Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is the first book I’ve read by Sophia Nash and is it also the first book in her new historical romance Royal EnBetween the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is the first book I’ve read by Sophia Nash and is it also the first book in her new historical romance Royal Entourage series.
The story begins with the heroine, Roxanne Vanderhaven, having fallen off of a cliff and hanging on for dear life, while her husband leaves to seek help....supposedly. But, as long minutes turn into torturous hours she realizes that her husband is not coming back for her; that he has left her to her fate....almost certain death. Just when she begins to contemplate her demise after some lighthearted reflections of her life, a stranger happens upon her dog, who much like Lassie, leads her hero to save her...just in the nick of time.
Her rescuer turns out to be the disgraced his Grace, the Duke of Kress, who has been banished from London by the Prince until he can redeem his reputation by marrying a young, respectable heiress.
I found Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea to be a bit at odds with itself, almost as if the story has a split personality. On the one hand it wants to be this fun light hearted witty romance where the hero and the heroine trade amusing barbs, dialogue, and banter, and eventually fall in love and have a happily ever after despite the seeming insurmountable circumstances. On the other hand you have a heroine who has been emotionally controlled, dominated, and ignored by her aristocratic husband who holds her fortune in higher esteem than her person. As is illustrated when he leaves her to her fate on the cliffside. As well as the addition of other potentially emotional and serious issues, that in normal circumstances would lead to character growth and a deeper connection between the reader that the story.
Roxanne’s husband, the Earl of Paxton, is cruel in a passive aggressive sort of way. After eight years of marriage, where she is isolated from her past and everyone that she loves and has become a person she no longer recognizes, where she feels that she has lost herself in her desperate attempts to please him and become a Countess worthy of her station and rise above her common “tin” birth. Because of this realization in the face of death, you would expect her character to have a re-birth or awakening...a new beginning, to celebrate her second chance at life, but surprisingly all she seems to do is play dress up, and hide and seek from her past life in order to plan a new one in Scotland. It’s as if she finds herself at a country party by a happy accident and just goes on with her life. I found this to be unbelievable and a little disturbing...that even if she didn’t love her husband (though it is intimated that she at one point did have feelings for him) that she would have stronger emotions surrounding his actions and her circumstances. Her. Husband. Tried. To. Kill. Her. for goodness sake! And all she could do while hanging on the cliffside, as gets closer and closer to death is kind of laugh it off ?
I don’t want to sound pessimistic and rain on the sunny day of this book, because there were parts of the story that I thought were unabashedly enjoyable. For instance, I loved the scenes where the Duke torments the Earl with practical jokes to exact a bit of revenge on him for trying to kill his wife. And the Duke’s Aunt is no holds barred fun. But with the story set up the way that it was...an attempted murder, an ex-French spy for Napolean turned English Duke, animosity between commoners and the nobility, and an actual murder, it can’t be all fun and games. But the heroine Roxanne, seems to just shrug it off and shows more emotion at the thought of trying to begin a new life with very little money and leaving her dog behind, than leaving the man she’s “falling in love”. Really? How are we supposed to believe in a love like that? These are some serious issues that the author introduced to the plot that deserve some emotion to make the characters, and the plot as a whole, feel like more than just a bit of frippery.
I read somewhere (I think it might have been the publisher's website) that they compared this book with the movie "The Hangover", but set in England’s Regency period. I think this explains a lot of why couldn’t like this book like many others have, because that is just not my sense of humor. And while the hero and the heroine do fall in love and get their happily ever after, the story was an emotional void. I found the marriage of these two improbable types of stories, a flippant diversion, as well as a story with unexplored deeper issues, to be a complete and utter mismatch. Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is the case where opposites may attract, but they clearly don’t belong together. And while the premise of the Royal Entourage is intriguing, I don’t think I will be tempted to party with the Dukes again.
Overall: 3.00 stars (Clearly you either love this book, or you don't...I was kind of in the middle. Liking parts of the book separately for different reasons, but as a whole...it had more problems than good points.)
Sensuality level: 3.25
A copy of the book was provided via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. And was reviewed for the Seductive Musings blog....more
I’ve been a fan of Sarah MacLean’s brand of romance since I first discovered her work with Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (which remains aI’ve been a fan of Sarah MacLean’s brand of romance since I first discovered her work with Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (which remains a favorite). She has set a very high standard with her stories, and while I’ve loved some of her books more than others, the key point here is that I’ve loved each and every one of them, and the first book in her Rules of Scoundrels series, A Rogue by Any Other Name, is no exception.
Penelope Marbury hasn’t had luck with love. She was once engaged to a Duke, but that ended badly with him marrying someone else for love, consequently tainting her reputation. Though her heart was not broken along with her engagement, she mourns the loss of the potential for love, companionship and a family of her own. Given a second chance she decides that it will be love or nothing and she refuses to settle for anything less. She wants more out of life...and that idea of “more” is cleverly and brilliantly prevalent throughout the entire book.
She was once very dear childhood friends with Michael, who would eventually inherit the title of the Marquess of Bourne. They had a very special and close connection, until he lost everything as a very young man in a game of cards to his guardian, a person he was supposed to be able to trust and guide him, but instead humiliatingly betrayed him. His destitution left him deeply embarrassed, scarred and desperate to survive by any means necessary to try and one day gain back the life that was stolen from him. Revenge has become his entire existence up until he reunites with his heroine.
After many years Michael and Penelope meet again, and while she fondly remembers the boy and friend that he used to be, he has returned to gain her hand in marriage by any means necessary, including her planned ruination in order to win back his beloved home Falconwell; her dowry. During their time apart Michael has become a ruthless man, sometimes even cruel, who will do anything necessary to fulfill his goals. He’s driven by revenge which has consumed him for so long, that he feels he is completely lost and irredeemable. He doesn’t like who he has become, in fact he loathes his ruthlessness, but feels that as long as it gets him what he needs to prove his success, that the ends justify the means...at any cost. Including Penelope’s love, her esteem and her reputation.
Penelope has a hard time reconciling the boy she loved with the man he has become. Thus begins the emotional, and sometimes heartbreaking journey of their love story. Michael is a very interesting hero, in that at first he does not seem to have any redeemable characteristics. He’s completely reprehensible. The author pulls no punches in letting you know that revenge has consumed and blinded Michael to anything other than what he feels he needs to do in order to gain back what was lost, no matter the expense to himself or anyone else. Yet, he also fully comprehends that it comes at a very high cost to his soul and humanity, but that it is a price he is willing to pay. So while he gains back what he has lost in possessions, he will ultimately lose more than what he did in the long ago fateful game of cards.
Michael sees no hope for himself, so when Penelope reenters his life, and brings with her the possibility of love instead of revenge, he fights it. Because to lose her again...especially now that his feelings for her are “more”, would be a loss so devastating that he might not survive it. Some people have hated Michael, and feel that he is not a worthy hero. However, I have to disagree. I loved him as a hero. He actually reminds me a bit of Lisa Kleypas’s Derek Craven from Dreaming of You, and as hard as it is to believe, I think Michael is even more destitute. Consequently though, it also means that his redemption is even that more satisfying.
Each chapter of the book begins with a letter that Penelope has written to Michael, so that the reader can understand their friendship and their deep connection to each other even at such a young age. And as each chapter progresses you feel Penelope’s loss of that friendship...from the letters going unanswered after Michael loses everything, to eventually her not even mailing them, but still continuing to write her thoughts to him in a journal. So when they meet again you can understand, despite his cruelty and who he has become, why she doesn’t give up on him. Why she is willing to fight for his love and save him from himself. However, she is also not a glutton for punishment. She is given hope, in small but meaningful ways, like when he slips and calls her “Sixpence” a childhood nickname he gave her when everyone else called her “Penny”, because to him she was worth more than just a mere penny, or when he hands her his “marker”, which to him represents the man he used to be...one who has integrity and is honorable...she knows all is not lost. That there is hope, that if she has enough courage for them both, that they can have everything and win at the game of love.
I also have to mention that while A Rogue by Any Other Name is maybe not my favorite of this author’s works (it’s a close second though), I thought that her writing style in this story was nothing short of brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that used one word, in this case “more”, that evoked so much meaning and emotion in different ways...hope, pain, regret, bliss. This word is used repeatedly throughout the entire story with different intentions, and while it is such a simple word it conveys very complex emotions with simplicity and elegance. I thought it was just....brilliant! In this book she has also written some of the most emotionally intimate loves scenes that I’ve read in quite some time. They were passionate, and poignant and everything that I love in a great romance. Again, brilliant!
So if I loved A Rogue by Any Other Name so much, why didn’t I give it 5 stars? It was the epilogue...the last parting insight into the characters lives to give you the happily ever after warm fuzzies...had exactly nothing to do with the hero and heroine from this story. Instead it was essentially a preview chapter for the next book in the series. An epilogue is supposed to be a conclusion to a story, not the beginning of a new one...end of story. However, despite the epilogue I absolutely fell in love with A Rogue by Any Other Name. It will most certainly be one of my favorite romances of 2012!
Overall: 4.95 stars (it would have been perfect except for the epilogue...but since the epilogue didn't have anything to do with the hero and heroine from this book I didn't feel right about taking off any more...but I really really wanted an epilogue with Penelope and Bourne!)
Sensuality level: 3.50 (the hero is passionate, but he fights his attraction to the heroine...darn it!)
A copy of this book was provided to me via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review, and was reviewed for the Seductive Musings blog....more