Why this one: I've always loved Anne Stuart. In fact I think I have more of her books than any other author except one - Nora Roberts. When I heard she was coming out with another historical, and not just one but THREE, I was so there.
Steam Level: While not a lot of sex scenes, it still manages to be quite a sexy read
Blurb: 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.
My Thoughts: I know this is not the first time this has been said, not by me and not by others, but Anne Stuart writes some of the darkest, most twisted heroes and I love that about her writing. She takes a hero, takes him almost to the edge of us readers hating him and then manages to pull him back from the brink to the point where we just love their twistedness. And Francis, Viscount Rohan is no exception. He's the leader of the Heavenly Host, a group of depraved, bored aristocrats living in France to whom nothing is forbidden. He first meets Elinor, our heroine, when she breaks into one of his wild parties determined to find her mother who is dying of the pox. Francis is bored, bored of his 'friends' with the exception of one, bored of his decadent lifestyle, just bored of everything. So when he meets Elinor, a rather plain, prickly young woman who so obviously has fallen on very bad times, he is intrigued and can't quite seem to get her out of his head. Much to his dismay he finds himself thinking of her, even to the point of becoming her benefactor, much to her dismay. You see Elinor is horrified by him and even more so, afraid he will set his depraved sights on her younger sister Lydia. But her family is in such reduced circumstances, that she is forced to accept his contributions.
Francis is confused. At first he's determined not to have anything to do with her, then he figures he'll marry her off. Then he figures he'll marry her off, but have her for himself later. It would be so easy to dislike this vain, hedonistic man, but as I said, Ms. Stuart can find a way to make us route for such a hero and I found myself smiling at his self-delusion since we know what's really happening is he's falling in love with her, though he would be appalled to think such a thing himself. He's wonderfully and deliciously wicked.
Now Eleanor Harriman I found a bit problematic for me. At times she was more than a match for Francis. In fact most of the time she was. But I also found her too self-sacrificing and I would get annoyed with her. She gives up EVERYTHING for the sake of her sister's welfare, even to the point of forgoing milk in her tea so her sister could have it. I'm not to fond of martyr heroines and/or heroes and she crosses that line a few times to much and too many for me. Lydia, her sister, is a lot more savvy than Eleanor gives her credit for and I found it too much at times. And I really didn't understand her loyalty to her mother. Her mother pulled some real nasty sh#t on Eleanor, yet at one point in the story, she was ready to die herself to save her mother. I didn't get that.
There's also a lovely secondary romance between Lydia and Francis's only real friend, Robert. It's a touching romance between two people who fall in love, but feel their love cannot flourish due to circumstances.
Overall I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I adored Francis, but thought Eleanor could have been a little less selfless. But I'm glad her next one comes out so soon. I'll be getting it for sure!
Grade: 4 out of 5