his ‘duty’ and produce an heir, why not offer for the most beautiful of the Sinclair sisters, Emily?
Anne is very excited to see Devon but she doesn’t believe he feels anything for her. She is very insecure about her looks, it doesn’t help that her insensitive father is always criticizing her. Whoa, I was pissed at the man! Then there is a little accident, where Anne gets hurt. Since Ruan wasn’t supposed to arrive til tomorrow, they put Anne in his room when the doctor was summoned and drugged her to sleep. In between she meets the Duchess, Ruan’s mother and another woman, a Lady Prescott, whom I didn’t think as Ruan’s lover. When it was revealed later, it was like a slap on my face. Then, oops Ruan is back at midnight to find a gorgeous whore in his room. FYI: Ruan always stays in this room when he’s in Corth Abbey and sharing/sending whores is nothing for Devon and Ruan. So what does he do? Does he make sure who the f*ck this woman was before banging her? Nope! He makes Anne ‘perform’ services and then of course proceeds to the next round. Egads, she’s a virgin! Does that stop him? No, again. And he experiences the best sex of his life (seriously, I would never believe that after all those gazillion women). They were discovered by Ben. Anne was drugged so she doesn’t quite remember it in the morning. I must tell you, Ben was comparably the nicer one in the lot. He was very responsible as the head of the family, truly loves Mary and was very very mad at Ruan for doing this. He cares for Anne a lot and tells Ruan that he would’ve never wished him upon her because she deserves better. Of course they have to marry now. Anne is shocked to know it from Ben, while Ruan was standing by. He was cold and very distant, not to mention insensitive. I mean he’s ‘Lord Ruin’ and is proud of it! I didn’t like it that I have to take him as he is (with his legions of lovers all over the place) simply because he’s a duke, rich, powerful and very handsome, which is exactly what Anne does later in the book. Whatever!
Oh but Ruan can’t get enough of his new wife. And it starts. They’re having sex everywhere, anytime! Since CJ talked about their sex life quite explicitly, it looked like a lot but it was nothing out of the ordinary IMO. In other books, H/h’s sex life isn’t always mentioned to this extent. There were at least 8/10 sex scenes, detailed or otherwise. The guy simply loved doing it with his wife. I’m totally ok with this. It’s supposed to be this way. I would’ve adored it to boots if the mentions of Ruan’s lovers/mistresses weren’t thrown all over the book. There was this one mistress he’s been seeing for about 3 years now, practically lived with her (though not faithful) in her house. She was like a ‘side dish’ IMO, someone he knew he could f*ck anytime he wanted. Later on, Ruan tells Anne that they have a longer history together. The woman married her deceased husband because Ruan won’t marry her, which according to Ruan he should’ve back then. When the husband died and Ruan was back from war, they became lovers. It was implied he’s got some strong emotion for this woman, so why didn’t he simply marry her later on? Am I supposed to believe he feels something different for Anne when even Anne herself knew he’s said ILU to women he wanted to f*ck? Ruan never denied that he did these things, nor did he repent his time with this woman (maybe the others too), as he informed Anne later. Anyway, Anne and Ruan come back to London when Anne finds out she’d pregnant. And yes, they keep having sex, really good sex at that. Anne wants him for sure but is firm in her decision that she won’t let him in her heart.
It’s in the ball for Anne is where the mistress makes her first appearance, like she had every right to be there. Devon, Ruan and Ben were, meanwhile, investigating some beatings and rape of women, some of whom disappeared only to be found murdered. Some, who are rescued, won’t talk about it. Anne already met a few men in London and it seems like now that she’s married, all men find her appealing and beautiful. But, the fact was Anne was pretty in her own right, only the men were morons, shallow minded morons at that. So, one of the Lords, Wilberfoss attacks Anne in the ball. Anne went to talk to him privately because she thought he wanted to talk about Emily. Anne somehow saves herself but is pretty shaken and instantly wanted Ruan to hold her. What does she see when she finally finds him out? He being all cozy with his mistress in a private room. He’s a bit annoyed by Anne’s intrusion. Anne feels betrayed but did she fight back later on? Nope. Sex is great, he’s good looking and he makes me all fluttery inside, why fight? Seriously?! I didn’t really care for all the sex scenes, except for one at the very end when Ruan basically loses control for the first time.
Anne takes all the talks of his mistresses/lovers very easily. Sorry, I’m not that ‘practical’ so I couldn’t. I mean if she didn’t feel anything for him, it would’ve been ok (theoretically) but she knows there is a possibility that she might come to care for him very much and Ruan is NOT the kind of man you trust your heart with. Anyway, they form a kind of friendship but Ruan was falling for her steadily. Sadly, I couldn’t believe anything he did. Anne learns of the kidnappings and murders and tells Ruan she’d like to help. Ruan is very impressed with her intelligence. Yah, well so far he’d been interested in everything else other than intelligence in a woman so Anne is a novel experience for him. He keeps making love to her and tries to convince her of his feeling, in vain. Me? I was pretty bored. Anne starts interviewing some of the victims, women who won’t talk before and brought information for Ruan. They narrow the attacker down to the Marquess of Thrale, Robert. He is a nice guy so Anne doesn’t believe this. He’s also interested in Emily, though from his apparent exasperation at Lucy, I tended to think otherwise. But there are evidences as well as one victim, before committing suicide, names him and gives some things to Anne which indicated that Robert was involved. Anne is sad and horrified. Another thing is that, almost all the women were blondes, except Ruan’s mistress. She was duped as well but I’m not sure when. Ruan just blurts out this information to Anne when they were talking about the victims. There are actions in between; hearing the news they rush to save the victim but it was too late. Robert was found there but he said he’s innocent.
Anne and Ruan keep fighting their little war. Not sure if I should call it a war because Ruan was determined, somehow he’d make her love him, if it means sex all the time. Anne NEVER said no to sex, even knowing one of the supposed victim’s mothers was also his lover. Remember I talked about one of his conquests at the beginning? It was the same woman though I have NO IDEA when he ‘accomplished’ the deed. When they confronted about their feelings, as I said, Ruan never denied that he lied about his feelings to get what he wanted from those women. Even his longtime one, I guess, believed he loved her. So I was pretty disgusted the way he just set her aside, after their elongated history, like she means nothing at all. But, that wasn’t the case as I found out later on. Remember that he still didn’t break off with her and Anne knew. How am I going to believe you Ruan? Simply impossible! I don’t blame Anne for not granting him her heart, though I wish she didn’t let him have sex. It would’ve been a test for him, to see if he really was sincere (pun intended as Ruan was called the Insincere Cynssyr).
Then the book focused on the murders with Anne helping them out. More on Ruan’s trying to ‘convince’ her of his feelings. I don’t really remember much as I was pretty pissed. I mean, this moment I thought I might believe him, his feelings but the next there would be the mention of a mistress/lover or simply that woman and I would lose interest all over again. How could Anne stand him for crying out loud? Let me give you another example. It seems like Ruan has PTSD. I mean wow, I love a tortured hero. But Ruan, I didn’t care for. When he woke up from one of those dreams, you know whom he was thinking of? Yes, you’re right, that mistress of his. He was thinking oh, this doesn’t seem like her house, the woman next to him isn’t her etc etc. I get it that he was pretty fuzzy from his dream but the mistress was so embedded in his mind, ah what can I say? I didn’t like it at all. Of course when he came to his senses he realized who it was. So, what if Anne’s the only woman to share your bed in your house? Was it supposed to be a prize or something? I didn’t give a sh*t about this information!
More mess ahead. One of the men called Durling, a rake and gambler, was quite enamored of Anne himself but never made any advances towards her. He, knowing about the killings and accompanying Ruan and co. in one of the scenes, told Ruan once that Anne might be the next victim. He was drunk at that point so Ruan couldn’t really get much from him. When Ruan goes to save one of the victims, who almost died, is when he’s kinda shaken to think what if it was Anne. It is then that love scene happens; where he loses control, sort of and I kinda felt that maybe his feelings were genuine. Meantime in one of the diplomatic meetings Ruan was voted to go to abroad on a mission but Ruan wasn’t interesed to leave London for an adventure because of Anne. He tells his counterparts that, which I liked. Anyway, Ruan decides to send Anne to Cornwall, in his estate called Fargate Castle knowing the dangers. But he can’t simply think of being apart from her. Even though it was pretty late in the book, I began to believe that Ruan’s feelings for her were real. The man tells his friends, too. In one of those talks, Ben confides in him that he’d also ‘noticed’ Anne but somehow, it was Mary he fell in love with. I mean WTF is their problem? It seemed like now everyone thinks Anne is ‘worth’ having while previously no one cared at all. No, she still didn’t wear revealing gowns or flirted, didn’t even leave her spectacles. How come suddenly she’s so appealing to everyone? God knows but it left me pissed. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I liked Anne but it was really odd!
Devon never made it a secret that he wanted Anne. Anne was quite confused about Ruan’s declaration of love. She didn’t believe him but wanted to very much. Yet, she relied on Devon. It was not love but she cares for him. *rolls eyes* Anyway, it was her birthday and she and Ruan had crazy sex last night but what does she do when she’s in Ben’s house and Ruan was yet to attend it? She tells Devon something like she can’t take it anymore, that Ruan loves his mistress. It implied that she wants him to save her, which Devon reciprocates by saying he’d help when the time is right and the baby is born. *makes a face here* Everyone thinks of Emily, Anne’s youngest sister, as a child (she being something like 18). Ruan arrives late. Emily was giving a bit of ‘what for’ to Ruan while accompanying him and barbing him with insults about his treatment of Anne, only to find Devon and Anne together. They eavesdrop. Ruan was shocked but wasn’t that surprised by Anne’s admission. Oh my, it seems like Emily is interested in Devon herself, who is at least 14/15 years older than her. What a mess! She is angry and hurt by this display. Umm why? When they later unwrap the birthday gifts, Ruan gives Anne something special and says ILU in front of everyone, mostly to notify Devon that Anne is out of reach (also note: Lady Prescott aka his one time lover present). Oh, Anne is so happy to have this, that she kissed him with a lot of enthusiasm. What was that? She was just planning something with Devon and now she’s in seventh heaven because of Ruan’s gift and declaration? My head hurts.
But oh, some more fun is still to come! Meanwhile, the climax of the murder mystery was coming up and I knew it. They still thought Robert as the murderer. Ruan talks about his longtime mistress to Anne as they were talking about the victims and Anne tells him she’s been to see her, to find out information and was followed on the way back. It seems since that woman’s husband didn’t treat her well because of her ordeal, Ruan stepped in to ‘help’. Anne is quite proud of Ruan. Seriously?! If he had any good intentions or love so to speak, he would’ve married her by now, not keep her as a ‘side dish’ while he went about cutting his swath through London. How can I respect a man like that? Even Ruan knew he had nothing to convince Anne of his feelings. There was another scene where he tells Anne he’s ‘seen’ his mistress but I wasn’t sure if he cheated or not. He simply said, I’ve seen her, it’s over. Anne, the good and angelic Anne, says nothing about it; nothing that I wanted from her at least. Oh but it wasn’t over. You’ll know soon why I said that.
Ruan sends Anne to Cornwall but on the way, she was kidnapped. Ruan didn’t know it until someone send for him, only to dupe him. He was about to be beaten, maybe killed but somehow he manages to escape. Ruan comes back home and decides to go to Cornwall when Robert calls. Ruan still suspected Robert but he tells Ruan that he saw his big carriage somewhere abandoned, with the coachman and one of the footmen murdered. Emily meanwhile comes in to confront Ruan about sending Anne away, not knowing that it was everything to do with the pregnancy as well as Anne’s own safety. Ruan feels helpless, not knowing what to do so he decides to send for Ben and Devon. Emily takes on the task of summoning Devon. In Devon’s townhouse, OMG, it was one disgusting scene! Devon was screwing a married woman at that time, actually just finished the second round, musing that he was going to marry in a year or so. I thought, at this point, that maybe the woman was a widow or something and he’s thinking of marrying her. But, of course not. They can’t seem to do anything that isn’t utterly vile when it involves women. He was contemplating marrying the woman’s daughter. Yes, her bloody DAUGHTER! And the woman herself KNEW of it. I mean HOW COULD THEY? It was so so horrible even to imagine! What would they do next, cheat on the poor girl after marriage? I mean what kinda mother was that woman? EWWWW!!!! I had some soft corners for Devon, especially after he was robbed of Anne in the beginning and thought his affections were genuine but oh God, yuk! Emily finds him like that, naked with the woman by his side. I won’t go into Anne’s rescue which took place afterwards because I had lost all my interest in this book, but that Devon is now fantasizing about Emily. Good Lord! And Emily not only touched him but let him kiss her. YUK!!! I don’t think he was even clean. Simply awful. Sorry, but that thought kept coming to me as I knew she only gave him time to dress and then accompany her to Ruan’s home. Lord, I shudder as I think of it. Egh!
Anne was beaten but not raped. She was rescued by the men as Emily accompanied them. The murderers were revealed and died in the scuffle. They come home. Anne falls asleep in exhaustion but woke up late at night to find her bed empty. She, with difficulties, goes out to look for Ruan, only to find him with his mistress. Yes, THAT BLOODY WOMAN, again in the house, talking privately. I hated it, knowing even though they were only talking, it was private and glaringly shows their shared history. How could Anne just stand there, observed it? Do you know what Ruan was doing? Since he was pretty sure Anne would never return his affections (how long has it been Ruan, a month, two and you gave up already?) he’d let Anne go after the baby is born. FYI: Yes, in the beginning Anne wanted divorce before she found out her pregnancy. Ruan replied it’s not gonna happen as he doesn’t regret what he did to her, because of it he could have her as his wife. It’s obvious, otherwise he wouldn’t have given her a second look and married Emily by now. Anne asked him would he have married her if he wasn’t found out. Ruan actually hesitated to answer it, which gave me my answer as well. Back to that ‘beautiful’ scene, the last of the book. Ruan begs the mistress to take him back after Anne’s gone. WHAT? But of course she will, she’s born to do it! The mistress starts saying negative things about Anne like: she has no passion, she’s only doing her duty, that she should be grateful for this marriage, how dare that she isn’t etc., pretty obvious what her intensions were. WTF Ruan did? NADA! He didn’t say anything to the woman to stop her poisonous mouth, knowing that Anne was nothing of the sort but simply stand there listened to her and in turn, kept on whining she doesn’t love me wa wa wa! Give me one good reason why should she? Oh but Anne, our saint Anne forgave him because after all, wasn’t it her cue to say ILU back? The mistress goes out the door with a bitter smile but in my mind, to plan some advanced strategy because I simply saw Ruan is still open to the option. Don’t they share a history longer than Anne?
So I’m not surprised that I didn’t believe in their HEA, neither Ruan nor anything he said. Yes, he was pretty good at ‘demonstrating’ his affections, there were scenes I thought pretty intense but I felt nothing. I didn’t warm up to him. I hated Devon, was irritated at Emily; glad that there wasn’t any book for them because I would’ve been tempted to read that (since it’d been a series and I like to torture myself) and tear my hair out afterwards! It’s sadder that I was interested in the murder/mystery subplot and wanted to see something between Robert and Lucy. Lucy was featured less than any of her sisters so I wished to know more about her and Robert.
Overall, 3 stars.
Update: From CJ's website, Lucy and Thrale's book coming in 2013. A big YAY from me!!