Lucien de Malheur has it out for the Rohan family. He’s determined to make their lives miserable, and he decides to enact his revenge through the only girl in the family, Miranda. He arranges for an accomplice of his to seduce Miranda, abduct her, and marry her. In the event, he ends up raping her and ruining her forever, rather than marrying her, which is not good enough for Lucien. Several years later, once Miranda has gained her independence and feels more comfortable as a forever-single woman, Lucien decides the time is right and seeks to seduce her himself.
This is one of those books that, while I rather enjoyed reading it, caused some serious ideological issues for me. I could not fathom why Miranda would ever stay with Lucien, for one thing. Love is NOT unconditional, certainly not to the extent that he challenges her, and I can’t imagine any self-respecting woman clinging to a man who clearly didn’t care very much about her. Simply the fact that he’d arranged for her rape would have been enough to drive me up the wall; it’s stranger because she seems to suffer no ill effects from being raped, I expected at least something when she first slept with Lucien but it’s as if it didn’t happen. This seems so unrealistic to me; I would contrast it with Gaelen Foley’s depiction of Bel’s recovery in The Duke for a novel that felt more in the realm of possibility in this regard. Miranda is even determined not to call it rape, which I suppose could be a coping mechanism, but it was. She did not consent, therefore it is rape, and to imply otherwise is wrong.
I also was quite dissatisfied with the ending, mainly because I couldn’t understand how the problem was going to be resolved. I didn’t get how someone like Miranda, who clearly can think for herself throughout the book and is quite a spirited character, would end up just settling for this horrid man. We can see that he’s not as horrid as he claims, but the things that he does completely bely what we see going on in his head. And sometimes he has even thoughts that make him seem truly evil, such as when he expresses relief that Miranda is not a virgin (due to him) because he doesn’t like virgins. Ugh. It just seemed so insensitive, so much the opposite of a man who is supposed to be falling in love. I would have expected jealousy at that point in the story.
Then there was a secondary romance, which was quite sweet overall except it was a love at first sight type deal. I struggle with those as well; I generally didn’t see enough of the couple to really believe they’d fallen in love. I liked the couple, don’t get me wrong, but it just felt a bit too hasty.
It’s kind of a shame, because I think Breathless could have been a decent romance otherwise. Anne Stuart is a fine writer and has a great ability to carry a narrative along; I kept reading even with all my “WTF” moments and I was convinced she’d find a way to wrap it all up in the end. I usually like the bad boy redeemed stories, but Lucien just never seemed like he was actually redeemed, not until he’d gone too far. Unfortunately, that meant it didn’t wrap up nicely, but I’d still read another book by Stuart. I would just hope that it wasn’t full of so many romance cliches, soulless heroes, and willfully blind heroines.
I am an Amazon associate. I received this book for free through Netgalley for review.