There is nothing I love more than a good villain-gets-the-girl romance. It's probably one of my favorite romance tropes of all time, apart from hot Gothic vampire romances. I even have a shelf devoted to it on Goodreads, that's how much I love it. Anne Stuart has become one of my favorite romance authors over the years because she understands the need for villainous, rakish heroes, and her formula usually works (although not always).
I got into the House of Rohan series a few years ago and it was the book that really kicked off my obsession with Anne Stuart. RUTHLESS is unquestionably my favorite; it's like an ode to everyone who found Jareth from Labyrinth attractive. I liked the sequel, RECKLESS, all right, but it wasn't as good as its predecessor. It was more of the typical good girl/bad boy romance, only set in Regency times, and while enjoyable, it was one of the more forgettable romances I have read.
BREATHLESS was the book in this series that I had been eagerly anticipating the most because the hero in this book, Lucien de Malheur, was a real piece of work. Lucien hates the Rohans with a passion because he blames them for the ruination and death of his sister. And what better way to exact revenge than for a sister for a sister? He pays a man to ruin Miranda, the daughter of Adrian from the previous book, and then when that doesn't work, he pretends to be her friend so he can forcibly abduct and elope with her.
And then, he plans something even worse.
Lucien is obviously a bad man. He has a sad backstory but that doesn't excuse what he did. He definitely fits under the Byronic "Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know" umbrella. I liked him in the beginning but I think the author tried to soften him too much to excuse his actions towards Miranda, and even though I know others may disagree, I think the story would have worked better if she hadn't done that. This should have been a bodice-ripper, and the romance should have been less sweet and more corrupt, since Lucien really didn't have to grovel all that much and Miranda basically abandoned her self-respect to end up with Lucien anyway. What kind of marriage is that? Yikes.
I also wasn't keen on the secondary romance. I thought it was stupid and read as filler to pump up the page count. Jacob and Jane were boring AF and I didn't really care to read about them much at all. The scenes between Lucien and Miranda were much more interesting, even if I wanted to roll my eyes sometimes at the melodrama of it all. What can I say? I'm a sucker for hot sex scenes, and I'm so desperate for villainous heroes that sometimes, even melodramatic, Byronic whiny-boys will do.
Definitely a much better book than the second, but nowhere near as good as the first. I think my curiosity with this series might be satisfied, as the debauchery and degradation seem to be waning with each next installment. If you enjoy tortured, villainous heroes, you'll probably like this.
3.5 out of 5 stars