BLOG REVIEW: Never Kiss A Rake by Anne Stuart

28yo heroine has been isolated from society due to the small-pox scars on 1 side of her face. 
She uses her anonymity to get a job as the housekeeper for Irish lord Hero & his beautiful wife so she can find proof of his involvement in her father's recent death and the huge fraud scandal her father was being blamed for. She expects to find what she's looking for shortly and flaunts her scarred face to disgust Hero and his wife. Unfortunately, Hero doesn't seem bothered by it. 
In fact, he spends more time at home than usual and revels in getting a rise out of her. Heroine didn’t anticipate his inimical relationship with his wife nor his interest in her. Her fascination with him also distracts her from searching through his property. When his wife turns up missing with her bedroom in shambles, her questions about Hero magnifies. What is his involvement in his father's death and his wife's disappearance? Will it be enough to disenchant her with him?

Stuart can make something bad into something excusable. What's great about her writing is that she makes me believe that it's not so bad after all. I buy her character's reasons and logic. It's fascinating. Stuart writes irreverent Heroes and somehow make them forgiveable and likeable, except maybe for the Hero in Breathless. The Hero in this book is married and they are mortal enemies. Both have cheated on each other & see it as the least of their problems. He accepts that he is self-indulgent and selfish and doesn’t apologize for it. He makes his own moral rules and sticks with them. That is, until heroine comes along. As villainous & cold-hearted as Hero may be, he breaks his own rules for heroine. And that's what shows how affected he is with her. He becomes less villainous as he cares more for her. He changes as he takes care of her, shuns other willing women (including his wife) for her, and acts possessive around her. It's as if he's transforming from villain to a dedicated alpha-Hero. It's quite endearing.

Interestingly, heroine also undergoes her own transformation. She starts out likeable but forgettable. She sets out to be nondescript to not call any attention to herself. She's had some major insecurities due to her scarring. She's acted as a leader among her sisters and their household staff but she hides herself from everyone else. Her taking a risk to deceive and spy on Hero snowballed into bigger risks. 

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Hero may be the renowned cheated but it was heroine who actually initiates their first kiss (her first one ever). She climbs into his bed and sneaks him a kiss while he was passed out & still married. She hides the bloody mess in his wife's bedroom & lies to the authorities about it. She has sex with him the first time very soon after finding out about the bloody mess in his wife's bedroom.  

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As odious as her behaviors may seem, her reasons justified her actions. She was following her instinct about Hero and was grabbing at what could be her only adventure in her banal life. She may be innocent of the world due to her lack of social exposure but she’s not rigid and faces new situations head-on. I love her inner strength, practicality, and fast thinking. She can outwit Hero with his mental games with her. Their chemistry has a lot to do with their mental games. Their who-can-outwit-who banter simmered with their chemistry.  I’m usually appalled when the main characters get sexually involved right after bloodshed or injury but the dark humor of the book allowed for it. Strange but it worked and classic Stuart.

Stuart’s books are at category of its own. I really recommend this book especially to Stuart fans.

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