A Salute to Anne Stuart
A really special event in my life happened last year at the Romance Writers of Australia conference where I got to meet one of my writing idols, multi-RITA-award winning Anne Stuart. And she was utterly delightful with a fiendish sense of humor that always cracked me up. Hard to believe this fun woman wrote those devilish heroes, those nail-biting suspense stories, those dark historicals. Shows you can never rely on appearances.
Last month, I reviewed Anne’s Ice romantic suspense series for Romance Novel TV – you can find the reviews here. It got me thinking about what a wonderful writer Anne Stuart is and how she has blessed us with her extensive backlist. I thought I’d pick out a few of my favorites by her, but honestly, I’ve never read a bad book by this wonderful author who is a multiple-RITA Award winner, a New York Times bestseller and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from Romance Writers of America.
So if you haven’t read Anne Stuart, I hope this will encourage you to start. You have a huge treat in front of you. If you have read her, I’m sure you’ll enjoy revisiting some of her stories and remembering how great she is.
The hardest bit is narrowing down the books to a couple of highlights!
One of the best historical romances I’ve ever read is A Rose at Midnight (Avon 1993). Sadly, it’s out of print. But you can still get it secondhand. It’s one of the first Anne Stuarts I ever read and it features a number of her trademarks. One of these is flawed, troubled characters finding redemption in love – this theme always adds incredible power to her stories.
The dark, decadent, rakish hero – and believe me, her heroes don’t just pretend to be dangerous, they really are jungle cats with the power to inflict serious damage, even death, upon the heroines. Nicholas Blackthorne is one of my favorites because he’s so tormented and lost. And he’s so BAAAAAD too! You really get an emotional payoff when this gorgeous fallen angel succumbs to love. The heroine Ghislaine de Lorgny is gutsy and tortured too – she’s a French aristocrat forced to sell herself on the streets of Paris after the revolution. Why does she have to sell herself? Because Nicholas refused to save her! See what I mean about a dark and dangerous story? But her dreams of vengeance turn to passionate love in a story which will sweep you completely away.
Another fantastic read is Ritual Sins (Onyx, 1997). Luke Bardell, the hero, is EVEN darker than Nicholas. He’s been in prison for murder and he’s now running a scam retreat where he offers false hope of spiritual peace to rich dilettantes dabbling in New Age religion. I know he sounds awful but believe me, on the page he’s amazingly compelling and sexy. I think because he’s so self-aware. He knows his faults and there is at his core a really unexpected strain of integrity. Oh, and there’s the fact that he’s dragged kicking and screaming into falling in love with the gutsy, tortured (are you picking up a theme here?) heroine Rachel Connery. There’s a strong suspense plot in this book but for me, the heart of the story is the passionate, complex, difficult romance that develops between Luke and Rachel. Highly recommended.
Finally, I’d like to talk about Shadows at Sunset (Mira, 2000). Again, there’s a suspense plot in this but it never overshadows (no pun intended!) the romances. Yes, romances. One of the things Anne Stuart does better than almost anybody else I can think of is include a secondary romance that illuminates the central romance while still being so heartfelt and emotional on its own. There are two sisters in Shadows, Jilly and Rachel-Ann, and they both get their happy endings with the most unexpected heroes. Actually there’s even a third romance because there are a couple of ghosts who play a crucial part in the story. The redemption theme in this book becomes cosmic! One leading man is the trademark Stuart dark, difficult villain/hero, Coltrane. The other is a gorgeous Latino doctor Rico. See if you can find this book. You won’t be at all sorry you did!
Oh, man, so many Anne Stuart books, so little space. Other books I’d recommend – and the list isn’t exhaustive – are The Devil’s Waltz, Cold as Ice, Still Lake, Lady Fortune, Prince of Danger, To Love a Dark Lord, Cinderman, Glass Houses and Nightfall.
Go on, I dare you – take a walk on the dark side! Grab an Anne Stuart today!