Wow, I don't know quite what to say about this book. As my rating shows, it's a damn good book and everything, even the characters with all their flaw...moreWow, I don't know quite what to say about this book. As my rating shows, it's a damn good book and everything, even the characters with all their flaws, worked. I was hesitant about the first person narration, but I don't know how this book could have worked any other way. Felicia, the illiterate and illegitimate tavern maid, became entirely dependent on Domenico and was in nearly all respects a fairly pitiful woman. She waited patiently for any crumbs of his love like a starving dog. This kind of doormat usually scores no points with me, but the way her character was set up, it made total sense, and her point of view made me more charitable.
Now... boy, is Domenico unlikeable! I hated his guts through the entire thing and even the final grovel didn't make him any better. Felicia by this time is realistic enough to realize that he hasn't changed all that much, either. The man is a spoiled, petulant, dangerous man who has never been denied anything his entire life. When he wants something, he takes it. If anybody stands in his way, or gives the slightest offense, the option of murder is totally on the table.
A casting review has already been done, but of course I also imagined the fabulous Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Domenico, because how could you not if you know of this guy? If Dmitri hadn't been in the mind's eye the entire time, I don't think I could have gotten past the absolute reprehensible creature of the Duke of Cabria. But since he was...
He's really a psycho, caressing Felicia one second, crushing her fingers or wrist the next. Felicia is totally in the grip of Stockholm Syndome and there ain't no comin' out of it...
Just one of Domenico's more tender PDA moments
Teresa Denys is an amazing writer. It took me about 50 pages to get into her particular style. It is very dense, ornately written, and yet feels very authentic. It suited the OTT characters and goings-on and even without the hunky Russian baritone filling my thoughts, the entire book felt like one of Verdi's early melodramatic operas like Ernani.
Final verdict is 4 1/2 stars, due to a downswing in the action near the end, but other than that - what a fantastic bodice ripper that wears the veneer of a little something more. I can't wait to read Denys' The Flesh and the Devil.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm sure my misgivings with this book are due to the Harley formula, but it was a decent read. I'm totally going to crib the review format from this a...moreI'm sure my misgivings with this book are due to the Harley formula, but it was a decent read. I'm totally going to crib the review format from this awesome lady (UPDATE: She's left Goodreads, sorry) because it's a neat and tidy way to review these neat and tidy books.
The Girl - Dove Grey is a British nanny who does a damn good job, thankyouverymuch. Somehow, despite working for the landed gentry and raising their brats, she has managed to stay pure and innocent. You would expect she would have gotten some unwanted attention from one of her rich employers who is used to getting whatever he wants, but I guess her halo of innocence protects her. Dove did seem to be somewhat of a cipher. Her main motivation that propelled the plot was doing Huge Generous Things for others, at the expense of herself.
The Guy - Marc Blais, an ex-Legionnaire now hauling in the big bucks as the main confidant and honorary brother of Sheikh Rahma, the richest guy in the (fictitious) Middle Eastern country of Neffe. He's tall. He's dark. He's got an awesome scar that serves as a mood barometer. He's easily angered and aggravated by Dove, but we all know why...
The Setup - Dove's daddy refuses to collect value added tax at his store and he now owes The Revenue Man a HUGE bill of back taxes. Mom is no help, because she's one of those dumbly faithful types who always leaves everything in the hands of the man. So it's up to Dove to come up with a ton of cash, and she takes on the daunting (but very lucrative) task of nanny to Sheikh Rahma's children, a job that has had quite the turnover in recent years, due in no small part to the presence of Marc Blais. "You must not fall in love with me!" he warns Dove. With the equivalent of "Ha! As IF!" hurled back at him, the plot is off and running, which involves touching scenes of Dove's nannydom, an assassination plot and coup from Rahma's scheming brother Zaid, and a midnight flight into the desert to keep the children from Zaid's assassins. Throw in a bumpy camel ride and a forced wedding ceremony and you've got some real trials and tribulations for our heroine.
The Good Stuff - Margaret Rome's writing is something else. And not in a bad way. She has a real OTT style that would work really well in a full-blown bodice-ripper epic, and I kept feeling like she was chomping at the bit against the constraints of the Harley formula. There were some real good lines in there that usually would bring on some eye-rolling, but I was eating it up with a spoon instead. The dialogue she puts in the mouths of her characters would never be heard in the real world - it's convoluted and melodramatic, but again.... YUM.
My Gripes - I wasn't "feeling it" between Marc and Dove, but I'm still enough of a newbie to the Harley formula that I'm not sure how much is shorthand that the reader needs to fill in because they always end at pg. 187. The final grovel seemed to come on fast, as well as Dove's "I love him!" revelation after 160 pages of utter hatred (with some moments of forced kissy-kissy which seemed to make her all weak). So my initial rating was going to be 3 stars, but I'll tack on an extra one because it was still a very enjoyable read.(less)
If this book had a neck, I would have throttled it.
For over 500 pages, the story ping-ponged frustratingly between a terrible romance with the most ri...moreIf this book had a neck, I would have throttled it.
For over 500 pages, the story ping-ponged frustratingly between a terrible romance with the most ridiculously shallow cast of characters you'll ever see and short scenes of well-written and well-researched historical events revolving around Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. If only Barbieri had made this a book about that rascally revolutionary and borderline criminal, but no...
Instead, we get a story about a perfectly beautiful young woman, Melanie, who is the magnetic north to which all mens' crotch compasses point. No matter where she goes, the lustful glances follow. She, of course, is oblivious to their attention until it's pointed out to her, at which time she blushes and becomes even more beautiful, if that's even possible, and suddenly it all turns into a tent-pitching party. I wish I was making this up. Melanie's utterly devastating beauty and damn amber eyes were referred to so many times--and every part of her body was referred to as "perfect" at one point or another--that it eventually became hilarious after starting out as really annoying.
I got the feeling that Barbieri couldn't figure out what kind of guy she wanted to claim Melanie's heart in this book, so she threw in three of them. The most sympathetic one who most readers would root for would be Asa, the middle-aged man who falls in love with Melanie when she's 13 (unconsummated until 3 years later), even though he's 30 years older than she. If you're squicked out by huge age-gaps like that, then give this one a pass - but it's not an Anna-Nicole Smith/Cryptkeeper gross-out!
But Melanie, despite being intelligent and quick-witted (as the author keeps telling us, but all evidence points to the contrary) doesn't realize she has A Good Thing with Asa. Her quivery lady bits are set all atwitter by Stephen Hull, one of the Green Mountain Boys, who has serious emotional issues. He loves Melanie so much he hates her. So intimidated by her loveliness is he that he can't stop abusing and threatening her, but well, he's just so darn handsome and dark and all muscled and everything that Melanie can't help herself. I never knew where the author was going with this character. After he did something awful, (view spoiler)[like slamming her head into a brick wall and then forcing her into his room, making her disrobe, and then raping her (hide spoiler)], he would act all tormented and cry out his love for her and it felt like Barbieri was trying to make him sympathetic, but he only came off as totally psychotic. Any modern-day woman would recognize that right off the bat, or I should hope so! But not Melanie. This cycle happened again and again throughout the novel and still, up until the end of the book she harbored affection and love for this nutbag, and in fact, felt like she owed Stephen for tormenting him so! WHAT????
The third hero in this mess of a romance was Simon. As the book progressed, I actually started to see no fundamental difference between him and Stephen, but only in terms of degrees. Both were jealously possessive of Melanie, but Simon was just nicer and not physically abusive about it. Possessive jealousy was really the author's only expression of "love" shown in the book. Even dear old Asa prided himself that Melanie belonged to him and no one else. It was disturbing, but also cartoonish.
This book is complete nonsense, with a heroine that is annoyingly perfect and impossibly beautiful, where never a scene goes by without a paragraph-long description of clothes (and how they flatter every aspect of her figure), and countless scenes with her unaware of someone watching her as she just happens to be doing something rather twee and perfect, like fingering objects which bring to mind past memories and lead to a wistful expression or smile which only makes her more beautiful. And sometimes dimples dance over her cheeks when she smiles or laughs. The plot is slight and could have been covered in 150 pages, and the characters were about as deep as a desert rain puddle. One star because I actually finished it, and an extra star for the glorious bastard who was the reason this wasn't a completely excruciating reading experience:
The true hero - Ethan Allen, the only male in the book who could stand in Melanie's beatific, perfect presence and not be driven to the heights of lust. AND he beat the Brits' butts at Fort Ticonderoga.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Rosemary Rogers Reading Experience™ is a phenomena that can't be conveyed with words.
The euphoric reader's journey of Yours Truly
The opening scene...moreThe Rosemary Rogers Reading Experience™ is a phenomena that can't be conveyed with words.
The euphoric reader's journey of Yours Truly
The opening scene of Steve and Ginny in constant kissy-kissy morning-afterglow had me scratching my head. Huh? Does...not...compute...
Oh, I should never have doubted Rosemary! This is Steve and Ginny after all, and soon WE'RE OFF!!!!
Steve takes off yet again on another of those "secret missions" of his, leaving Ginny vulnerable to the oh-so-nefarious designs of one Prince Ivan Sahrkanov and his unwitting accomplice Dr. Count Chernikoff, who tempt her away from Mexico with the story that she's actually Tsar Alexander's long-lost illegitimate daughter (that little plot thread is never fully resolved, btw) and she needs to go to Russia pronto! and fulfill her obvious potential of being a Princess.
Poor Ginny. She pines for Steve, who is nowhere in sight and hasn't bothered to write. Well, she'll show him she won't just wait around for whenever he decides to come back! She'll prove she can take care of herself! So before she knows it she has become a docile apathetic little thing with the help of a constant supply of Chernikoff's magical headache powders. In a drugged haze she finds herself married to the Prince. You GO, girl!
Next stop: San Francisco. Prince Ivan immediately starts whoring out his wife for money and influence, and Ginny, in a constant fog of opiates, just shrugs her way through her miserable existence. At this point Steve! appears under another identity and of course the Love/Hate relationship starts all over again because:
Steve: I can't leave you alone for 5 minutes before you start spreading them for another man, you slut. Ginny: (thinking) Well if you told me you loved me, things would be totally different! Ginny: *shrug* Steve: I'll make you respond, you ice-cold bitch! Ginny: I hate you! Die in a fire! (Seconds later) Ginny: Curse my traitorous body!
It was here where Steve! let the Aura of AlphaBastard™ slip somewhat and he showed some real tenderness toward Ginny. He knows she's a raging opium addict and it's killing him to see his wildcat Ginny have all the emotion and energy of a year-old moldy dishrag. So he does what any Awesome Co-dependent Husband would do: "You're an addict! Here's some more headache powders, they're just not as strong."
Finally, in the first real WTF moment, the evil Prince is removed from the goings-on with a piratey duel mixed with kung fu and our Crazy Couple are reunited. But once again, it doesn't last long...
The next part opens with Steve shagging the Italian prima donna Francesca di Paoli while Ginny is traipsing around Europe and making tongues wag. This of course pisses Mr. Double-Standard AlphaRatBastard to no end. But these co-dependent drama queens were at each others' throats toot sweet and a separation was considered wise. Steve is now a millionaire, business deals are going on left and right and soon he must go on another one of those "secret missions" but he catches typhus and sets the stage for the Certifiably Batshit INSANE last half of the book. I shit you not.
Amnesiac Steve, now known as Manolo, ends up in Louisiana and hired by the crazed deviant giggly Trampslut Toni Lassiter, who has hooked her claws into a plantation and driven the previous family into a life in the swamps. The Rosemary Magic™ had been rolling along at a low boil but at this point it simply exploded and the shit hit the proverbial fan from all 360 degrees.
My quasi-spoilers stop here, but lemme give a visual approximation of my face for these last 220 pages:
Especially when 2 pages from the end of the book they're both on the run from the sheriff's posse and yet they still can't help bonking like bunnies while out in the Louisiana swamps.
Some choice quotes from our Loving Couple: "Did you stab him in the neck before or after you hit him with the bottle? It seems to have become quite a habit with you, hasn't it--stabbing the men who have ravished you, but only after they've had you over and over again! You tried that on me once, remember? Is that how you get rid of the lovers you've tired of?"
"I hate you! I'm sorry that Ivan didn't have you killed after all!"
Ginny--damn her slanty green eyes and her too-easily yielding body--she had always been the only woman capable of making him fly into a jealous rage that could blind him to everything else, even caution or reason. He should have done what he had threatened to do far too often and never carried out--beaten her a few times, to show her he meant business.
I enjoyed this book more than Sweet Savage Love, but only barely. Really, this one is off-the-charts Pure Crazy Fun. If you're an Old Skool Bodice Ripper Fan. Bring your Big Girl Panties for this one and just roll with it. You'll be glad you did.(less)
Any attempt to compose a review of your cracktastic epics results in a complete implosion of logical thought processes and...moreDamn you, Rosemary Rogers!
Any attempt to compose a review of your cracktastic epics results in a complete implosion of logical thought processes and reason! Not to mention that I begin to question my ethics, values, and moral compass when at the turn of every page my sane brain says "This is CRAZY!" and the other half screams "More, more, MORE!!!!" This entire review will be a struggle to remain coherent, but I'll try. Rosemary's enthralling chaos makes plot summaries impossible. "Stuff happens" is as close as I can get with any kind of accuracy.
Call me weird and idealistic, but I thought that the romance genre begged for self-insert - the female reader wants to be the heroine who, after a string of trials and tribulations, finally gets that clinch with the hero who would swim a moat of fire-breathing dragons for her. Now, I'm completely aware that these Old Skool romances do not have the sensitive Prince Valiant, but rather the annoying Super Alpha hero who thinks nothing of rape as a punishment for the heroine's perceived transgressions. Steve wasn't as bad in this respect as Dominic Challenger in Wicked Loving Lies, but he was close.
But Ginny.... Oh, Ginny. I wouldn't want to identify with this woman in a million years. Not for what she went through, but for who she is. I have now followed for 600+ pages the most grotesquely co-dependent couple in the history of all fiction. Can anybody provide me with a better example than these two? If there was an illustration in the dictionary for "hatef*ck" it would be of these two. Love (in its traditional sense) enters into the picture not a whit, unless the "you're in my blood and you make me crazy/kill people/want to kill you" type of love is the kind that makes you swoon. They don't trust each other, and the few times when "I love him/her" occurs, it's all wiped away within a couple paragraphs by yet another bipolar swing of either Steve or Ginny. I have never before had such an urge to grab two characters by the scruffs of their necks and start whaling their foreheads together with gleeful abandon.
And yet.... What can I say? I enjoyed it. At no point did I identify (or even sympathize) with the 2 main psychos. But isn't that considered a hefty requirement for "good" fiction? How is it possible? Simply put, the complete OMGWTFisgonnahappennext factor. It would have been 5 stars, if not for some really sloppy work on the part of Rosemary and her truant editor. It took me about 2 months to read, so some of the momentum was lost, but not enough so that it still held my attention until the final page. And that says a lot!
Dark Fires is calling me, but I need to recover from this crazy shithouse rat roller coaster ride first.(less)