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REVIEW: Moonrise by Anne Stuart

Dear Ms. Stuart—

When I saw that many of your older titles were finally available as eBooks, I thought I’d check one out. I never know whether one of your books will work for me or not, but the ones that do—Reckless and Black Ice are two of my all-time favorite novels—really do. I picked Moonrise based on its high ratings on Amazon. It’s an older book—first published it in 1996, almost ten years before Black Ice. I mention Black Ice because Moonrise reads like a pale version of that book.  At its finish, I was irked at much of it and yet, in many ways, it mirrors the themes found in the Ice series which, in general, I enjoyed.

moonrise anne stuartIn both Black Ice and Moonrise, the hero spends a great deal of time trying to decide between two approaches to the heroine: death or sex. In Black Ice, the hero, Bastien (be still my beating heart), is a layered, complex guy, struggling in ways the reader can see with morality, with the heft our actions have, and with what it means to give up oneself to love. In Moonrise, the hero, James McKinley, is a Bud Light Bastien. James too is a killer who, while fighting for “the good guys,” realized his actions made him one of the bad ones. James too had a horrific childhood, his shaped in wounding ways by poverty and violence in Northern Ireland. Both men work for a shadow organization—in James’ case, it’s the wet work arm of the CIA—and both have killed so many times they’ve all but lost their humanity. And both, forced into company with women who place their lives at stake, find love and something worth living for in the arms of their unwanted companions. This setup works beautifully in Black Ice but disappoints in Moonrise.

In many of your stories, your hero is a stronger character than his love interest. This trend holds true in Moonrise. The heroine, Annie Sutherland, is, at 27, a pampered, sheltered, gorgeous girl. Every choice she’s ever made—what to wear, drive, even who to marry—has been defined by her father, Win Sutherland. Win, a CIA operative who went over to the dark side—Annie had no idea he was CIA, let alone a greedy killer—was found dead, six months ago, his neck snapped, at the bottom of his mansion’s porch stairs. In the months since her father died, Annie has slowly come to wonder at his death. The stories he told her about his past, upon reflection, don’t add up and, to top it off, there’s a work of art missing, a framed Irish sampler, she’s sure has been taken since his death. She’s thought about it and thought about it and has decided there’s no way her invincible Win could have fallen drunk to his death. She’s sure he was murdered. As Annie begins to look for her father’s possible killers, she’s led to James, a man she’s known all her life, now living in a shack on a remote island in Mexico. Annie, wearing high heels, a white suit, and carrying an overnight bag and a purse, shows up at James’s hovel determined to ask him to help her.

From the moment the book begins, as James is standing in the shadows outside his dilapidated cottage, watching Annie knock on his door, he’s thinking about blowing her brains out. James has killed so many people and knows those for whom he once killed are determined now to kill him. For James, there’s no reason anyone would show up in his life at this point except to want to take it. But then, he realizes the woman at his door is Annie, the daughter of his mentor and the girl he’s always longed to have. So, though he’s now thinking he should break her neck, he invites her in, hears her plea, and tells her he’ll help her find the answers, answers he tells her he’s sure she really doesn’t want to know. He drinks too much tequila, the two have elliptical conversation, and then he sends her (alone) off to bed. He stays up all night, drinking, thinking, and wondering. Should he send her on her way—he’s sure someone in the bad guy arm of the CIA will kill her—or kill her himself. Or, he wonders, after he’s wandered into her room, watched her sleep, and run his fingers through her tawny hair, is there another choice.

That other choice—and the options run through James’s brain for most of the novel—is to fuck her. There are two things one can count on in an Anne Stuart novel: death and sex. That combination can have great resonance—as it does, for example, in Ice Blue–or it can just be annoying. In Moonrise, it’s annoying.

The book’s plot is a slight one: James used to work for Win at the CIA, Win and Someone Else (it was obvious to me who the Someone Else was by the second chapter) went rogue, Someone Else had Win killed, and now Someone Else is working with the power-hungry General (he’s always referred to with a capital G) to take out James and, because she’s asking questions, Annie. James and Annie go on the run, bodies pile up, the General keeps meeting with Someone Else to rant about Someone Else’s failure to bump off Annie and James, and, through it all, James keeps wondering whether to kill Annie or fuck her. Normally James would just break her neck—his hands are more lethal than any weapon, a fact I found surprising given he’s an expert with guns, bombs, knives, and poisons—but he’s had “feelings” for her for years and he just can’t quite bring himself to off her. Plus, he’s longed to fuck her since she was twenty-one and “He could fuck and kill if he had to, he knew that. The danger was, he didn’t know if he could fuck and kill Annie Sutherland.”

James is supposed to be, deep down, one of those dark, murderous heroes who’s really a good man. He killed for all the right reasons at the command of his country or to save his or Annie’s lives. He’s Catholic and full of guilt about all his sins; he’d like to go out in a “blaze of glory” and leave his self-loathing life for good. He repeatedly warns Annie about himself and is, for much of the novel, fairly nasty to her. All of this is of course to protect her from his bad self. He thinks she’s an innocent; she deserves a life in the suburbs, babies, Volvos, and the love of a man whose soul hasn’t been destroyed by mayhem and violence. I found him to be paper-thin, a shadow of man, and incapable of transformative love.

Annie too was an unbelievable and exasperating character. She’s supposed to be brilliant—“Phi Beta Kappa at Georgetown University”—and yet she never once figured out that everyone around her, including her father and her ex-husband , worked for the CIA. She wears high heels to track down James on a deserted island in Mexico and then gets angry at the shoes when “they tortured her feet.” She’s aware James is constantly considering fucking her and/or killing her and yet, she refuses to part from him. At one point in the novel, James drugs her for three days so he can easily fly her halfway around the world. When she realizes what he’s done to her, she’s miffed, but not so miffed she doesn’t ask him, after watching him slit the throat of  a thug who has, for no reason ever made starkly clear, just tried to kill her, “Would you take me to bed?” The spine she somewhat develops over the course of the book is a weedy one and her love for James—because of course she realizes she’s loved him for years—isn’t grounded in anything other than lust and how intoxicating she finds his power over her.

By the end of the story, James and Annie are together (and have found that missing sampler), but I have no faith the two will be happy nor did I really care. Their story isn’t one of love, it’s one of sex and death neither of which, in this book, is profound or erotic.

And, speaking of erotic, this book made me wonder about something. In Moonrise as well as other—but not all–of your books, the heroine is, prior to the first instant the hero shoves (and they are always shoving) his cock into her instantly wet “sex,” a woman who defines herself as frigid or sexually unresponsive. She is almost always described as hating going down, sexually at ease only when in the missionary position, and timid in bed. Then, with the hero, she has orgasms so intense she faints—the first time Annie and James have sex, Annie has two insta-orgasms and then, “There was no saving herself. She fell, through a million starry heavens, over and over, into the pitch black night of endless death.” After this extreme bout of passion, Annie (and heroines like her) is transformed into a sexually freed woman, willing climb on top, go down on her knees, and love every second of it. This bothers me. I dislike that Annie (and heroines like her) is only able to experience pleasure at the hands, etc… of one man who is a killer considering killing her. (This is not so in Ice Black and it is the reason that book is my favorite in that series.)  I may be overreacting, but I see an icky subtext in that sort of sexuality—the women in these books who inherently enjoy sex are often evil and usually first fucked and then killed by the hero.

So, I didn’t really like either the heroine or the hero; the sex between them was, for me, unsexy; the plot was wafer thin; the villain obvious. It was still a fun book to read. Your writing is stringent and compelling. You rarely waste words and you use language adeptly. Moonrise has a dark, morbid, wry sense of humor running through it. You, in a few sentences, create strong, viable, easy to visualize scenes.

Here, it’s the first night Annie’s come to James’s island shack and she is now sleeping upstairs in his guest bed. (It’s pretty funny his ramshackle hideout has a guest bedroom.) James is, without a twinge of remorse, searching Annie’s luggage.

“She’d brought her vitamins, enough to stock a health food store. She’d brought tranquilizers and sleeping pills, both prescription. She’d brought a box of condoms. He wondered idly who she was planning to fuck. He doubted if it was going to be him. He took her purse and carried it downstairs with him, emptying it out on the cluttered kitchen table. He poured himself another glass of tequila as he sat down to look through it.”

Later in the book, as he watches her sleep, still slightly drugged from the medicines he slipped her, he unbuttons her blouse.

“She had small breasts, encased in a flimsy lace bra, and her nipples were hard in the chilly room. So was he.”

You use details well, rarely employing proper names—the lack of place, brands, and famous people makes your book effectively timeless—and when you do, they pack a punch. In this scene, one of James’s few friends has been killed and, as usual, Annie and James must immediately escape the no-longer safe house—owned by the now dead friend– in which the two are staying. James is sure his friend would have a backup escape vehicle. And, after searching the grounds, James and Annie find, in a derelict shack, a motorcycle. Annie, unhappy it’s not a car, asks on earth the friend would leave them a motorcycle. James answers,

“Not just any motorcycle.” James’s voice was odd, muffled, distant. “It’s a Vincent Black Shadow. Probably 1954 or thereabouts.” “So he left us an old motorcycle,” Annie said. “Do you think it will still run?”

(As a Richard Thompson fan, I read this bit with satisfaction. His song 1952 Vincent Black Lightning from his 1991 album Rumor and Sigh is National Public Radio’s most requested song according to Wikipedia.)

Ultimately, I’d say I enjoyed reading Moonrise, but didn’t really like it. At best I’d give it a C. Perhaps I’d be less critical if I weren’t such a admirer of Black Ice, but, knowing how well you’ve written about  similar characters in a  similar context made this book unsatisfactory.  I’ve just bought the most recent of your Ice series, On Thin Ice, published last fall. I’m hopeful it, unlike Moonrise, will be yet another Anne Stuart novel I love.

 

Sincerely,

Dabney

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I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

47 Comments

  1. Maili
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 08:27:52

    Heroines of Stuart’s single titles tend to be weak, timid or other kind of the mouse variety, which drives me nuts sometimes. I tried to get into Black Ice, but when I saw the heroine was the same old kind, I stopped reading. I really have no idea why, but I feel the majority of her category romance heroines are much stronger, tougher and often more complex than her single title heroines. Anyroad, maybe I’ll finish Black Ice some day.

    All that said, Moonrise is one of Stuart’s WTF? trilogy (the other two are Nightfall and Ritual Sins), and this trilogy is certainly the kind that makes you feel you’re on a train heading for a wall or living in a Hitchcock film. I have a love/hate relationship with this trilogy. Love because it’s so dark and so interesting, and hate because it’s so ridiculous.

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  2. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 08:44:37

    @Maili: In defense of Chloe, the heroine of Black Ice, she starts out in over her head, but she develops strength that’s believable. I saw her as a woman who ends up in a very deadly situation she’s completely unprepared for and, as she deals with the danger, toughens up. She’s also, when seen in later books in the Ice series, pretty rockin.

    I can’t see Annie ever doing anything strong–at best she’ll by her love and her hoo-ha, make James a better man.

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  3. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 08:48:23

    I read this book, and though I can’t disgree with anything you said, I think I enjoyed it more than you did.

    Anyhoo, onward. The frigid and/or otherwise sexually inexperienced heroine suddenly coming unglued with the hero: See, I think that’s a function of odds. If one has more than one lover, it’s possible one’s better than the other. If the hero is the second or third, and he waves his magic wong, it’s entirely believable to me that it’s not his magic wong, but a wong that’s more magic than the previous dude’s. Since she never has sex with another guy after that, we don’t know that she’s “cured” so to speak. We only really know that Dude #1 was lousy in bed and/or just not that into her) and the hero is good in bed AND way into her.

    In this particular book’s case, the fiance was just doing his job when he was having sex with her. Of course he was perfunctory about it, but what would she know from perfunctory if she was mushroomed as to the rest of her life, too?

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  4. Maili
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 09:00:31

    @Dabney:

    I saw her as a woman who ends up in a very deadly situation she’s completely unprepared for and, as she deals with the danger, toughens up.

    Most Stuart heroines are like that, which is why I was disappointed when I tried Black Ice. In fairness to Stuart and you, I read every Stuart book until either The Widow or Into the Fire, which pretty much ended my love affair with Stuart.

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  5. Brie
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 09:37:24

    @Maili: Of your WTF? Trilogy (love that!) the only book I enjoyed was Ritual Sins. I loved the setting and how manipulative the hero was. I couldn’t believe Ms. Stuart was actually able to redeem him.

    I think my favorite Anne Stuart book is A Rose at Midnight. Have you guys read it? I haven’t read the book in a while but I thought the heroine was one of the strongest she’s written.

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  6. pamelia
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 09:39:11

    Couldn’t agree with you more! Black Ice remains my favorite Anne Stuart contemp. This book though felt hollow and kind of dingy in comparison and like you I did not think the ending promised an HEA by any stretch of the imagination. I am thrilled though that the Ice series is now out on Kindle! Must resist buying till I clear out my TBRs! Must resist buying till I clear out my TBRs!

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  7. Christine
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 09:55:37

    I’m guessing I wouldn’t like this book as I really didn’t like “Black Ice” either. I found it hard to warm up to either the hero or the heroine and never understood why the heroine was all of a sudden the one woman who was so important to Bastien. My favorite two Anne Stuart books are ‘Ruthless” and “Reckless” but I am told they are her “Bad boy Lite” books. I couldn’t stand “Breathless” either (I thought the hero was a creepy unappealing sociopath) so I guess I do like my bad boys on the “lite” side! LOL.

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  8. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 10:25:47

    @Christine: I love Reckless. Adrian is certainly a bad-boy lite compared to the killers in her romantic suspense books. But he’s so perfect for Charlotte and their HEA seems completely viable.

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  9. Inez Kelley
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 10:51:44

    I loved Black Ice so I might try this one as well.

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  10. Ducky
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 11:24:16

    I liked Moonrise better than Black Ice in that it kept me guessing and nailbiting more. I thought this earlier book was also less slick and its “happy ending” – such as it was, I remember MOONRISE barely eking out a happy ending – than BLACK ICE.

    I think the trifecta of this one, RITUAL SINS and NIGHTFALL give earlier and darker versions of what was to become the typical Stuart “hero”: men who are much closer to villains than heroes – Anne Stuart heroes are really more antiheroes than heroes – and who are always conflicted between hurting, using or killing the heroine. Or fucking her. To me the heroes of these early 3 titles are the prototypes of the Anne Stuart hero, and by the “Ice” series and this most recent historical Rohan family series this type of Stuart hero has become a trope.

    So to me the Ice guys and the Rohan men are actually paler examples of Vintage Stuart antiheroes.

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  11. Sunita
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 12:50:49

    I kept trying to remember what to call the trilogy. WTF is perfect, thanks Maili! My favorite, by FAR, is Nightfall. I’ve read it several times. Yes it has the timid, insecure, hurt-in-the-past heroine and the hero uses her to the hilt. But wow, that book just grabs me and won’t let go.

    I agree that Reckless and Ruthless are Bad Boy Lite. And while I really like Black Ice, it just doesn’t pack the punch for me that Nightfall does. Or Ritual Sins. Talk about a WTF book and hero.

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  12. cbackson
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 12:53:13

    Anne Stuart’s heroes always treads perilously close to the “Too Much Asshole” line , but (at least for me), she manages to keep them just this side of it (unlike some similar authors, I AM LOOKING AT YOUR BACKLIST, SUSAN ELISABETH PHILIPS). I think the Rohans are actually my favorite of her books because the historical setting mutes some of it for me. Super-alpha heroes don’t tend to work for me in contemporaries because in real life, my experience of that type of guy has been, let’s say, less than heroic.

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  13. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 13:00:08

    @Sunita: I haven’t read either Nightfall or Ritual Sins because they’re not available as eBooks. When they are, I’ll check out Nightfall.

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  14. Sunita
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 13:10:02

    @Dabney I look forward to your take on it! I was so upset that it wasn’t published in e when Moonrise was, but I’m sure AS had her reasons.

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  15. Janine
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 13:43:52

    I agree with this review, except that I was riveted by Moonrise. It was a compelling page turner, but not a successful romance for me (and neither are Nightfall or Ritual Sins). I agree that it doesn’t come near touching Black Ice. Jayne and I have had this debate in previous years, I think she prefers Moonrise. We both reviewed Black Ice in the early days of DA and she wasn’t as keen on it as I am, because of the Chloe issue.

    @Maili: We can debate Chloe all day, she is a heroine who started out weak and grew on me as she developed some internal strength, but she will never be superwoman. At least she had a good reason for sticking close to the hero — her life depended on it — and that’s more than Stuart’s heroines often have.

    However, Bastien. I can’t think of another Stuart hero who has the layers of complexity that Bastien has. Typically her heroes are just assholes with a lot of seductive charm. Bastien was something else entirely, a multidimensional human being whose job was to kill people, who was coming apart for that reason and struggling to hold it together in order to survive. The problem for him was, what exactly was holding it together — performing his job, telling his organization to go to hell by saving a life instead of taking one, or giving in the bone deep weariness inside him?

    I just loved that Stuart worked so much complexity into his character. She never has come close to that for me with any of her other heroes, and certainly not the guys from Moonrise, Ritual Sins or Nightfall. I did enjoy those books for the rollercoaster rides they were, as I’ve enjoyed some of Stuart’s more recent contemporaries for her tight, lean prose.

    But what I wouldn’t give for another book with a character as layered as Bastien and the moral complexity of Black Ice…

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  16. Ducky
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 15:35:58

    @Sunita – Oh, yes, RITUAL SINS, I have never read its like again in the genre. I remember my mouth being open kinda stunned reading about the “hero” in that one.

    Ms Stewart really had a lot of moxie writing those “heroes”….

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  17. Jennie
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 16:44:06

    I also found this book irritating, or at least thinking about it in retrospect irritates me (I read it a LONG time ago). I think I tend to be more annoyed than the average reader by the frigid heroine trope, and while such heroines are ubiquitous in romance, Stuart in particular really does favor heroines who not only don’t have a good sexual history but are actively uncomfortable with their sexuality. This makes her a problematic author for me, for all that I do like some of her books. The thing I hate about heroines who hate sex until coming in contact with the hero’s magic wang is that it puts the hero totally in control of the heroine’s sexuality. She is nothing, sexually speaking, without him. I don’t know; maybe that’s what some readers *like* about this scenario. I far prefer a heroine who owns her own sexuality; it’s not just about whether a heroine is experienced or not, but about a heroine who is a sexual creature inherently, not just when the hero is around to turn her on.

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  18. Merrian
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 18:13:04

    Reading the review and comments I am amazed none of us have thought to include these books on the ‘what to read when you have finished 50SoG’ lists. The angst and anti-hero alphas+little woman seem to be a good match.

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  19. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 18:24:54

    @Ducky: Hey! Ritual Sins is on Kindle. I’ve just ordered it. I can’t wait to read it and think about all these comments.

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  20. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 18:26:22

    @Merrian: I”m lost here. What is the 50SoG’ list?

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  21. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 18:29:38

    @Jennie: I think, as someone who reads a lot of historical romance, that the issue for me is that I want a woman to be inherently open to sex. I don’t mind virgin heroines, but I do mind women who, as is too often in Ms. Stuart’s case, have experienced sex and been closed off to pleasure. It doesn’t bother me if a man is the path to pleasure, but I want the woman to be ready, able and happy to go there. The exception for me would be heroines like those that populate Jo Goodman’s works–woman for whom another man has ruined sex and for whom a good man helps to recover her sexual self.

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  22. Merrian
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 19:45:43

    @Dabney: book recommendations for people who liked 50 Shades of Grey e.g. those here on DA and Read React review

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  23. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 19:52:22

    @Merrian: That book certainly is getting a lot of play. I have to say the review of it didn’t do a thing for me. I’ll see if I can download a sample for my Kindle and see what all the hoopla is about.

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  24. Gennita Low
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 20:16:25

    I’ve read Anne Stuart’s novels since the 70s so I have had the privilege to follow the development of her dark/anti-hero since The Demon Count. Her edgy heroes, so different from the others in print at that time, drew me into gothics and dark suspense.

    Since I read her mostly in order, I love her “WTF” trilogy more than the Ice books precisely because I appreciate those anti-heroes since they came first. Bastien is, to me, like all the descendants who continue to “live” in the mind of the Bene-Gesserit (Frank Herbert, DUNE)’s Mother Superior, a continuation of the One (except it’s the male half. Heh, I don’t mean to imply Anne Stuart’s hero is a male Bene Gesserit…). Of the three, I love Night Fall the most, although Moon Rise is a close second. At that time, for me, the male protagonist in these stories were nothing like any romance hero in romantic suspense and I remember feeling so excited about the genre as a writer and reader.

    Now you’ve made me want to go peruse my three shelves of Stuart keepers to play with her dark anti-heroes :), some of whom even cheated. In a Harlequin, no less!

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  25. Ducky
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 20:54:43

    @Dabney, glad you found RITUAL SINS on Kindle – let us know what you make of it and its hero…

    @Gennita Low – yes, to readers not familiar with Stewarts dark hero back catalogue the more recent heroes are automatically going to be more complex because they won’t have experienced the evolution of that kind of Stewart hero back in the day when there was no dark hero like that in romance and romantic suspense.

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  26. Dabney
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 21:38:10

    @Ducky: Will do. So many books, so little time!

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  27. eggs
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 04:11:46

    I’ve been reading Anne Stuart for a long time and I’m an unabashed fan. If I were to sum up her oeuvre, I would say that it was ‘Even psychotic assholes and dumb bitches deserve love’.

    I think that she really challenges her readers to consider what “love” is and who “deserves” it.

    Almost all successful mainstream romance novels present us with characters who are either “lovable”, or who are “flawed” in ways that they manage to overcome in order to “deserve” love. These characters are inherently relatable to readers and we find it easy to root for them to find their HEA.

    Stuart, OTOH, presents us with characters that we want to alternately incarcerate (her heros) or slap in the face (her heroines). She takes these deeply flawed heros and heroines and makes you believe that, psychotic and stupid as they may be, they have genuinely found love together. Is that not the purpose of the romance novel – to tell the story of real and genuine love found between two people, whoever they may be?

    I read Romance for the romance: the individual tale of how two people found love. If the author tells that tale well, I don’t particularly care if I find the protagonists to be agreeable to me. I would go even further and say that I *particularly* enjoy Stuart’s romance novels because of the disagreeability of her heros and heroines. There are no fluffy kittens or secret nobility to carry her stories. You either believe that her characters found love or you don’t. That’s a purely personal response, and it’s that very personal visceral response that makes me love Stuart’s books. Kind of like how I love Austen, even though I hate most of her heroes and heroines.

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  28. Dabney
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 07:35:18

    @eggs: I see your point and think it is a matter of personal preference. I don’t like movies or books if there’s no one in them I at least like. In some of Stuart’s books, her characters, though flawed, appeal to me. The two in Moonrise, just didn’t.

    I like the idea that romance is about telling the story of the finding of true love between two people. But I also think that love has to, for me, have some measure of healthiness to it. I can’t enjoy a romance where, two people having found each other, really love each other and yet destroy each other.

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  29. Janine
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:08:25

    @Ducky:

    yes, to readers not familiar with Stewarts dark hero back catalogue the more recent heroes are automatically going to be more complex because they won’t have experienced the evolution of that kind of Stewart hero back in the day when there was no dark hero like that in romance and romantic suspense.

    Hmm, I have to take issue with three of those statements. First, I read Nightfall and A Rose at Midnight when they first came out, and while they made quite an impression on me (loved the first though I couldn’t understand why the heroine stuck around, hated the second) it doesn’t change the fact that I prefer Bastien to the heroes of those books.

    And no, Stuart’s more recent heroes aren’t “automatically going to be more complex” for me. I find a lot of them interesting to read about, but none except Bastien strikes me as truly complex.

    Finally, I disagree that “back in the day… there was no dark hero like that in romance and romantic suspense.” Seriously? What about Sebastian from Gaffney’s To Have and to Hold? Lily, the outlaw heroine in Megan Chance’s Fall from Grace? The heroes in Suzanne Forster’s early romantic supsense single titles? For that matter, all the rapist heroes that peopled Rosemary Rogers’ books? Ever try to read Christine Monson’s Stormfire? Moral ambiguity was alive and well in those days, moreso IMO than it is today. Maybe you didn’t come across those books (in the days before internet recs, some were harder to find) but they were there.

    @eggs: Good point. I enjoy that aspect of Stuart’s books too.

    @Dabney: I don’t need characters to be healthy — I like to think that most people deserve love even if they aren’t in a healthy place. However, I do need to believe that at the end of the book, they are in a healthier place than they were in the beginning.

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  30. Dabney
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:53:02

    @Janine: I guess I’m with you on the healthy thing. I just don’t like stories where, by the end of the tale, the love is destructive.

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  31. Janine
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 16:25:06

    @Dabney: Agreed. Destructive is probably in the eye of the beholder, but that was part of my problem with Moonrise, and also, with Ritual Sins (can’t wait to see what you think of that one).

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  32. Dabney
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 16:37:38

    @Janine: Oh, and Sebastian is one of my all time favorite heroes. As was Steve from Rosemary Rogers Sweet Savage Love. I think, actually many of the books from 70′s were peopled with far more morally ambiguous men than one finds in romance today.

    To me, the thing that sets Stuart apart is the lack of complete redemption of her some of her heroes. They may have decided to settle down with one woman, but many–I’d set the men in the Ice and the Rohan series outside of this cohort–in her stand alones end the book still pretty dark. I can live with dark, but not destructive. If, at the end of the book, I think there’s a good chance the hero might still destroy either the heroine or everything she holds dear–I feel this way about Beautiful Disaster, the book does not work for me.

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  33. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 17:19:57

    @eggs:

    ‘Even psychotic assholes and dumb bitches deserve love’.

    LOL I love that.

    I’d even go so far as to say that codependent people who may or may not be destructive can be made to work for me. See Megan Chance, The Portrait. That was a bipolar-codependent match made in DSM-IV hell, but it worked for me. I don’t even mind Stockholm Syndrome if I have no indication that the relationship will eventually fall apart.

    Yeah, the “back in the day” books were more varied, adventurous, and morally ambiguous. *sigh* The good ol’ days, when we walked uphill in knee-high snow to the library to get our rapey-destructive-StockholmSyndrome-villainhero-angsty romance fix.

    But, Dr. Drew, that does not mean I married a man like that because, well, you know, I’m an intelligent woman and can discern for myself what is and is not healthy in a real-life relationship.

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  34. Ducky
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 21:23:50

    @Janine:

    The only one of the examples you give debating my post I have read is THATH and I read that years after it was first published. I have never read any Rosemary Rogers and I have heard of STORM FIRE but was never able to find a copy.

    So from my personal reading experience those 3 early Stewart antiheroes were something totally different when I read those books.

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  35. Janine
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 01:09:47

    @Ducky: Okay, that I can understand, even though I don’t feel Stuart originated the dark hero.

    And BTW I’m not recommending the Rogers books or Stormfire. I couldn’t get more than a chapter into that book — it was just too horrifying for me. I did finish Rangoon, though, and would probably give it a B- or so, so if you want to try Monson, I recommend that as a better place to start. For Rogers, maybe Love Play which is Rogers lite and reads like a Harlequin Presents on steroids. Most of her other books have too much rape and treachery for me.

    Of the authors I’ve mentioned, probably the early Suzanne Forster’s are closest to Anne Stuart’s Nightfall/Moonrise/Ritual Sins trio in style. I’m thinking specifically of Come Midnight and Shameless. I read these in the mid 1990s and liked them at the time, but I don’t know how they’d hold up for me today.

    Megan Chance is a very good author but better known for morally ambiguous heroines than heroes, and very different from Stuart. You might also like the hero of Sandra Brown’s Slow Heat in Heaven, but that book didn’t work so well for me.

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  36. Gennita Low
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 07:55:43

    @Janine:

    I read Stuart in the late 70s early 80s, so to me, in romantic suspense, she was something different other than the heroes of that genre (which wasn’t called romantic suspense at that time). Yes, I agree Sweet Savage Love’s Steve Morgan (whom I have a soft spot for) was a dark/anti-hero too but being a historical, for some reason, at my silly young age, I wasn’t “afraid” of him as a character, like, “meh! The guy won’t be so tough in modern times.” I was just starting my phase of Anne Rice’s sort of dark hero/bad boy (LeStat!) when I stopped reading romance altogether, for a long, long time, and missed many, many gems of that era.

    When I returned, there was a whole set of new authors waiting for me! Forster’s Shameless was great, with a stronger heroine, and definitely with the tinge of what would be erotic romance, but since she was after Stuart’s gothics, to me, my first romantic suspense anti-hero remains Stuart’s bad boy. I used to write reviews for the prodigy forums (before blogs existed), often discussing about this or that bad boy anti-hero I’ve just read. It was a fun, fun time the reader in me back then, with bags and bags and bags of books around my house :), recommended by many new friends on this magical place called the Internet.

    Some of my 1970s Stuarts, which I’ve hunted down after coming to the States, are signed (squee!) and sealed in plastic bags, and I’m hoping to one day get them in ebook format. I need to reread them soon! #doneReminiscing

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  37. Janine
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 13:09:43

    @Dabney: Sebastian is my favorite hero hands down — I’m not sure what that says about me! Yes, I agree with you, not all of Stuart’s heroes are redeemed. I tend to prefer that dark heroes change and grow for the better.

    @Gennita Low: It sounds like you had a great time reading these books. I didn’t read Stuart in the 1970s or 1980s (I was on a historical kick then) but I can see what you mean now. Wish I could have been on Prodigy, it sounds like it was an amazing list from all accounts.

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  38. Dabney
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 16:33:29

    @Janine: I’ve never read any Forster. Is there one you’d recommend?

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  39. Ducky
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 20:09:44

    @Janine:

    I am pretty certain I would hate STORMFIRE, so it’s okay that I never had a chance to read it.

    Thank you for those recs!

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  40. Janine
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 12:21:11

    @Dabney: It’s been so long since I last read Forster that I can’t say whether, if I were to read her today, I would still recommend those books, but I did enjoy Shameless and especially Come Midnight at the time I read them.

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  41. Dabney
    Mar 11, 2012 @ 15:21:01

    @Janine: I’ve ordered Shameless.

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  42. Dabney
    Mar 11, 2012 @ 20:36:38

    I’ve just reread Death Angel by Linda Howard which struck me as a much better book than Moonrise. I think, upon a reread, that Simon really isn’t a bad guy in the way that Anne Stuart’s bad guys are bad. He’s so redeemed midway through the novel that he becomes a very traditional hero.

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  43. Dabney Grinnan
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 20:31:49

    @Ducky: I just finished Ritual Sins. I’m not sure what I thought about it. I liked Luke far better than Rachel. And I was a bit bowled over by the whole “let’s have babies” thing at the end. It’s interesting–Ms. Stuart writes as though arousal is desire. I’m thinking about that.

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  44. Dabney
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 19:55:29

    I’ve just been on an early Anne Stuart jag and am unsure how wowed I am. I thought both Ritual Sins and Nightfall suffered from a lack of plausibility in that I never believed either hero would ever violently hurt the heroine. Richard, from NF is clearly a good guy from the beginning. Luke, from RS, is a more ethically iffy guy, but still, I never believed he’d be a schmuck by the book’s end. Both men are exceedingly overtly manipulative–almost too much so for me. I think I’m still far more entranced by Bastien and Adrian. Still, Ms. Stuart’s earlier works are compelling and I didn’t read them when they came out so I can’t speak to whether or not they rocked the world at the time they were published.

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  45. REVIEW: Dark Waters by Toni Anderson
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 08:02:06

    [...] As I began to read Sea of Suspicion, I was struck by how much it reminded me of Anne Stuart’s Moonrise, albeit with a less wimpy heroine. Both books have a killer for a hero and a daughter in need. Both [...]

  46. Dicta
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 19:16:10

    @Ducky, I completely agree with you. For me, Anne Stuart’s earlier hero are darker. I feel like she tamed down her hero a lot in her new books. I like reading Moonrise, Ritual Sins, Night Fall much more than the ice series. These books contain more suspense and darker hero imho.

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  47. Moonrise by Anne Stuart | the passionate reader
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 12:28:48

    […] Ice are two of my all-time favorite novels—really do. I picked Moonrise based on its high ratings on Amazon. It’s an older book—first published it in 1996, almost […]

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