Howard's definitely tame by today's standards. After the first book, I'm definitely a Conan fan.
So far, The Ruins
is sort of bestseller-ish. It's written competently and has a movie-like feel, and there's not much to the main characters. They're kind of bland, with interchangeable names like Amy, Stacy, Jeff and Eric. They're just college students without much difference between them, so far. There are some more interesting secondary characters, but everyone sort of seems like fodder, so far.
I can visualize each character in Dan Simmons's Summer of Night
(mentioned many times upthread), and none of the main characters seemed doomed, so when it happened, it was a punch to the gut.
In this one, Smith has some work to do before getting to that point. I'm only on page 75 of a 508-page book, so it could still happen.