I expected this book to be pretty much typical Diana Palmer, and it was in most ways, but at the same time, it wasn't quite a forumalaic as most of he...moreI expected this book to be pretty much typical Diana Palmer, and it was in most ways, but at the same time, it wasn't quite a forumalaic as most of her books.
The story focuses on Claire and John. Claire's uncle had done business with John, who was a banker, and she'd known him for quite a while. Eventually she fell in love with him, but he was completely hooked on another woman who left him and married someone else. When Claire's only family, her uncle, dies, leaving her with nothing and noone, she John proposes. He likes her a lot and doesn't want to see her suffer...plus marrying will help squelch the rumors that he is secretly seeing his married ex-fiancee. Claire hopes that over time, John will grow to love her. But John's emotions are in turmoil. He loves Diane...at least he thought he did, but his feelings for Claire...well, the whole thing confuses the hell out of him. And to make matters worse, he's suddenly been accused of embezzling money from the bank just when he realizes how much he needs and loves Claire.
The story is still pretty classic DP, and you can still find her trademarks. They're just not as severely portrayed. Claire is a young virgin, but she's rather plucky and interesting and adventurous compared most DP heroines. And John isn't quite the battered embittered hero you usually find in her books. There's emotional turmoil between the two, and John isn't always nice to Claire, but unlike in some other DP books, I could actually understand and mostly condone the way he was.
So it was a nice surprise to read a DP book that didn't quite fall in line with her others. It was an interesting story, too. I don't think I've read a romance book set in the early 1900's before and I loved the use of the "newfangled" motorcar. The romance was pretty solid as well.
**spoiler alert** In Your Arms had an interesting storyline, but there were a few things about it that just detracted from it's overall likeability.
On...more**spoiler alert** In Your Arms had an interesting storyline, but there were a few things about it that just detracted from it's overall likeability.
One complaint I had was that there was a bit too much actual history in the story - things about Napolean, war with America, and all that. True, historical accuracy and details can add to a story, but there were points in this book where the author would go on for pages about points in history. It was just a bit excessive. I was reading the book for the romance, not the history.
Secondly, Rogers did a poor job developing a true emotional relationship between Amalie and Holt. There was definitely chemistry between them and they were an interesting pairing, but I just...wanted a little more. Holt's feelings were a bit suspect. He spends most of the book cursing her and trying to keep away from her. Then at the very end he just shows up and says he's come for and wants to marry her. There just needed to be a little more there to make love between them workable.
Besides all that, I liked the general plot. It made for an interesting story. With a few adjustments, I would have really enjoyed the book.(less)
**spoiler alert** I've read a ton of Robards' books. She is one of my favorite authors. But...this book is probably one of my least favorite of hers....more**spoiler alert** I've read a ton of Robards' books. She is one of my favorite authors. But...this book is probably one of my least favorite of hers. I don't necessarily think it's bad, writing or storyline wise. I think I just didn't particularly care for the theme and content because it deals with slavery and all those prejudices and actions of that time, and being a very open-minded person, I had a hard time comprehending and understanding the mind-sets. With that type of subject matter, you just end up reading it - seeing a guy who lived a white life, believed he was white, then be told he had some black in him and become a slave - and thinking 'that's so fucking ridiculous!'
Along that line, I had a hard time with Lilah at times and how she responded to Joss and the black/slavery aspect. I'm sure there was authenticity to it, but it's just hard to follow that way of thinking in today's world. The moment Joss' heritage comes out, he becomes persona non grata to her. She often seems unbelievably dispassionate toward him - a man she has instant intense feelings for. She's like - oh, you'll come be a slave on our plantation, we'll treat you right, it'll be fine, no biggie. And as a reader, you're just like, what? How can she be so clueless and unempathetic? And fickle. The poor guy's whole life was destroyed and his freedom taken away, but she shrugs it off most of the time. Then sometimes, she's like, poor Joss.
I'm sure it makes it all authentic and that's they way thoughts and actions were; I just found it kind of depressing to read and hard to comprehend that mind-set.
The plot was pretty typical...forbidden romance, a shipwreck, disapproving relatives, etc. There wasn't anything unique or stand-out about it.
Aside from all that, not a bad book. Kinda interesting sometimes, but it's skippable in my opinion.(less)
**spoiler alert** Shadowheart wasn't quite what I expected it to be. After reading the reviews at Amazon and B&N, I thought it would be a lot dark...more**spoiler alert** Shadowheart wasn't quite what I expected it to be. After reading the reviews at Amazon and B&N, I thought it would be a lot darker, more erotic in nature. But it looks as though the reviewers were overreacting a bit to the so-called deviant sex in the book.
I can't say I particularly liked the book, but I also didn't dislike it. It's a nice story - key word there 'story'. It was kind of like a fairytale...not one of those cheesy, sanitized children's versions, but a real one with darkness and evil and a moral. The book was long and tedious at times, with a lot of wasted space on inane events. But overall, it was a fairly interesting storyline. There were just a lot of things I took issue with.
I think one of the critical errors of the books is the way Kinsale handled the POVs. The first 250+ pages (approximately) are told strictly from Elena's POV. You get no sense of Allegretto other than through Elena's eyes, no insight into his character through his POV. Then suddenly halfway through the book she slips into his POV for a short while. After that, the book is still mostly Elena, but once in a while, you get a glimpse of Allegretto's thoughts, just not enough. Allegretto is such a complicated character, who does things that are unexpected and unexplained. The book would have been served more if she had used his POV more, and it certainly would have worked out better if she had not ignored him for the first half of the book. Focusing so much on Elena kept the readers from connecting with Allegretto and understanding his character.
Another issue with the story is that it is supposedly directly connected to another book, in which Allegretto is first introduced. The plot of that book apparently deals with the time in Monteverde when the revolution began. Kinsale does a poor job of relaying the history of the fictional place in the beginning of the book. For readers who did not read this earlier book, you're left a bit out in the wind as to the situation, the events, and other aspects that would have made things clearer. Kinsale fell into the trap many authors do in assuming that if you are reading this book then you read the other and therefore don't need explanations. It just made things confusing for a while.
Issue 3 (and it's 3 sub-issues)...ah, the big S&M issue. The first comment I have to make here is: good grief, if readers got all freaked out about what they read in this book, I'd hate to see what would happen if they saw some truer S&M. Because though at it most elemental, what happens in this book would be considered sadomasochism, it is hardly true S&M. I'd venture to say that anyone in that realm would say it was barely S&M. The extent of it in the book involves some biting and the use of fingernails. That's all. No paddles, no whips, no tools of any kind. Just the biting and use of fingernails. Yes, the sex was violent and used pain liberally, but it wasn't hardcore. It just wasn't the pretty stuff of typical romance novels. If anything, I'd say the book had more of a FemDom (female domination) aspect than an S&M one - though I suppose the two are in reality heavily intertwined.
The issue with the S&M element lies not with its existence, but with how Kinsale presented it. Which leads to sub-issue one: Elena's age. In the beginning of the book, she is 17 years old (this is a historical after all, females are generally young). But she is an innocent young girl with no worldly knowledge. Then suddenly she is a FemDom who inflicts pain. There's no transition, no learning process for her. She's just suddenly a Dominatrix. It doesn't work and leads to an element of disbelief because the reader has a hard time accepting that she would know about any of these issues without some sort of learning process. There should have been a transition, with Elena gradually discovering the elements of pain and control.
Sub-issue 2 in this area relates to the POV issue. Since Kinsale does not use Allegretto's POV very much, and not at all for the first half of the book, the reader gets no insight into his actions. Why does he allow Elena to dominate him? Why does he submit? Why does he enjoy the pain she inflicts? Allegretto is built up as this true Alpha male who likes to be in control, who has no feelings and kills without remorse. Then he lets Elena do what she does to him, and the reader is given only small crumbs as to his inner thoughts and reasoning. Like the issue with Elena's age, this also fosters disbelief. How is the reader supposed to accept his actions without any kernels as to why he allows it? You get a slight impression now and then that he is allowing it as his penance for all the sins he has committed in his lifetime, but you never get a true insight into his character. It was just really hard to accept his submissiveness when you aren't given much insight into his character.
Sub-issue 3...and this one is more just a personal preference, than a real issue probably. But pretty much every single sexual scene in the book relied on the pain/pleasure - S&M aspect. There was hardly ever any gentleness between them. I had no problem with the S&M elements, but I thought there should not have been such a heavy reliance on it. I had a hard time accepting the love between them when their only interactions involved dominating and causing pain. It was like their bond depended solely on pain and domination. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that; it is probably a true element to some real S&M practitioners, but for a main-stream romance novel, it didn't quite work.
The love between them overall was hard to comprehend. It's built upon a typical historical romance premise of kidnapper/abductee...the whole victim falls for her capturer thing. It's a little too typical. Aside from that, you get no understanding of why Allegretto loves her and why Elena accepts who he is (after she complains about it for most of the book). I just did not feel the connection between them. They are just supposed to love each other. But most of the time, they just seemed like 2 characters who liked to have unorthodox sex. Yet Elena said numerous times that she would sacrifice going to Heaven for him. I didn't buy it.
Which leads to the last issue with the book - and again this is a personal preference one - is the very heavy reliance on religion. One of the main themes of the book is sin and redemption. For a true atheist like me, it made me want to roll my eyes half the time. But on a more general religious aspect...both characters claim to be Catholics who believe in sin and heaven and hell, and all that. They want to confess their sins and be redeemed, be 'good' Catholics. Yet both characters engaged in pagan practices and never seemed to have any qualms about it. Every other action they committed was intertwined with their religious beliefs, but their pagan practices were ignored and accepted. That seemed a bit wrong to me.
Okay...well, after all that...Shadowheart was a so-so book. Too many things about it bothered me to make me like it more. I often found myself enjoying the 'plot' of the book (where Monteverde is freed from its violent oppression) more than the characters and the supposed romance. Still, the story was long and tedious. I kept putting it down to take a break to do something fun. I had to work a bit to make it through the book. But it was an interesting story. And while I applaud Kinsale for delving into non-traditional sexual practices, I wish she would done it more realistically and explored the characters psyches more. In the end, the book has its virtues and it's a curious read, but I don't think I'd want to pay $8 for it. Luckily I got it for a buck.(less)
**spoiler alert** Wow, this book was boring. Okay, maybe not that boring, but I didn't enjoy it at all. I think a lot of that was the lack of realism...more**spoiler alert** Wow, this book was boring. Okay, maybe not that boring, but I didn't enjoy it at all. I think a lot of that was the lack of realism throughout the story....imaginary countries, prophecies, thousand year old nun/saints, magic crystal boxes, strange happenings. And a female character who did difficult things - like descending a sheer cliff face - simply from reading about how to do it. I kept shaking my head at what Evangeline did. It really took away from the believeability of the story. I know a lot of people like fantastical romances, but I generally don't - with a few exceptions. Even ignoring my dislike, the book bored me.
Another annoying thing was how many times she rambled about how she wasn't a princess. It seemed like that came out of her mouth every other sentence. The romance wasn't too bad, but it couldn't overcome all the stuff that bored me. I was also annoyed at the end of the book by the rather curt, careless explanation of how Evangeline got mixed up in the whole mess and what happened to the real princess. It needed to be more thorough.
This is the 3rd Dodd book I've read, and I've not been impressed by any of them. I'm rather glad that I only spent $0.25 for this one used.(less)