by Gaelen Foley, historical (2011)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-207591-8
Gaelen Foley's My Ruthless Prince is actually the most focused of the books so far in her The Inferno Club series, mostly because there is a strong spotlight on the romance and the action stays mostly in one place. Having said that, I don't recommend jumping into this one without having read the previous books, however, because this story references events that happened in previous books and features recurring characters from those books as well.
Reading those books will also give you a good idea on what to expect here, so that first-time readers, expecting a standard spy-and-sex historical romance set in an oh-so-familiar setting, won't collapse in shock from all the woo-woo stuff happening here, such as virgin sacrifices and what not. The woo-woo stuff is toned down considerably here, as the author restricts herself to said sacrifices, a hidden temple for those sacrifices to take place, and a prophecy contained in some moldy scrolls, but there is still a fantastical over-the-top vibe to the proceeding.
The key to enjoying My Ruthless Prince is to somehow overlook the idiot plot and some unlikely behavior from the main characters.
Let's start with the heroine Emily Harper. A gamekeeper's daughter, she knows Drake, the Earl of Westwood from way back. She even knows about his involvement in the Order of Saint Michael the Archangel, which is a covert group founded back in the days of the Crusade to battle the evil Prometheans' plots. Now, the Order recruits young men from the nobility, and no, don't ask me what will happen to the titles and the lands if these Dukes and Earls die in battle. We all know that these titled men don't have any responsibilities to their lands and the Parliament, and besides, these are the heroes. They will never die.
Where was I? Oh yes, Emily. Okay, in previous books, Drake went MIA, presumably dead at the hand of the Prometheans, but then he showed up, only to, apparently, have turned over to the dark side. Actually, Drake plans to destroy the Prometheans permanently by infiltrating their ranks and causing as much damage as he could from within. Emily doesn't know that, though, and his buddies in the Order don't as well.
When this story opens, Drake is serving under James Falkirk, the second-in-command of the Prometheans. Emily, however, is sure that everything is just a silly misunderstanding. Therefore, she spends all her money to travel to the Promethean HQ, Waldfort Castle, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. Since she and Drake share "an almost mystical bond", as she puts it, she's confident that she only has to talk to Drake, he will happily come back with her (and presumably pay for the fare home, since she's broke), and all will be well again in the land of young and beautiful dimwits.
Luckily for her, her days as a gamekeeper's daughter empowers her with some tracking and archery skills, so she manages to hold her own against the Prometheans on the castle grounds until Drake discovers her. He pretends that she's his moll, brings her into the Castle, and then she wonders what she'd do if Drake really turned out to be the Darth Vader of the Order. It's not like help is coming from the outside, as she sneaked away without telling a soul and sent the guys in the Order a note only much later, and even then, it's a toss-up whether the note makes it to them.
Everyone, let's give a round of applause to Emily, the winner of the Idiot Who Deserves Everything That Befalls Her award. May she never has to plot again, because who knows what kind of calamities will arise.
The rest of the story basically deals with Drake scrambling to keep her safe. Complicating matters is the fact that the Prometheans are gearing up for a virgin sacrifice party, and Emily has cheerfully fallen into their clutches with her shiny and sparkling cherry all intact. Now, you may be thinking, "He has them believing that she's his moll, so all he has to do is to boink her and the problem is solved, right?" Well, if it's that simple, this one would be a very short story published under Avon's second-rate digital publishing arm.
And that's where Drake steps in with his share of the idiot ball game. Not only do I get some head-scratching excuses as to why he can't just boink Emily and solve the problem of the sacrifice thing, it's really bizarre how what seems like every top dog in the Prometheans and his grandmother can tell that Emily means a lot to him. Apparently he has been looking at Emily that way. I can only imagine that it's that same constipated look Robert Pattinson perfected in those Twilight movies. At any rate, that look tells those people that Drake loves Emily, and thus, they grill Drake, who quickly reveals that he hadn't boinked Emily yet. Hurray, now the virgin sacrifice can really go on without a hitch!
And throughout it all, the author attempts to portray Drake's relationship with James Falkirk as some kind of complex "I should hate you, but I actually admire you" mentor-protége kind of thing. I don't feel that it works because, like the other books in this series, the emotional parts of the story are given a rather superficial treatment and I'm told more often than not of this "conflicted" feelings on Drake's part for Falkirk. It's not very believable, especially when Drake seems resolutely opposed to everything the Prometheans stand for, and James showed every sign of being in line with the principles and values of the Prometheans.
Strangely enough, the dim-witted pair of Emily and Drake actually work very well in the context of this story. Whether it is intentional or not on the author's part, these two are actually fascinating in how they can be so stupid at times, and yet, when they find themselves stuck at the bottom of the hole they have dug themselves in, they can actually surprise me by pulling some moves that would make Chuck Norris proud.
Emily's no fighter, but she can really get underhanded and catch her enemies by surprise. Drake seems to be a bit too easily caught out in a lie for someone who had deceived his way almost to the top of the Promethean ranks, but while he has his share of "Uh... duh?" moments, he can definitely kick rear ends when he has to. Together, they actually make a pretty good team when their backs are against the wall. By the last page, I think I actually like them, heh. If I were the Order boss, I'd probably send them to the front line in a war, as they won't be contributing anything in terms of strategy in the boardroom, but yes, they're okay.
Despite the rampant idiocy all over the story, My Ruthless Prince is a strangely compelling read. This book may as well come with free happy pills, because there is a very enjoyable addictive quality to the campy and over the top nature of this story. It helps that this story is easily the most coherent and focused of the books in the series so far, and there are some significant developments here to keep the story arc going. Drake's determination to martyr himself to the cause is actually quite poignant - he's doing this for the sake of mankind, after all, and hot guys seeking martyrdom for the right reasons are always hot - as is Emily's determination to prove to him that he doesn't have to save the world all on his own.
At the end of the day, My Ruthless Prince may not qualify as a sober and well-composed book by any stretch, but goodness me, it delivers prime entertainment in spades. Its flaws manage to be a big part of its charms, as unbelievable as that may seem. Therefore, I have to give this book a score that reflects how much of a good time I had reading this book. I can't speak for anyone else, especially when it comes to this book, so I'd still advise you to approach this book with some degree of caution.
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