Friday, 13 March 2015

Shameless by Anne Stuart

Shameless (2011) (Mills & Boon)
Anne Stuart
Grade: B-
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own
House of Rohan: (1) Ruthless, (2) Reckless, (3) Breathless, (4) Shameless
Romance RBC 2015: Free Square 

When Benedick Francis Alistair Rohan, Sixth Viscount Rohan arrives in London, he has two items on his agenda: find a proper and eligible wife while seeking another to fulfil his sensual pursuits. He’s mildly distraught to discover that his Mrs Cadbury’s, his previously trusted and favourite establishment has shut up shop, with Lady Melisande Carstairs to blame. Melisande (or ‘Charity Carstairs’ to her condescending neighbours) is the recent widow of Sir Thomas Carstairs and has turned her home into something of a halfway house for Emma Cadbury and her former prostitutes, determined to find them better lives. When one of her girls goes missing, Melisande links her disappearance to the freshly revived Heavenly Host, a shadowy club that has taken its previous debauchery to sadistic measures. Melisande suspects Benedick’s brother of being involved somehow and their efforts in tracking down the masterminds behind the Heavenly Host have dangerous repercussions …

I read book one of this series, Ruthless, back in 2010 and remember little except its beautiful cover. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I saw Shameless in the staff bookshop while I was at HarperCollins and couldn’t say no. Shameless was marginally better, but still not the book(s) that I want to read from Anne Stuart. I’ve heard marvellous things about her Ice series but never managed to get my hands on a copy of the first book, Black Ice. If it weren’t for all the praise heaped on that series, Shameless would probably be my last Anne Stuart book, because this one didn’t tempt me enough to carry on reading.

The Heavenly Host is a secret organisation for the upper scions of the Ton that has historically enabled them to take part in orgys of debauchery without society’s censure. Now, the Heavenly Host has revived itself as a far more sinister and shadowy replica of its former days, leaving the prostitutes injured and scarred, albeit well-paid for their services. Melisande is determined to track down the culprits, with or without Benedick’s help. Of course, once he is on board, he can help her open doors that are otherwise beyond her reach. Their mutual attraction only puts both of them on edge and Melisande’s innocence adds a certain charm to their interactions.

I found that the mystery and plot dragged at times and wasn’t nearly as compelling or exciting as it needed to be. While Melisande and Benedick’s relationship had its moments, this wasn’t a couple that I loved or rooted for. Melisande’s charitable endeavours were great fun and she continues her projects despite society’s disapproval. I was reminded a little of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Home for the Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children in her wonderful Maiden Lane series, but the latter series is a lot stronger in this element. Fun while it lasted, but I’ll be passing this book off for someone else to enjoy.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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