I kept putting this book down because I am not fond of books where the husband and wife cheat. Even though I know it happens even in modern times, and in historicals, marriage was often little more than a business arrangement and it was never expected that a wealthy spouse be faithful. As I started to read Never Kiss a Rake, I came to see the wife as the villain and though that doesn’t excuse her husband, it does make us feel a bit more sympathetic.
I loved the way Ms. Stuart wove this story together giving us little morsels of fact that inevitably led us to the true villain in this story. It was a bit of a surprise to learn who was behind all the evil that transpires within the pages of this book but as soon as they are revealed, their identity unmasked, it became apparent from comments mentioned early in the story. Anne Stuart is the master of misdirection, with distractions and other possibilities adding layers of fog to cloud the truth, it is exciting to see the smoke blown away before the final revelations.
These characters: both the hero and heroine as well as the multiple villains and supporting cast are wonderfully well written adding more depth and dimensions of this mysterious love story. Adrian Bruton, the Earl of Kilmartyn is hardly the most believable hero, he in fact has all the marks of one who is truly a villain, yet we come to like him and want him to be good or at least not too bad. Bryony Russell aka Mrs. Greaves isn’t your traditional English rose, she is hardly a hothouse flower. Her strength and determination even pitted against her weaknesses and desire for the notorious rake, make her seem real, vulnerable and a true heroine. We want this couple to get together despite his being married and her believing he had something to do with her father’s death and destruction. Add in the supporting cast of sisters, household staff and Kilmartyn’s wife, maid and lovers, you have an army of suspects and possible scenarios available to make the story interesting and exciting.
I am looking forward to reading Never Trust a Pirate and Never Marry a Viscount the last two books in this trilogy. Even they are as good as Never Kiss a Rake, they’ll be fun to read.