Read with: Amazon Kindle
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Hero: Luke Bardell
Heroine: Rachel Connery
Date of Publication: October 1, 1997
Started On: December 4, 2010
Finished On: December 5, 2010
Ritual Sins was recommended to me on Goodreads by my good friend Ruby. As I read through this one, there is one thing that I can say with absolute certainty; none can blame Ms. Stuart for spinning your usual run-of-the-mill romantic suspense. Ms. Stuart always pushes the boundaries with her stories which either makes you want to hurl the book at the wall or put it at the top of your favorite keeper pile. For me, this book hit somewhere in between, though the story that unfolded pulled me in right from the very beginning.
Ritual Sins begins when 29 year old Rachel Connery decides to visit Santa Dolores, home base of the Foundation of Being in New Mexico, a compound devoted to meditation and enlightenment, combined with a hospice center to care for the dying. Rachel is a tortured heroine if there ever was one. Growing up with a mother who had never really cared about her and flitted from one man to another which had rendered her only child wary of the opposite sex, Stella Connery had cared for no one except her own self. Rachel had suffered sexual molestation at the hands of her third stepfather, the touching which had started when she had been 9 years old which had escalated into rape when she had been 12 had rendered Rachel frigid, unable to touch or be touched by any person, be it in kindness or anything else. Armed with her MBA from Havard, Rachel had worked hard in soul sucking jobs to earn enough money to just one day up and leave to Spain where for a period of 3 months she had found her solace, only to return back to the States to find out that her mother as the trustee to Rachel’s trust fund had drained her of every penny, 12.5 million dollars of which she leaves to Luke Ballard, founder of the Foundation of Being before finally succumbing to death after being diagnosed with breast cancer and leaving nothing behind for her only child but suffering, betrayal, anger and pain. Now the only thing that keeps Rachel going is her quest for revenge, the thirst to bring down Luke and his Foundation crumbling down which grows stronger everyday.
Ex-convict Luke Bardell grew up in a small town where his grandparents had tried to convince his mother to get an abortion, a father who had been an evangelist traveling from one town to the other who had never really wanted a child in the first place and had been killed for his wayward way with womenfolk by a jealous husband which had finally propelled his mother to marry Jackson Bardell, the worst mistake of her life for which she had paid in full by committing suicide when Luke had been around 8 years old, leaving him at the mercy of Jackson’s drunken fists until the day Luke had grown old enough to defend himself. When Luke had killed a man in a barroom brawl, Luke had been found guilty of manslaughter and had done time in jail for 3 years after which he had been released on parole during which time Luke had started the Foundation. With an uncanny charisma and charm, Luke has the ability to use his skills to draw people into his manipulative web of serenity and solace, and when Stella Connery dies at the Foundation, Luke knows deep down in his gut that Stella’s skinny, pale and sour faced daughter would prove to be the downfall of the Foundation, unless Luke can make her pay with the ultimate surrender of her heart, body and soul.
1- The unique story that unfolded as I swept through the pages. As I said at the beginning of my review, none can blame Ms. Stuart for spinning your average romantic suspense. This story is by not any means an easy read. Luke is a manipulator of the highest degree, who doesn’t feel any qualms about using people for his own needs regardless of the consequences. Learning about Luke and Rachel’s disturbing childhoods wasn’t easy, but it makes for a compelling read, one you can’t help but go on reading with a twisted kind of fascination. Even with all his faults, Luke still makes for a hero worthy of a sigh or two, even as he goes out of his way to charm and seduce Rachel to give up her heart, body and soul to him for nothing in return.
2- Rachel Connery. She is a tortured heroine if there ever was one. She has so much pain, anguish and fear locked up inside of her that she is one simmering ball of misery waiting to explode. Ms. Stuart certainly paints a realistic picture of how someone who has been raped by her own stepfather countless times can be frozen into state of abject misery throughout the years, not knowing how to reach out to anyone and never letting yourself become vulnerable enough to be hurt like that ever again. It was painful seeing Rachel being “forced” to give in, to embrace her sensual nature and when she did let go, it was a mighty fine feeling that overcame me as I rooted for her freedom from the very shackles of fear that keeps her in a prison of hell till that very moment.
3- The complex multifaceted characters that liven up this read. There is not one character that I would have wished to do away with in this story. Each one of them lends something essential to the story making it one compelling story to sink into.
I did not like: Umm.. there’s nothing that I can say outright that I disliked in this novel. But Luke’s character was a bit tough to like during the first couple of chapters though the guy oozes charm like nothing else. But in the end, knowing where he came from, learning about the wealth of pain and suffering that had shaped him up made it all worth in the end. I still can’t say that I flat-out loved Luke, but I can definitely say that I wouldn’t shut the door in his face if he were to turn up at my house. *grin*
She just looked at him. She really had extraordinary eyes, he thought, keeping his own face expressionless, slightly bored. It was those eyes of hers that were his downfall. He could resist her anger, he could resist her body and her sarcastic tongue. But those deep brown eyes, so full of pain and fury, need and defiance, did him in.
She didn’t know he was watching her. She stood in the rain, naked, her face tipped back, letting the water stream over her cheekbones, her eyes, her mouth. She lifted her arms to the stormy skies, and as if answering her supplication, the clouds opened up and drenched her, drenched him as he watched her.
She turned then, and stared at him through the curtain of rain.. There was knowledge and acceptance in her face. And need.
He crossed the clearing, caught her in his arms, and pushed her up against the side of van, kissing her with such rough abandon that he didn’t know if he hated her or loved her. She put her arms around his neck, and when he unfastened his jeans to free himself she was ready, wrapping her long legs around him as he pushed into her, impaling her on his rigid flesh, holding her against the cold wet sliding of the van as the rain fell around them.
Recommended for: Fans of Anne Stuart.
Caliber Seal: GOOD READ!