The theme for August’s TBR Challenge is Kickin’ It Old School. Heartless by Mary Balogh fits the bill since it was originally published in 1995. Luckily though, I had a recently reprinted copy.
Life has taught Lucas Kendrick, Duke of Harndon, that a heart is a decided liability. Betrayed by his elder brother, rejected by his fiancée, banished by his father, and shunned by his mother, Luke fled to Paris, where he became the most sought-after bachelor in fashionable society.
Ten years later, fate has brought him back home to England as head of the family who rejected him. Unwilling as he is to be involved with them, he must assume responsibility for his younger siblings, the family estate he once loved—and the succession. He faces the prospect of marrying with the greatest reluctance—until he sees beguiling Lady Anna Marlowe across a ballroom one night.
Anna, far from being the bright-eyed innocent Luke takes her for, is no more a stranger to the shadows of a painful past than he is. But for her, marriage cannot so easily solve what is wrong in her life—not when a tormentor stalks her to the very doors of Bowden Abbey, where Luke and Anna must learn to trust in each other or risk any chance they may have for a happy future.
I don’t know how to feel about Heartless. I mean, it had a good story but Anna annoyed me. Actually, Luke did too. My biggest pet peeve in romance is communication. So much angst could be avoided if couples freaking talk to each other.
So ten years ago, Luke was engaged to Henrietta…but then Henrietta claimed to have been ravished by his older brother (the heir) and was pregnant so they had to marry. Luke challenged his brother to a duel and accidentally almost killed him. He was banished by his family and he moved to Paris where he tucked all emotion away (thus the Heartless title) and became the most fashionable gentleman in Paris. He’s called back to England when his brother passed away and his younger siblings need a male figure in their lives and the estate needs better management.
Anna has come to London to present her sister. Anna herself is 25 and believes herself to be on the shelf. Indeed, there’s something in her past that makes her getting married impossible. Or so she believes. When her and Luke meet she believes she can have a few months of happiness and whimsy before return to her sad, country life. However, Luke, who didn’t want responsibility needs a wife and he really likes Anna and believes they can make a happy life together. A life without love though since he doesn’t have a heart.
But…that’s not meant to be of course. Both Luke and Anna have secrets. Anna keeps hers because she’s afraid that Luke will reject her. Luke keeps his secrets because he’s afraid of emotion. Anna finds out some of Luke’s secrets because one of them actually lives in their home (Henrietta). But Luke starts to care deeply for Anna and his secrets drive him crazy, especially when she keeps denying anything’s wrong. Can Anna be brave enough to open up to Luke? And can Luke heal from the past and learn to love?
So I really liked the characters and how their relationships developed. Luke has a younger brother and sister who hate him. LOL When he returned to England they were expecting the version of their brother they remembered, a loving, supportive brother. And Luke is not that. For Anna, she shouldered heavy burdens for her family when her mother was sick, died and then when her father passed as well. She has a few younger siblings as well and Emily was my favourite. She’ll be the heroine of the next book in this series, Silent Melody.
The main villain, someone from Anna’s past, is creepy as hell and I struggled to figure out what his deal was. And this is where my enjoyment of the book waned. Anna had so many chances to tell Luke what was happening and she chickened out every time. When she finally decides to tell him, Luke has taken it upon himself to discover the truth and to me it was too little too late. Despite that, I did like Anna and Luke together. I liked that even though he felt betrayed at one point, he spoke to Anna about it and moved on.
I like reading old Mary Balogh titles so even though I had some issues with this one, I liked the introduction of Emily’s character and I look forward to reading Silent Melody.
Heartless gets a C from me.