by Ann Stephens, historical (2010)
Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0867-5
I have to hand it to Ann Stephens. It has been a very long time since a book repulses me so much that I just have to throw it down onto the floor in disgust and contemplate bashing it with a broom just to let off steam. To Be Seduced is best read by professional romance readers who, through zen or some mystical arts of the mind, can tolerate disgustingly cruel, repulsively nasty, and brutally stupid heroes without wanting to throw up all over the place.
Richard Harcourt has inherited a bankrupt estate from his father, and he has vowed that he would restore the family fortunes. Despite telling the heroine Bethany Dallison that he can get any woman he wants as he's a titled nobleman, he decides to kidnap the heroine, a heiress, and force her to marry him. You see, he needs money now. He has been living on debts all this while, and since he can't get a job or become a bloody spy or soldier like every other English romance hero, he has no choice but to tell the heroine to marry him or be ruined forever. On her part, Bethany wants to avoid marriage to a man who seems disagreeable to her, so what the heck, she may as well marry this lout who kidnaps her like this. Why not? Unlike that ugly suitor, this one is hot, and that's all that matters, I suppose.
It's not that Bethany is that stupid, mind you. She tries to make the best of her situation and even to get her husband to set aside some money for herself, but Richard sees this as a great act of deception and treachery on her part. How dare she doesn't go with his plan, which is for her to step aside after she is his wife and let him enjoy life! He will make her pay. And pay. And pay. And pay!
He now possessed the means to match his breeding. He could afford a London house large enough to prevent them from setting eyes on one another. Not to mention such gentlemanly accoutrements such as a fine wardrobe and a well-connected mistress. He would take a box at the theater and gamble in the most exclusive hells while his little Puritan sat home and read sermons. A voice in the back of his head told him he was cruel. He squashed it.
So there you have it, an aimless and useless turd of a man who knows he is being cruel but is determined to be so all the same, just because the wife dares to ask him for some of her money. So the rest of the story sees him treating her like total crap. Luckily for him, Bethany for some reason decides that she's in love with him and lets him abuse her emotionally and verbally.
Finally, karma comes into play and our hero experiences a Great Setback, one that I hope will end with him hanging from the gallows like he deserves to be. Bethany stands by his side, publicly defending him and piteously wailing for him at all time, and how does he repay her? By accusing her of cheating on him with some guy. It is by this point that something in me snaps and I have to fling this book onto the floor or just explode from the rage balling up inside me for the last 280 pages. The hero apologizes glibly in the last chapter and the stupid, stupid, stupid heroine takes him back, and as far as I am concerned, these two can now go away and die.
On the bright side, the author has a nice narrative style. It's just too bad that she doesn't know when to stop, letting the hero continue to be a colossal repulsive, obnoxious, stupid, disgusting, and repugnant miserable cretin who makes my skin crawl. He's the kind of man whom I'd personally take a gun and shoot dead if he attaches himself to anyone dear to me. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to read something - anything - to help me forget my most unpleasant encounter with this walking goatse of a worthless man.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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