**spoiler alert** This book is one that sneaks up on your senses. You start reading the first sentence and before you know it, you're hooked. It was t...more**spoiler alert** This book is one that sneaks up on your senses. You start reading the first sentence and before you know it, you're hooked. It was that simple. The writing flows, and the beauty of it is captivating. Yet at the same time, it is not flowery or florid. Just exhibiting the careful and artistic use of words to tell a story of redemption and growth. Sebastian Verlaine is not a pretender in the world of rakes. He is a true rake. He has lived an aimless existence of a sybarite, doing only what felt good to him, and only as long as it pleased him. He is on the crux of either descending to a lower level of debauchery, or turning his life around. When he encounters Rachel Wade, a woman just recently released from prison after 10 years, and arrested for vagrancy because she is homeless, this becomes a crucial moment in his evolution.
The manner in which the story enfolds is interesting. Sebastian has recently inherited Lynton, which is property from his disceased relative. He decides to go and stay there for a lark, and for fun and out of drunkeness, agrees to act as a local magistrate. As such, he is in a position of power to offer Rachel Wade a job as his housekeeper. In reality, it is also the position of his mistress. Sebastian finds himself fascinated by this beaten down woman, who was sentenced for murdering her husband, who had committed depraved acts on her. He is attracted to the luridness of the situation, and also by the woman herself.
When reading this, you are thinking, how could a person do a good deed for such a questionable reason. You see Sebastian laying his trap and allowing Rachel to settle into her position and you worry for Rachel. Yet Rachel is no fool. She knew all along to expect something along those lines, but her choice is to be put in the gaol for vagrancy, and to starve, or to accept relative comfort of a job, a place to stay, even if the price tag is to accept the unwanted attentions of her employer.
So begins this unlikely romance. At first, this is more of a character study as you watch Rachel adapt to no longer being a prisoner for ten years. You see her gain her self-confidence and overcome her sense of shame for being a convict, when she had been falsely accused in the first place. At the same time, you see Sebastian plotting and continuing along on his nefarious course, yet at the same time, slowly changing and developing a sense of purpose when before he only had a sense of boredom and jadedness. This evolution is so well done, that by the time you realize why Sebastian is such a rake, you have already forgiven him for it and accepted that this was his past. This was profound to me, because I have read more than a few books with rakes who really never seemed all that repentant, and certainly weren't fully changed by the love of the heroine. Characters that you wondered if they wouldn't end up falling off the wagon years later on, after the book was over.
The first sexual encounters are not consensual. Yet this is also done tastefully. Again, you are not reading this book as a romance novel at this point, but as a fiction work, and so it doesn't jolt you or offend your senses. Instead you keep reading, to see how this will unfold.
There are moments when I felt, that Sebastian would commit the final act that would serve as the straw breaking the camel's back, and I would come to hate him. Gaffney leaves the reader poised on the cliff of expectation, so skillfully keeping the reader's interest, as Sebastian has to make a choice, whether he truly is an unforgivable, irredeemable rake, or if he is a human being who does have ethical boundaries he won't cross. This moment arrives when he invites some of his jaded companions to his house, and allows them to bait Rachel verbally but does nothing. The situation worsens as one of the attendees states his intent to force his attentions on Rachel. At first, he acts like he could care less, because that is how the old Sebastian would have reacted. At the last minute he intervenes, and the breath that I was holding is let out.
From this point on, the story shifts as Sebastian learns how to love for the first time in his life. He becomes a caring person, learning to put someone else's needs first. And it really is touching the degree to which he devotes himself to making Rachel happy. I love redemption stories, so I really enjoyed reading about his transition to an honorable man. Or maybe, that seed was always deep inside of him, but he didn't allow it to germinate. When you get a glimpse into his family life towards the end of the book, you really have no questions as to why Sebastian acted the way he did at the beginning of the book.
This book works wonderfully on many levels, as a fiction book, and as a romance. It's not at all predictable, which is refreshing. Of course, you know that a happy ending is going to be given, but you don't exactly know how it will arrive at that point until you get there, and you almost want to read it again just in confirmation.
To Have and to Hold is a good example of the fact that romantic fiction should be respected for its power. Romance novels are wrongly labeled as fluff, trash, and worthless. But how could a book with such a deep message, and with such powerful storytelling ever be considered fluff? I will proudly put this piece of romantic fiction on my keeper shelf.(less)
Another example of how romantic fiction is not fluff. This book was deep as the ocean. I loved how this book brought together two people who had been...moreAnother example of how romantic fiction is not fluff. This book was deep as the ocean. I loved how this book brought together two people who had been hurt or damaged by life, and helped them to find peace and love.
The Rake is an excellent portrayal of a person suffering from alcoholism. And coming from a family where both side has members who were alcoholics, I can testify to this. Reggie reminded me of a few of my uncles. They could have been better men had they not been under the influence of the drug that started as something they indulged in for fun, but became their lives and helped to destroy their lives.
The great thing about this book is that it was so well written that I couldn't turn away because I had seen too much of that behavior. Instead, I wanted to read more about Reggie's journey to sobriety.
Alyx also has issues. She is odd-eyed, meaning her eyes are different colors. She is also tall and buxom. In her mind, she is unattractive. And she heard a man that she adored dismiss her, so she ran off and gave herself to the first man who asked. Of course, he didn't want her for more than one night. Lesson learned, she retires to the country and gets a job as the steward to an absentee landlord.
This turns out to be the recently inherited property of Reginald, who is running away from London to try to get his life under control. This is how these two souls meet and find a love that helps them both to heal and gives them a hopeful future.
It's been a while since I read this one, but it is destined to always have a space on my keeper shelf. For the beauty of the storytelling, the compelling and realistic hero and heroine, and for the excellent handling of the tough subject of alcoholism.(less)
Stan and Teri were such a cute couple. I loved Stan from the beginning. It saddened me that he thought he was ugly. In my head I can't picture him as...moreStan and Teri were such a cute couple. I loved Stan from the beginning. It saddened me that he thought he was ugly. In my head I can't picture him as ugly because he was such a cool guy. I enjoyed the bond and the chemistry between Stan and Teri, and how they saw each other deeper than anyone else did. It was interesting how Stan was trying to flee from Teri and his attraction to her, and she was the one chasing him. Out of the Team 16 couples, they are one of my favorites.
The Sam and Alyssa parts will break your heart. I thought I was going to die, the way that things ended between them at the end of this book. I was praying that things would work out. I guess I had to keep reading. :)
Unlike quite a few fans of this series, I loved the WWII storyline in each book. But it's a particular favorite period of mine.
The action is great. That Alyssa can kick some serious butt. And Sam, well, he can do no wrong, sort of. He can, but I love him anyway. One of my personal favorites out of this series.(less)
It seems silly to say that a book can affect you on a profound level. well I definitely believe in this power that a good book has. Jane Eyre is one o...moreIt seems silly to say that a book can affect you on a profound level. well I definitely believe in this power that a good book has. Jane Eyre is one of them. I cannot say that this was an easy book to read. But it was a book that I was very enriched by reading. Romance is a genre that is looked down on by many "sophisticated readers." Perhaps they would look down on Jane Eyre, but would probably get some eyebrows raised at them. Well Jane Eyre is the archetype for the romance novel. After having read thousands of them, I know a romance novel when I see it, and Jane Eyre does qualify. But it is much more than this. It's a story for the person who wonders why they keep trying to do the right thing, and persevering in life, instead of just taking what they want when they want it. If Jane Eyre had been that sort of person, she would not have gotten her happy ending. Instead, Jane walked away from the thing she wanted most in the world. She almost died doing what she felt in her heart was right. Had the story ended there, I probably would have detested this book. But it doesn't. We see Jane continue to grow and act as the phenomenal person that she was. Although often downtrodden, she is no meek mouse. She has a fighting spirit that keeps her going when others would have laid down and died. But despite being a fighter, she is not a user and abuser. It's hard at times for the difference to be clearly delineated. Well there is no question about Jane's level of strength and intregrity. Although it is made clear several times in this novel, that Jane is no beauty, her soul makes her a beautiful character. Beautiful in a more profound way.
There are moments when you feel, how can one person suffer so? But taking the journey, you realize that all Jane's suffering had a purpose. It refined her into a woman who could look beneath and love what others could never love or understand. It made her the woman who could love and heal Rochester.
At the same time, Rochester was made for Jane Eyre. He had searched his life for a woman like her, and made quite a few mistakes along the way. And out of love, he was able to let her go when he wanted to keep her. But she came back to him, when he needed her most.
Rochester is the hero that formed the archetype for many of my favorites: tortured, scarred, dark, enigmatic, all of those things. Best of all, loving little, plain, ordinary Jane with a fundamental intensity that pours out of the pages of this book into my heart as a reader. Despite his lack of perfection, I could not love him more.
Ah, how maudlin I sound. I can't help it. This book moved me to tears. Yet I smiled at the same time. I enjoyed the conversations between Rochester and Jane. There was a heat there, a passion. Yet this book is clean enough to read in Sunday school. That is grand romance. The journey so well expressed, that no sex scenes are needed. It's all there.
This novel is also inspirational. Not preachy, in my opinion, but for a believer, one can definitely find spiritual messages in this book. About perseverance, about not wearying about doing good. About the profoundness of God's love. It's all there, but in a narrative that expertly showcases it, not preaching it.
I feel I am failing to write the review I want to write for this book. The words do fail me. All I can say is that this book will always be a favorite of mine because of the way it touched my heart and challenged me.
The Raven Prince was a sweet, sensual, delectable book that I've had sitting on my tbr pile for years now! In a way, I don't regret that, because I re...moreThe Raven Prince was a sweet, sensual, delectable book that I've had sitting on my tbr pile for years now! In a way, I don't regret that, because I read it at the right time. This lovely story took what could have been dark and melancholy subject matter, and made something upbeat and whimsical, yet no less moving.
Anna and Edward are characters that get shoved into closets and overlooked when it comes to romance novels. They are both over thirty. Neither is drop-dead-gorgeous. Neither are shining diamonds of the ton (who usually bore me to tears anyway). Neither is especially wonderful to the world--except for me. I prefer reading about the misfits, the 'ugly ducklings' and 'raven princes'. I liked the fact that although both Anna and Edward have had some very tragic, lonely times in their lives, neither of them are particularly whiny about it. They have moved on to live their lives, even though deep down, they hoped for better. Anna was married for years to a man who made her feel inadequate because she never conceived, even going so far as to cheat on her. When he dies, she settles into widowhood, supporting her mother-in-law on his dwindling investments. In fact, she reminded me of the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible in how she cared for her mother-in-law and loved her. The time comes for her to get a position, and there are few to come by in Little Battleford. However, the mysterious Earl of Swartingham needs a secretary, and his estate manager, Hopple, is desperate enough to hire a woman.
When the two meet, there is a connection. Not exactly love at first sight, but something that develops into much more than what an Earl should feel for his secretary. I liked that both Edward and Anna looked past the superficial to what mattered in life. Anna saw Edward's smallpox scars, but more importantly, she saw a strong, beautiful man, even if he was a bit surly. Edward saw a vivid, attractive women although she had a plain face to the rest of the world. He liked being around her, talking to her, being with her. He liked her for who she truly was, giving her an acceptance her deceased husband had denied her.
Ms. Hoyt managed to take some aspects that wouldn't have appealed to me and to build a lovely romance. In theory, I didn't like the idea of Anna meeting Edward in Aphrodite's Grotto, pretending to be a lady of pleasure. I hate the idea of prostitution, and I especially hate when the hero in a romance book that I am reading goes to a brothel. What Ms. Hoyt did here was pretty cool. If she was going to have Edward go to a brothel to deal with his unseemly, lustful urges for his secretary, why not have his secretary be the woman he slakes those urges on? Those love scene were very well-written and "fan-yourself-now" steamy.
Anna discovers passion for the first time, and has to pay the price of passion--the knowledge that it is gained without knowing she is loved by the man she is with. Edward enjoys his time with the mystery woman, but his mind always goes back to Anna. Why does she come to mind when he's with this other woman? How can he feel such passion for her when his mind is fixated on Anna?
I liked how Ms. Hoyt deals with the double standard that society holds to regarding prostitution. A woman is the one who is sullied, but men are just doing what comes naturally. It drives me crazy! Anna helps a sick prostitute and has to deal with a bit of social stigma because of it, because that woman is dirty and beneath her. I was glad she was brave enough to do what was right, showing what a 'good woman' truly is. I do have to say I didn't like some of the double standards that Edward showed. His anger at finding out Anna was his mystery woman, and the way he put her on the "pure, innocent" pedestal, but had no problem slaking his urge on the professional woman who he always called whores. It's just my personal issue with the subject. I hate prostitution, but I hate it because I don't think a woman should have to use her body that way. Even moreso, I hate the hypocrisy of society when it comes to prostitutes. They didn't get 'sullied' by themselves. So, I particularly liked when Anna tells Edward off when he lectures her for taking in the sick prostitute, Pearl. The way I look at it, the oldest profession would go out of business if people didn't pay for sex, so it goes both ways for me, with a higher burden put on people who pay for sex. Anyhoo, societal rant aside...back to review.
I liked the subtle humor here, a light touch that brightened this story and kept it from being too melancholy. As much as I like angst, sometimes it's nice to have a fun read that's also deep and manages to move me at the same time.
I don't think I have much more to say here. I really enjoyed this book. I liked Ms. Hoyt's ability to write clearly, beautifully, but never floridly. She captures the Georgian era, but isn't heavy-handed about it. I knew I was reading a historical romance, and I believed in the setting. I definitely want to read more of her books (good thing I have been accumulating almost all of them over these few years). The elegant simplicity of her prose made this a swift and enjoyable read. This was historical romance that was enjoyable from beginning to end--I never felt the plot drag or my attention start to wane with this book. Although some of their moments of blindly holding on to misconceptions and fruitless determinations frustrated me, I never lost respect or liking for Anna and Edward. I could see that they had built barriers to love out of fear of heartbreak, and to keep themselves safe from further loss. Because I felt like I knew and cared for them, I found their passion very hot, but it also was a sweet, deep love story, so it satisfied me on both levels. In fact, I loved the characters for all their imperfections; I felt that they were normal, relatable people who deserved a happy ending. I was glad I got to see them get their happy day in this book.
Thanks to my Secret Santa Julie for selecting this book as one of my Christmas presents to read for the Lisa Kleypas group!(less)