I was ambivalent about reading this book due to the whole rape hullabaloo. Well, wow, it IS definitely rape-y. My goodness. Very old school bodice ripper again and again. And while there were most of the instances fell into the forced seduction category, there were other(s) that were definitely rape. I say that because in the book they claim it's not and because I saw a few reviews claiming that as well. Well, it is, dammit, and here's why: (view spoiler)[The guy kidnaps her and begins to have to have sex with her. Seeing the futility of her situation, she does not fight him (hello, this does NOT make it not rape!) but merely lays back and accepts his very painful attentions that make her bleed for days. Imagine a scenario where a guy accosts you in an alley, you realize that you'll only get hurt to fight, so you stop fighting. Is it no longer rape? Of course it is! And the fact that she kept insisting it wasn't rape, because she's so sensible as to not fight when it's futile, the lady doth protest too much! (hide spoiler)]
But anyways, on to the book! Well, I LOVED Ruthless. Reckless was also good, if a bit, hmm... the hero was missing his teeth. Breathless veered back in the other direction with an over-the-top villain. Kind of makes me wonder if Breathless wasn't a response to a lackluster Reckless, but oh well. What I did very much like was that he was so over the top and, while others feared that about him, the heroine found it comical (which it was). The H was also able to laugh at himself, albeit in the cold, sardonic way of an Anne Stuart hero. It was nice, intelligent self-awareness. Their situation was questionable for so many reasons. He could have found revenge in a better way, and she didn't act like someone who'd been raped ('cause she was! she was!) But the banter was SUBLIME. I could forgive the awkward setup just to get them to that house and have them go at each other. It was enjoyable in the best way.
As usual for Anne Stuart, the secondary romance was strong and delightful. I waffled between a 4 and 5 star on this, but I think you have to put this up against the high drama of bodice rippers and, in that case, it's great. And somehow, oddly, I totally bought the HEA. The H is a total pussycat once he got over the whole I'm-an-evil-villain-out-for-revenge bit.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>