Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The House of Rohan, #5
Publisher: Impeccably Demure Press
Hero: Brandon George Rohan
Heroine: Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury
Date of Publication: May 15, 2018
Started On: May 30, 2018
Finished On: June 02, 2018
At last, Heartless, the 5th book in the House of Rohan series by Anne Stuart is out, a book that has been long awaited by fans. The fourth book, Shameless was published in 2011, with Anne Stuart promising fans that she would get around to writing Brandon George Rohan (Brandon) and Emma Rose Magdalene Cadbury (Emma)’s story. It has been four years since I discovered this delectable series by Anne Stuart and indulged to my heart’s content. Before the arrival of Heartless, I decided to do a re-read marathon of the entire series, which actually made Heartless all that more meaningful to me.
Heartless starts after a period of three years having passed since the Shameless. With Brandon living in the Scottish Highlands, recovering and recuperating from the mess his life had become after the war, Brandon is summoned home by his brother Benedick upon the birth of his and Melisande’s second child. Brandon is reluctant to make his way back to England, but it was finally time.
Taking a look at Emma’s life, it sure had changed considerably since then. Someone who had been the youngest madam in England had turned her life around to the point where she was now about replace Mr. Fenrush as the head of surgery at the Temple Hospital where she pursues her passion. Her triumphs in her professional life had not come easy, especially pursuing a career in the medicinal world as a woman at the time. But Emma has an innate talent that wins her peers over, except for Mr. Fenrush, whose anger towards her often seems more malicious than just professional jealousy on his part.
Emma and Brandon’s story is one that begins way before Heartless does. Which is perhaps why readers have been waiting with bated breathe for their story. Emma had been one of the volunteers at the hospital at the time during which Brandon had been admitted, suffering from war injuries. It is at the hospital that Emma and Brandon forge a bond, that for Emma had been something beyond her wildest dreams, especially for a woman such as herself considered as soiled in the eyes of the society. For Brandon (whose thoughts on their shared time together are revealed much later), Emma had been the lifeline which had held him together, and he had entertained unrealistic dreams of them being together, even knowing that Emma wasn’t probably the wisest choice as a life partner.
When Emma and Brandon’s worlds collide once again at the christening ceremony of Alexandra Emma Brandon Rohan, Emma is hopeful and at the same disappointed that Brandon doesn’t seem to remember her. And it is a game that Emma continues to and is willing to play, as long as it does not put her emotions in peril. However, even with the obstacle of Brandon’s pompous elder brother trying to force a bride on him standing in the way, there seems to be no obstruction strong enough to prevent Emma and Brandon from coming together, except of course for Emma herself.
Heartless was I suppose what you would call mellow, at least mellower than the rest of the books in the series. I understood the need for it. Both Emma and Brandon are broken in a way that no other characters we have come across in previous books have been, not even Brandon’s grandmother whom we encounter in Ruthless. Imagine being ripped off of your virginity in the cruelest way, being forced to sell your body by someone you had trusted, and not having a choice about any of it. Imagine going dead inside, having never sought pleasure in the act of sex, never understanding the pleasure to be had.
It is Emma’s character that requires care in this story. It is usually the male lead who almost always has issues that are seemingly insurmountable. But in the case of Emma and Brandon, it is Emma’s character that needed the TLC factor, and Brandon, having undergone what he had owing to his attempts to drown out certain aspects of the war he had witnessed in drugs and liquor, has the patience and endurance for the slow seduction required of Emma.
Emma’s avoidance of everything to do with Brandon does come with a price. It is an avoidance that is borne out of the need to protect herself, and that tactic applied to an escalating danger to her life ends up nearly costing her life. The period of separation that takes place was one that provided the emotional angst factor in spades, and Brandon never giving up on Emma was something I approved of and loved wholeheartedly. If ever there are two people who deserve to have their happily ever after, it is Emma and Brandon, and knowing that they did achieve it? Makes me smile from ear to ear.
Recommended for fans of the series. Brandon and Emma’s story was beautiful and soothing in a way that deviates from the norm that is Anne Stuart.
Final Verdict: Heartless might be a little late to the party, but it brings along a ton of angst, feel good emotions, and a whole lot of love. Emotionally heavier in comparison to the rest of the books in the series, Brandon has just the right amount of tenderness, steely determination, and sensuality to seduce Emma, for life.
“Hullo, Charles,” Melisande said, and Emma knew her friend well enough to recognize the lack of enthusiasm in her voice. “I hope your wife and daughters are well?”
“As always. Elinor and the girls are in London, alas. Too many social commitments to allow them to escape.”
“And you were afraid our sister and her wretched husband might be in attendance,” Rohan interjected dryly. “You needn’t have worried. Miranda is once again expecting—I think she and the Scorpion are planning to repopulate the entire Lake District—so your wife’s delicate sensibilities wouldn’t have been offended.”
“You’re right,” he said slowly. “The only man who’s going to get in your bed is going to have to love you, and I’m afraid that’s a part of me that never healed.”
It felt like a blow. Why should the word “love” even be mentioned between them? “You’re stronger than I am,” she said calmly enough. “You could take what you wanted. I’m a professional, remember? I know when a man wants me.”
His smile was wry. “Oh, I want you very much. I doubt there’s a man who sees you who doesn’t want you, with the possible exception of my brother Benedick. Even a stuffy old prude like Charles wouldn’t be immune. But you’ve been hurt, you’re weak and trembling, and I don’t make a habit of taking advantage of frightened little girls.”
“I’m not. . .” she started to protest, when he bent down and brushed the softest, sweetest kiss against her mouth, gone almost before it had begun, so quickly that she could do nothing more than stare at him in astonishment.
“You are,” he said softly. “Good night, Emma.”
She stood outside her door, bemused, as he faded into the shadows. She put a hand to her lips, expecting some monumental change. They were no different—soft, slightly open. He’d kissed her, and life would never be the same.
She knew it was hogwash, just as she knew he didn’t belong in the rough wards of St. Martin’s Military Hospital. He had the voice of a gentleman, and she had yet to meet anyone who could falsify those tones. She had kissed him anyway, the soft brush of her mouth against his—harmless, innocent. Until the last night, when the kiss became something quite different.
He’d grown stronger, he’d been sitting up in bed, and she’d moved her chair closer, night by night. For some reason she continued to hold his hand—the human touch kept him tethered to this earth, she thought, never realizing it kept her tethered to him. Until the last night, or early morning, when she rose to leave him, and leaned over to give him her chaste, affectionate kiss.
Instead he’d caught her arm, tugging her off balance, and deftly managed to slip his hand behind her head to hold her in place while he deepened the kiss, pushing her mouth open with his, using his tongue.
She’d been too shocked to react, had simply let his kiss her, long and slow and hard, so thoroughly she felt. . . she felt. . .
His grip loosened, and she stumbled back from him, her hand to her mouth. “Harpy. . .” he’d said, laughter and concern in his voice, but she whirled and ran, through the crowded ward without a backward glance.
Why did you kiss me?”
He jumped. That was the very last thing he expected—he’d assumed she’d ignore the incident, skittish as she was, and he wasn’t prepared for her flat question.
He knew he hadn’t shown it though—he was an even better master of his reactions than she was. “That’s an inordinately silly question. I wanted to. There’s something about your mouth, I think. Why? You didn’t seem to mind.”
Her face had whitened, which he found extremely odd “You didn’t give me a chance to mind,” she mumbled, taking another hasty drink. He was going to have to tell Noonan about it. In the north they usually got by on gallons of hot, strong tea, but given that he allowed himself no other liquids, Emma’s drink might be a worthy addition to Noonan’s limited cooking repertoire.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “Should I have kissed you longer? Harder? Deeper?”
She rose suddenly, setting down her empty cup, and there was just the faintest bit of chocolate on the corner of her lip. “I really need to go back upstairs,” she said hurriedly. “I feel unwell. That is, if I’m to leave tomorrow I should probably rest. . .”
She’d been backing away from him, with good sense, since he’d risen as well and was moving toward her. He caught up with her just before she reached the door and casually pulled her away from it, backing her into the corner of the room away from the windows. Near a divan.
“I’ll let you go,” he said softly. “In a minute.” And he set his mouth against hers, his tongue licking out to taste that tiny bit of chocolate.
She shuddered, but it wasn’t in disgust. Her hands had come up to his shoulders, but they’d moved beneath his jacket, clutching the soft cloth that covered his shoulders, and the sound she made was one of soft, unexpected pleasure.
Words began spilling from his mouth then, when he’d been so determined to be silent. “Yes,” and “fuck” and “more” and “yes” as he moved faster, his own body beginning to shake with the power of his overwhelming lust. He couldn’t, wouldn’t say the word “love” but he could push into her, with dirty words whispered in her ear that made her tighten around him. He was fighting a losing battle with self-control, and he wanted to lose it, but she wasn’t quite ready, though he knew from her breathing, from a thousand other physical signs that she was near. “Don’t,” he said, his mind blank, “give it,” he muttered, and the battle was lost. “Now,” he groaned, feeling his seed boil up from his balls and spurt into her, and the last word he spoke, as he pulled free and collapsed beside her, was even worse.
“Harpy,” he said, and fell into an exhausted sleep.
If they’d been on that bed it wouldn’t have been he who was weeping. Emma and beds had an obvious connotation—in fact, the idea of any bed made him think of Emma. Any flat surface. Up against a wall. In a chair—he hadn’t done it in a chair for years. . .
He slammed a door on his thoughts. “Did I ever bed you in this house?”
She turned, and he couldn’t read her expression. “I assure you, until last night I had been blissfully celibate for eight years.”
He froze. “That’s not possible!”
She turned, calm and controlled, raising an eyebrow. “How so?”“You . . . that is . . . you . . .” he hadn’t been at a loss for words since he’d be a callow youth, and he simply stared at her in disbelief.
“I retired from the day to day tasks of a bordello and concentrated on the business side. Once a whore, always a whore, but in fact my hard-learned skills have not been put to the test for a very long time. I hope I proved satisfactory, my lord. I would hate to receive money for inferior performance.”
“You’re my harpy. You always say awful things. Do you want to leave?” He would let her, of course. He would let her out of his life if he had to, if she had to. He would die, but he would do it. For her.
“I want to stay,” she whispered.
The buttons on the night dress unfastened easily—the fussy thing wasn’t without merit. He could feel the tremor in her body and he knew she had to be handled carefully, not with the brute passion of the night before.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said.
She was holding very still as his hands moved lower and lower, the tiny pearl buttons releasing with just a flick of his shaking fingers. The gown parted to show her moon-silvered flesh, and he caught his breath. “I could wish you weren’t so perfect.”
“The ugliness is all on the inside,” she said.
“There’s no ugliness in you anywhere. There’s only pain.”
She heard her own scream with shock, and she quickly slammed her hands over her mouth, as a fierce, hard response rocketed through her, strange and untenable. “Don’t—” she gasped, but he was past listening, and then she was past protesting as she felt a sharp energy begin to build, to suffuse her body with something that surely was wrong. She was past fighting it, past worrying about it, and when she felt him slide two long fingers into her as he licked and sucked and bit, then she was gone, unable to stifle her response as it took over her body, leaving no room for herself there.
It was like being thrown over a cliff, sailing through dark, powerful winds and ending in a storm-tossed sea, and she could do nothing but hold onto him like the life raft he seemed to be, the only thing solid and safe in her mad, swirling world. Every muscle in her body had seemed to lock, as those waves crashed over her again and again. She couldn’t stop it, she couldn’t control it, and then she no longer wanted to, giving herself over to the wash of feelings. She hadn’t even realized he’d moved up, over her, until she managed to open groggy eyes to stare at him, at the triumph, the satisfaction on his face, things she could rail at, except for that shocking streak of tenderness in his eyes.
But when he pushed back in it was even more wonderful, and her hips rose to meet his, the walls of her sex tightening around him as her hands clutched his biceps. This was possession, but a different kind, a glorious one that she could hold in her heart. He took her, claimed her, but she took him as well, into her body, into her heart, into her soul, where he would always stay, no matter what happened. She finally let go, giving herself to him, to the rampant, building pleasure, to the joy of love that had cracked her guarded heart, as he thrust, each push a promise he couldn’t keep, but it no longer mattered. Deep and harder and harder and she wanted more, craved more.
“Yes,” she whispered fiercely. “Again. Again. More.”
The darkness that was closing around her split with lightning, and suddenly everything ceased to exist, only man and woman, elemental, eternal, as she seemed to burst apart in a shower of pure sensation. She could feel him with her, her love, her soul, joining her, flooding her, and she took everything in savage satisfaction and a guttural sob of triumph.”
Emma appeared dumbfounded, a rare occurence for his beautiful bride. “No,” she said. “That is … I didn’t say yes… I still think we should…”
Brandon took care of her protests in the most efficient way possible, and when she was too breathless to speak he glanced at Ellis. “Well, for the time being you’re my butler, and you will leave and see that no one disturbs you for the next hour.”
“Hour?” Emma said, sounding alarmed.
“Make that two.” He focused all his attention on Emma. “And take the damned dog.”
When they were finally alone, he turned back to her, and she was wiping tears from her cheeks. “Damn these things,” she muttered. “I only started crying five weeks ago and now I can’t seem to stop.”
“That’s all right, Harpy,” he murmured. “I’ll always be here to dry them. Accept it- there’s no way you can win against the assembled might of the Wicked Rohans. You’ll marry me and live happily ever after.”
“No one ever does,” she said.
“You will,” he said firmly. “I promise you.”