**spoiler alert** I have yet to read a story by Anne Stuart that hasn't left me feeling (happily) dazed and raw at the end of it, and Ritual Sins is c**spoiler alert** I have yet to read a story by Anne Stuart that hasn't left me feeling (happily) dazed and raw at the end of it, and Ritual Sins is certainly no exception.
Sakes alive I wanted to hate Luke. I wanted to despise him, to categorize him unquestionably as a detestable villain with no chance of redemption in my eyes.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for me, Anne Stuart is the ever luvin' queen of presenting you with a man that you abhor (with good reason!), all the while seducing you right along with her heroines until somewhere down the line you realize that in spite of everything (and completely against your will), you've somehow fallen in love with him as well. And there's no point in trying to analyze just when it happened, because it's such a slow and methodological seduction that you were a lost cause as soon as you started reading the first page, helpless against it from the start.
Make no mistake about it -- Luke is not a good guy. He's not some poor lost soul who is simply misunderstood. He's not one of those tortured heroes who despite being all deliciously hot and angsty intimidating and scary is actually a sweetheart full of protective instincts of the heroine, just waiting for a chance to prove himself as something other than the villain others view him as.
No, Luke is, in fact, a complete and utter (insert expletive here) -- a completely despicable con man who purposely sets out to destroy our heroine by any means possible and plans to thoroughly enjoy the process along the way.
Some of the things he does actually crossed the line for me (which is one of the reasons I'm waffling on the final star-count here). Many of Anne Stuart's heroes sexually exploit the heroine with no compunction at all (Black Ice and Ice Storm are the ones that immediately come to mind), but Luke went further than simple exploitation. He actually sexually molested (and possibly raped? It's not really clear on that) the heroine while she was in a drug-induced sleep, and then again while she's in a deep sleep at a hotel. Not cool. Not cool at all.
I'm not sure why I am able to more freely forgive some of her other heroes who really were just as nasty to their heroines as Luke was, while holding a bit of a grudge against him for those particular incidences. Maybe it was knowing that Rachel had previously been raped by her stepfather at a young age that made it even more despicable for him to take advantage of her without her knowledge.
However, by the time they actually do have a consensual sexual encounter, I was just as emotionally raw as Rachel was -- torn between some sick sense of adoration, despair, loathing, and acceptance.
Delicious, just as I knew it would be :D
Their time in the van was simply scorching -- the chemistry between these two characters combined with all sorts of UST leads to a completely explosive encounter (or two lol)
This is my favorite quote from the whole book: She just looked at him. She really had extraordinary eyes, he thought, keeping his own face expressionless, slightly bored. It was those eyes of hers that were his downfall. He could resist her anger, he could resist her body and her sarcastic tongue. But those deep brown eyes, so full of pain and fury, need and defiance, did him in.
Luke, like most other Anne Stuart heroes, is not the secretly squishy, overbearing-yet-adoring, overprotective alpha male that one might come to expect from typical romance novels. Even though the book's ending distinctly hints at a HEA, I still feel like he'll always be the charismatic con-man with the incredibly tough core (*snickers* I totally can't write "core" without giggling after reading hundreds of romance novels. My inner 14 year old boy is having a field day).
He definitely has a sympathetic back-story that twisted at your gut and helped you to understand why he was the way he was, but even that doesn't change the uncomfortable feelings of disgust and repulsion that arise from his treatment of both the heroine and of himself.
Another point scored by Anne Stuart is the fact that her heroine wasn't a total Mary Sue either. She's had a heck of a messed up life -- unwanted and unloved by her trampy mother, molested and raped by one of her step-fathers, and at a point in her life where the possibility of real happiness slipped through her fingers with her estranged mother's death (and subsequent will leaving all of her inheritance and trust fund monies to Luke's "Foundation of Being"), so she's a very sympathetic character. Written by another author, she had the real potential to be completely one-dimensional, wishy-washy, and pathetic. In AS's skillful hands, however, she was transformed into a strong and determined woman who is struggling to survive amidst a storm of fear, anger, lust, newly awakened passion, self-pity, and determination.
On top of all that is the mystery of what is really going on at the Foundation? Was Rachel's mother murdered or did she truly die of cancer? Is the Foundation really a spiritual retreat that helps lost souls find their way, or is it a cult that preys on the innocent? At the root of the mystery, of course, is the question of Luke's true character, and whether he's a knowing part of any nefarious plots (should they exist) or if he's merely a tool being used in turn by those he himself is using. I admit that I was actually surprised by some of the developments in the story as far as those things went. There were times where I truly couldn't see a HEA in store for these two either, which made it all the more enjoyable to read. While there were certainly some predictable elements (because let's face it, if you're an Anne Stuart fan, you somewhat know what to expect of her heroes), there were several nice subplots and twisty elements that kept things interesting.
Anne Stuart never fails to amaze me with her skill in writing characters who have many layers to their psyches as well as the ability to have the external story elements able to stand alone. I was not disappointed with this story.
Overall, I'm going to go with four stars. It would have been five had it not been for the whole messing-with-her-in-her-sleep thing, which is JNMK :)...more
Expected Release Date: September 6, 2011 (Available Now!) Publisher: RaThis is a Quickie Review. For the full review, please visit The Romanceaholic.
Expected Release Date: September 6, 2011 (Available Now!) Publisher: Random House Publishing Imprint: Ballantine Books Author’s Website: http://christyreece.com/ My Source for This Book: Netgalley Part of a Series: Yes, Book 7, Last Chance Rescue series Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone Steam Level: Steamy
Five years ago, Honor Stone, a new addition to the FBI, falls into a blazing affair with the incredibly sexy and slightly dangerous ex-cop Seth Cavanaugh. When Seth's own dirty dealings catch up with him, he's accused of murder, and Honor's own career could suffer greatly by their association. Allowing Honor to think that what they had together was purely sex, he cruelly breaks off their relationship and walks out of her life without looking back -- or so it seems.
Now, finally able to have some semblance of a normal life, Seth is stunned to discover that his niece is missing, and that there could be a possible link to disappearances from all over the country. Desperate to find her, he solicits the services of Last Chance Rescue -- an under-the-radar organization that specializes in solving missing persons cases that the FBI are baffled by.
Forced to work together, Honor and Seth are both determined to keep things purely business, but neither can ignore both the passion and hurt that crackles between them. No matter his reasons for walking away from Honor in the past, Seth vows that nothing will ever separate them again. When Honor is taken by the maniac behind the kidnappings, however, nothing will ever be the same...
Overall, this one was really good. The angst created by Seth's deception and defection five years prior adds a delicious amount of emotion to the story, and the race against time to stop an evil kidnapper lends quite a bit of pulse-pounding action.
I liked both Honor and Seth quite a bit, and while I was just as angry at Seth's behavior as Honor was, I greatly approved of the pacing of both their reconciliation and the development of the case.
While there were a few scenes that were difficult for me to read, I have to admit that the illustration of the abuse that the kidnapping victims suffered definitely helped to reinforce the evil and insanity behind the kidnapper.
Recommended for fans of estranged lovers, crazed villains, and of reuniting with the only person you could possibly love.