Mistress to the Marquis was a very absorbing, beautifully-written read. It honestly deals with a relationship between a titled gentleman and his mistrMistress to the Marquis was a very absorbing, beautifully-written read. It honestly deals with a relationship between a titled gentleman and his mistress, who comes from very humble origins and has a very scandalous past. Initially Razelby embarked on his mistress arrangement with Alice as a sort of 'last hurrah' before he married and had his heir to meet a 30th birthday deadline that is proven to have a very pivotal effect in his psyche. He is slow to admit how deeply he loves Alice, even though on a heart level, he doesn't want to terminate their arrangement. He does so out of duty. It is time to marry. And he will just have to move on and forget her. But that proves difficult, even impossible in the end. On Alice's side, her feelings are not something she has the agency to dwell on. She doesn't have the power to demand anything more from Razelby, so when he ends it, she has to find a way to be happy in the future without him.
There are things I really appreciate about this book. I am not fond of the trivializing of sexual relationships in romance novels (or the media for that matter). I know that in real life that is how many view sex. However, sex is never as 'no strings' or as 'casual' as we try to make it. Both Alice and Razelby find this out the hard way. I liked that a great deal of this book is about the emotional consequences of ending their affair. While mentally, they have both agreed to move on, their hearts have not agreed, and are in fact in rebellion against their minds.
I was happy with the execution in this book. I appreciate that McPhee makes this book about something more than just illicit passion, which is what you might expect with the subject matter. Instead, she uses the page time to show more than just numerous sexual encounters between the couple that was supposed to be broken up. Instead, McPhee shows how their everyday lives have become intertwined and seeing each other is obligatory. I've always wondered how two people in the same circle who were sexually involved and then break up manage to get past that when they see each other every single day and can't rearrange their lives to not be around each other. That is the case with Alice and Razelby. It's difficult to be around each other without the emotions and the memories impressing on their minds. They both come to realize how important they were to each other in many ways. How their time together wasn't just sexual, but also a deep friendship that blossomed into a profound love affair. It's not so easy to erase that experience. They both come to realize that ignoring what the heart wants is not always possible.
I also appreciated how dimensional the characters were. Instead of Razelby coming off as a heartless rake who enjoys his pleasures without considering the consequences, he is actually a man of consideration, a good man. I mean, he didn't have to end his mistress arrangement, but could have gone ahead and got married. Many did that in reality. But something in him knew that wasn't fair to either his future wife or his mistress. Perhaps in the past he wasn't so considerate, but through his relationship with Alice, he really starts to see her not as a commodity, a piece of pretty flesh for his exclusive and convenient use, or someone that he can use and throw away. Razelby is forced to consider the ethics of the titled gentleman's debaucheries. One of his cronies makes a suggestion to visit a bawdy house and he cringes internally at the thought of how Alice was forced to pursue this profession for her survival. I don't think Razelby could ever see houses of prostitution the same way in the future. This reader can't abide prostitution and particularly hates when it's trivialized as a mere harmless thing. This false conception the idea of a man paying a woman (or vice versa) has no inherent ills associated with it. At the same time, Alice is viewed as a whole and lovable person, despite the fact that she has a past as a prostitute. Many women end up in that life, and there is nothing inherently bad or worthless about them just because they had to make that choice. Razelby is well aware of this past and doesn't think any less of her. It's fortunate that Alice was able to move on from her past and hope for a better future, which is not always the case with women who end up in prostitution, either in the past or now.
I also liked how McPhee shows the the daily life of a woman in the demimondaine. It was interesting to see the rules that they live by and how some of them actually travel in the same circles as the ton, even though they aren't accepted in some places.
At first, I didn't like that Razelby didn't consider marriage to her a viable option. But later, it's revealed that his reasons are as much about her well-being, knowing how hypocritical and cruel the ton particularly the women could be towards a woman with her past, even if she is married to a titled gentleman), as his own status in society.
Frankly, I hate the hypocrisy of this system in which men can act like complete dogs and women are held to a different standard. Women are forced into the sex trade and their world and options shrink and doors close to them because of that, but the men who pay for their services are free to do pretty much whatever they want. It was awkward for both Razelby and Alice to encounter acquaintances who knew them as a couple and now consider Alice fair game or not suitable to be acquainted with. In effect, while Razelby has the option to carry on as usual, Alice is put in the situation of dealing with the fallout of their separation and its effects on her own reputation and future prospects.
I have rambled on big time. I guess that's a good thing when a book gets you thinking so much. I found Mistress to a Marquis that kind of read--involving me in the story, enthralling me with a really good love story, and giving me a lot of issues to ponder. While this is not my favorite theme in romance, it was handled very well in this book, and it definitely a higher rating for that.
Her Wyoming Man is a book about second chances. Ella has a second chance to have a life of her own, a life of freedom where she doesn't have to live iHer Wyoming Man is a book about second chances. Ella has a second chance to have a life of her own, a life of freedom where she doesn't have to live in a gilded cage, at the whim of another person. People might think being a wife doesn't provide safety and freedom. But to prostitutes and courtesans who are one step away from being slaves, it's a way out of a desperate, hopeless life. So Ella, and some of the girls from a house of pleasure in Dodge City, Kansas sneak out and answer an ad in Wyoming for maidens suitable for marriage. They have to lie about their origins, saying they came from a finishing school, but that's a chance they are willing to take.
Ella ends up marrying Nathan, a handsome, kind, widowed father who has aspirations for the governorship of Wyoming. He's the way for her to have a safe life, and she's taking it. Ella has bottled up her emotions and what she wanted out of life for so long, she doesn't expect for her husband to love her. She just doesn't want to be seen as only a beautiful object, so she works hard to prove her worthiness to her husband. Much to her surprise, he shows her a consideration and care for her needs that she's never felt. And then he tells her he loves her, not even expecting for her to feel the same for him. She falls for him and his three young children, and living a lie doesn't feel so good, especially when her friend Celeste comes clean to her husband, and she sees how much Celeste's husband adores her, even knowing about her unsavory past. Can Nathan love Ella, even if she isn't the sheltered virgin he thought he was marrying?
Nathan is also getting a second chance. His first marriage wasn't happy. His wife didn't like living out West, and she tolerated, rather than enjoyed their time in the marriage bed, eschewing any intimacy on a personal and emotional level with Nathan. Nathan internalized this, thinking he was a bad husband, and fears he will do the same to Ella. But Ella is warm and eager for his attentions. How can he be getting his wish come true after things going so wrong the first time? Can he accept that she was once a courtesan, finding the courage to ignore what others might think and fight for their love?
This was a quick but rewarding read. I liked that the issues and the unsavory aspects of life as a prostitute weren't overlooked, but neither were they handled in a graphic manner. Instead, Ms. St. John tackles the emotional costs that a woman who has been forced into this life faces. She presents different women who were ladies of pleasure, and shows how they aren't all necessarily the same. Ella had it much easier than many of her fellow ladies, but she was still a prisoner, treated as merely a beautiful face,a pleasing/trained companion, a warm body, and valued only for what she could provide, her own emotional needs ignored. Her friend Celeste was sold into prostitution as a young girl, in very unpleasant circumstances, and physically abused. I was happy to see that she found a good man in her husband Paul. A man who loved her enough to realize that everyone deserves a second chance, and that she didn't really have a choice in that life, so who was he to hold that against her when she had a heart full of love to give. Nathan had a harder time accepting it, but I loved that he searched his heart and realized that Ella was the woman he loved, and that whatever happened in the past needed to stay there; that he didn't have the right to hold that against her. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at the town's resolution of the issue, but not enough that it affected my enjoyment of this story. There was too much to like about it, with characters that I liked as people and wanted to see get a happy ending.
The subject matter of prostitution is not a favorite of mine, but deep down I love the idea of people getting a blank slate, a chance for their happy ending, even if they didn't have such a good start in life. In fact, these stories make me root for the HEA even more. I like to see love conquer all and the good guy win; people overcome really horrible obstacles and come out the victor. And this book delivers that. I'd recommend this book to fans of shorter historical romances. It has a lot of heart and soul....more
Just a disclaimer here: This will be a very difficult review to write. In order to truly review this book, I have to talk about my own views on thingsJust a disclaimer here: This will be a very difficult review to write. In order to truly review this book, I have to talk about my own views on things and how books affect me personally. I am opening myself up here, which always makes me squirm. If you are reading this review and you don't agree with my beliefs on things, that's totally fine. But, I am not going to deny how I feel, because that is very important to me when I review a book, since I read books emotionally and not from a detached standpoint. Having said that, let's get this show on the road.
I can think of a list of reasons why I should not have liked this book, and I will start there:
1. I really dislike long books. As I told a friend on here, I am a 'hit it and quit it' reader--meaning, I like to read shorter to moderate-length (and occasionally longer) books, get them read, and move onto the next book. This book was a massive 901 pages!
2. Prostitution and paid sex is something that I absolutely detest the thought of. It squicks me out that someone would pay for sex or have sex for money or financial support/livelihood. I generally avoid this content like the plague, although a big part of my nature is to occasionally challenge myself and my perceptions of the world. It's good for me, even if the process is painful at times. This book has a heroine who is a courtesan, although she is called more ugly terms that I don't use. Not only that, her prostitution is a form of worship and honor to one of her dieties (if you want to call Fallen angels dieties).
3. I don't like books where the main characters sleep with a lot of people during the book. Promiscuity and sleeping around is another area that I am just not comfortable with. I especially don't like reading about sex with no love/emotional bond. This book was kind of interesting in that Phedre's sex is a form of worship. She didn't love most of the people she was intimate with, but she loved Elua, Naamah, and Kushiel, and that was expressed through her sex with her patrons. The genesis of the sacred nature of sex in this culture relates to the fact that the angel Naamah would lay with strangers to support Elua and the angels as they traveled through the Terre D'Ange. It's probably necessary to mention that the patron can be male or female. Elua's dictate is Love as thou wilt, which eliminates any stigma to same sex relationships. Although I am more of a male/female romance reader, I don't necessarily dislike same sex interactions, so that wasn't a huge issue for me.
4. I am very vanilla about sex. Meaning, I don't like reading about kinky, dark, twisted sex at all. I especially don't like reading about sadomasochistic/painful/humiliating sex. I don't understand that need and it's not something that I personally feel okay about. The main character in this story is a masochist. She was pricked by Kushiel (who is the angel who is the keeper of Hell and punishes the lost). That punishment is out of love to save their souls. Phedre possessing Kushiel's Dart marks one of her dark brown eyes with a dash of red, which is a visible manifestation of her being favored or cursed to have a physiology which made pain pleasurable for her, including emotional pain (which means that she got sexually aroused by being humiliated or forced or treated badly by her partner). I'm not going to go into detail here. I think you could use your imagination. I'll just leave it with two words to express my feelings: Ick Factor! Most of the sex scenes were very uncomfortable for me to read. In the author's defense, this book has very elegant sex scenes (for the subject matter). Somehow, she managed to avoid them coming off as repulsive and tawdry. My repulsion was based on my own comfort zones being exceeded, instead of deliberate acts of prurience on the author's part.
5. I typically don't care for stories with a lot of political intrigue and situations. Surprisingly, I found that I really got into that aspect of this story, and I was quite enthralled with the tangled web of conspiracies against members of the royal family and nobles. I believe it was because Ms. Carey did a great job of entwining Phedre into this Gordian Knot in a very intimate manner through her adoptive father, Anafiel Delaunay. Phedre becomes Delaunay's bondservant, and is trained to be a master spy as well as courtesan. Her skills aid him in his secret avocation to the royal family, hearing and seeing all, in the line of her duties as a courtesan.
6. The whole cultural set up of this story is very different from what I am used to. Surprisingly, this part was the easiest thing to get past. When I read fantasy, I expect that the author will build her own world from the ground up, and that might include other religious beliefs. It's easier for me if the author founds a whole new religious world divorced from the real world. I can easily separate myself from what I know and accept the concepts from the story and read it with a fresh mind. In this book, Ms. Carey takes a left turn from Christianity, and creates a world in which the main diety worshipped, Elua, is the son of Jesus' blood from when he was wounded on the cross and its union with Mother Earth. The other members of the pantheon are angels that chose to fall to accompany Elua in his exile. In other words, turning their back on God to follow Elua. The people with these beliefs are called D'Angelines, because they live in the country founded by Elua and his Angels called Terre D'Ange (Land of the Angel in French). Christianity still exists in the world, and its practitioners are called Yeshuites, after Jesus' Hebrew name of Yeshua. I believe there are also Muslims, but they are called Akkadians. The people who correspond to the Celts and Picts of Alba (Britain) and Eire (Ireland) have their own beliefs, and the Skaldi, who are like Norsemen, worship the Norse pantheon. Even though it was pretty different, I thought it was a pretty creative cultural genesis that Ms. Carey accomplished in this story.
Yes, that's a lot of reasons why I shouldn't have liked this book. Despite these things, I loved this book. It was fascinating. It kept my interest. I cared about the characters. Phedre was a heroine that I loved. I didn't like her assignations, and I would sort of roll my eyes when she took another one, much like Joscelin did. But, I liked her as a person. I could see that she was being true to herself, and I couldn't fault her for that. I loved how she came from very humble origins and made something wonderful of herself. I loved her loyalty and her caring heart. I loved how clever she was. She used every thing she had been taught and all her assets to accomplish what needed to be done. Even though I didn't always like what she did, I respect why she did it. It was profound to see how her view of herself and her place in the world changed. People looked down on her for being a 'whore', but she was a great spymaster, a diplomat, and an incredible tactitian. I cheered for her to find her rightful place in her world, because she earned that after all she'd suffered and lost. I loved Joscelin as well. Although he was a bit judgmental at times, so was Phedre towards him, but in a different way. It was very clear how devoted to her he was, and he was very true to his beliefs, following Cassiel, the angel who still loved God, but felt that he had to follow Elua out of loyalty. I admired that he made sacrifices to follow his beliefs, but his love for Phedre often caused him to break his vows, which in a way showed how true to following Cassiel he was. Even though he was not the main character, my mind always went back to him, wanting to see what he was doing and how he reacted to the situations around him. All the characters were real and lifelike, some in a good way, some in a bad way. But, there weren't any disposable characters in this story, even if they played small roles. And when some of the characters I grew to love got harmed and died, it made for painful reading.
At first, I had a lot of trouble with all the names of the characters and people, and countries. But, after a while, it started to make sense, and I was able to connect them to an existing frame of reference pretty well. I think it was pretty brilliantly conceived. The various peoples were extremely culturally distinct, and I really appreciated the time that Ms. Carey took to explore their cultures. It was interesting how the D'Angelines had a lot of cultural superiority that they had to get past, in order to face a huge threat from within and from the warlike, intimidating Skaldi race.
What surprised me was that I found the military aspects very fascinating. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, because I've always had an admiration for warriors and the culture of warriors. I thought that seeing the battles and war unfold through Phedre's eyes was very interesting. I liked seeing how she used her particular skill set to aid her country in winning the war. The sacrifices she made for her country were very admirable. She showed that although she wasn't a warrior in the traditional sense, her heart was that of a warrior, willing to give everything to win and prevail, even if that involved personal sacrifice and surrender.
This was a deep book. It took me through a gamut of emotions, many not comfortable at all. It truly was epic, and I really didn't get bored, surprisingly considering its length and complexity. There were some very unpalatable aspects to this story, and the values seemed very alien to what I feel I hold sacred. However, underneath there is a commonality. Love is sacrifice, love is giving. When something is important to a person, one devotes herself to it. Even though the creeds of the people in this book seemed alien, I could identify with the idea of holding something sacred in life, and that dictating one's actions.
As one can imagine, it's not easy to sum up my thoughts on a book that is so long and rather complicated. I think I have done as best as I can, and I won't make this review any longer than necessary. I have to be honest and say I highly doubt I'll keep reading this series. It's a huge investment of my time and energy when books are this long. And since it took me to some uncomfortable places, I'm not sure I want to go through that process any more with the following books. In my mind, I want to think of Phedre and Joscelin being happy, able to find a compromise that works for both of them, and having a great love. I want to leave things that way. The good thing is, this book is a keeper, and will have fond memories of these characters who came to mean so much to me. Perhaps I will reread this book one day to revisit this fascinating world of the D'Angelines. ...more
I liked this book a lot. It’s different from the other two books by Ms. Kernan that I have read and enjoyed, but that’s good. I like to see an authorI liked this book a lot. It’s different from the other two books by Ms. Kernan that I have read and enjoyed, but that’s good. I like to see an author doing different things and mixing it up. One thing that was similar, and the most important thing, is Ms. Kernan’s ability to write a story that engages me, and her penchant for troubled characters falling in love with each other.
My thoughts: • Sam was a sexy guy. He had charisma. I loved that Sam built himself from the ground up, from a very troubled past. He did something to survive that really tortured him, and made him feel unworthy of love. He wasn’t always the most honorable guy in the way he interacted with Kate, but he still showed her a lot of TLC, which counts for more in my book. Normally, I don’t like mistress storylines very much. Sam didn’t have honest intentions towards Kate initially, which bothered me. He saw the fire in her and thought she was sexy, so he wanted to get her into his bed. He didn’t really think about that being the last thing a woman who was trying to stay respectable would need. That struck me as being a little selfish of him (although he was more than willing to provide for her material needs), which made me unhappy with Sam. However, it was clear that there was a powerful attraction between Sam and Kate, and that had me interested. As I continued to read, I could see why Sam avoided marriage. He had two reasons: fear of commitment because of being rejected by the family who adopted his brother but left him because he was older, and also because of his feelings of unworthiness as a person. Ms. Kernan did a good job of showing that Sam was a down-to-earth guy, who might not have had a formal education, but he was smart and motivated. Who could ask for anything more in a hero? Although he was a rich man with access to anything he wanted, he was still an earthy man, which was very appealing! And he lacked the one thing he truly needed, the love and devotion of a good woman. • Kate was tough, a survivor. She was also giving and self-sacrificing. She had scars from the loss of her family, and the fact that she felt responsible for her sister being blind. Also, from her marriage to a controlling, bullying man who used her for his own gain, and destroyed her reputation with his swindling ways. She was happy to be free and independent again, even if it made for long days and uncertain finances. She saves Sam’s life, and for her thanks, she gets pursued by him to be his mistress. At first, Kate says no, but her aunt will lose her house if she doesn’t go through with it. In any case, a temporary mistress stint would allow her freedom that being trapped in marriage had denied her the first time around. Although she agreed to be Sam’s mistress because of the financial necessity her family faced, she liked him and was very attracted to him. I like that Kate stood by Sam, even after finding out his terrible secret, and when he’s in danger from his competitors. She actually ends up saving Sam’s life twice. What a woman! • The chemistry between Kate and Sam was hot. The love scenes were very passionate and fiery! I like how Sam was patient about Kate’s fears of intimacy, and cared about her pleasure, which wasn’t the case with her loser, deceased husband. • Sam and Kate were both sweeties. I also liked Sam’s best friend, Cole. Sam and Cole’s friendship survived some truly horrible events, which is great, since we all need friends who will stand by us thick and thin. • I must add that I liked the action/adventure elements very much. What’s a good western without one shootout? And the flood was a nice bonus. Another area in which Ms. Kernan excels.
Although I thought I would like this book, just based on my past experience reading Jenna Kernan, it was also a surprise that I found so many hidden depths to this story and our hero. Sam is one of those tough guys that I feel is just begging to be hugged, even if he doesn’t know it yet. I’m glad that he found Kate to give him lots of huggies and love to make up for lost time! ...more
Okay! That was a very interesting book. First of all, I applaud Ms. Ward for trying to do something different and tackle the whole Heaven versus HellOkay! That was a very interesting book. First of all, I applaud Ms. Ward for trying to do something different and tackle the whole Heaven versus Hell theme. I liked her spin on it, although the unfolding of theology is slightly different from what I'm used to. The reviews are mixed on this one. I can only speak for myself, but I loved it. I did one thing that really helped me to go into this book with no preconceived notions: I didn't look for more Black Dagger Brotherhood. If a reader does that, they will probably be disappointed. Be happy with the cameos, and take it from there. Be open to something different, and I think that will help.
This is a very different kind of story from the BDB. It's pretty ambitious too. Although the WARDen has been accused (maybe for good reason) of abandoning the paranormal format and going into urban fantasy, I really do believe this is urban fantasy with a strong romance. I will concede that the latter BDB books are urban fantasyish, but I still consider them primarily paranormal romance. This is the opposite. This is obvious right away, with the strong narrative focus on Jim Heron, who is the main protagonist, although not the romantic hero. That is Vin diPietro. Personally, I kind of like the hook about a guy recruited by Heaven in the Great Game between Good and Evil. He's got seven souls to save, and his mission starts now. It's fresh and interesting. And I love a story about "G. v. E."
Okay, so what did I like about this story?
First and foremost, I loved the protagonists: Jim and Vin. They are strong characters, both deeply flawed, but good men at heart. They are very similar in the fundamental ways. I liked how they seemed to click as friends. They had an ease between them that transcended their so-called socio-economic dividers. I think that Ms. Ward is great at depicting relationships between men that seem authentic (at least to me). She has tough guys, but they aren't all "I'm too macho for feelings." They are men with dreams, broken and intact, hearts, souls, and feelings. Like real men. I liked that they were both pretty straight-shooters, and had come from traumatic pasts to become who they are when this story starts. Therein lay the connection, I believe.
Vin was a character I loved from first meeting. He made me think of Rehv (who I am crazy about). He's ice cold on the outside (but I always felt like he was a good person at heart). I think he was somewhat remote with Devina, but he seemed to really respect women and treat them well. I like his ethics about not cheating and abusing women. His need for ownership, money and power was fascinating. I could totally see why he had that. It was a sense of false security when he had none growing up. I think there the paranormal elements were obligatory for this story, but it could have worked without him having a demonic influence to make him that way. It was great seeing him get some peace and resolution for his life. I felt so bad for how he had never had those things. Had never known love. I felt his love for Marie-Therese, and why she was what he wanted.
As for Jim, he was the other kind of hero I gravitate to. Sort of the salt of the earth type (despite his past as a lethal assassin). He really had a core of goodness. His way of taking care of Dog endeared him to me and warmed my heart, but I also liked his innate kindness and care for women. I think he found his mission in life, but part of me hopes he'll get a woman of his own one day. I think he is a great choice as the narrative focus for this series.
I also liked Marie-Therese. It was dicey crafting a heroine who turns to prostitution as a lifestyle. For the most part, I think Ms. Ward did it well. She didn't glamorize prostitution, and she didn't make it seem like doing that for a living didn't have an effect on a woman. I definitely believe it does. She didn't make Marie-Therese into too much of a plastic saint. If she was that sainted, she wouldn't have turned to hooking for a living. She even admits that she had options, but she chose that as a quicker way out of her problems (and for another reason that is a spoiler to discuss). I felt for her. I couldn't imagine doing that. We didn't really get offered the opportunity to analyze too many of the other girls, but we do get a glimpse into the other side. Gina is a girl who likes the lifestyle of a sex worker. She's up for it, and has no problem with it. I think there was a little balance there. I'm not sure if I wanted to see more of Marie-Therese, or if I was happy with what I got. I get a strong vibe that this is more of a story about men and their relationships with each other and with the women in their lives. In essence, the male voice is a much stronger focal point in the narrative. Much like the BDB books. But, by and large, I didn't have much of a problem with Marie-Therese. I did see that she was determined not to fall back into the old habit of waiting for her knight-in-shining armor to save her. In this case, he's there, but they will help each other. I could see her attraction for Vin, why he got in her heart. She was afraid that he was the same thing all over again as the man she'd made a mistake over, but I feel that she recognized the essential character of Vin, and that's what drew her to him. I think she was pretty layered. She was a good person, but she had some flaws, and she was passionate and earthy, although that part of her had been suppressed by her troubles in life and current profession. I was happy to see her find Vin (and the promise of future happiness), and I loved seeing her relationship with her son. I think she was too hard on herself, and I hope she learns to forgive herself.
The paranormal elements: I think this was well-done. Her view of angels and demons stays more on the realism side. There aren't wings and halos here. I liked how Jim could tell who was an angel or demon by their lack of a shadow. That was a nice touch. I liked the elements going into the lore and ritual of why Vin was in trouble, and getting him out of his fix. That was well-crafted and intriguing. I think Vin's backstory was fascinating. I'm hoping that he will show up in later books as a resource to the Fallen Angels in their battle. I'd love to see more of him. I liked Adrian and Eddie. I wish I had gotten to know them better. It seemed like I didn't see much of who they were initially, but as the story built, you could see what they were and how they were powerful assets to Jim. I especially liked the role that Eddie played in freeing Vin. I'm intrigued with finding out what Adrian's deal is. What's his power? What happened when he confronted the villain? My hope is that they will have a more prominent part in the forthcoming books.
The romance angle: I'm going to get busted for saying this, but I felt like Vin and Marie-Therese had sex too soon. I'd like to have seen them do more romancing and talking before they got physical. I think this was the tone for their lives prior (although Marie-Therese not by choice). I wanted to see their relationship start in a different manner, setting a new tone from the past. The love scenes were steamy, and I liked that Ms. Ward addressed a crucial issue for them both as far as being safe (considering their pasts). I do feel they had a connection and loved each other, but I probably could have seen a little more courtship outside of the physical, to be honest.
I'm loving Trez. He is the man! Can't wait to read his book! I like the relationship he had with Marie-Therese. He's a good guy. In the prior BDB books, you see him more as a bad MOFO, but he seemed very sweet in this book, although the menace was there when it needed to be.
Oh, can I say I adored Dog? What a sweet baby! He was so cute! I think he was just what lonely Jim needed. :)
The villain was a nasty piece of work. Completely evil and awful. I like to see a genuinely bad female villain, so that was pretty well done. I bet she's going to be up to even more despicableness in the following books. She was also pretty creepy (which I like in a good urban fantasy/horror setting).
What I was kind of 'meh' about: I'm not sure I really bought the execution of who turned out to be Marie-Therese's stalker. It seemed a bit anti-climactic. It played into the story arc very well, but I guess I needed more threads and breadcrumbs to buy his connection with Marie-Therese. It seemed to come a bit out of left field for me.
So, my final thoughts: I enjoyed this book a lot. I did mention some things I thought could have been a little better for me. But, overall, I was pretty happy and impressed with this story. I like this concept a lot, and I think that the forthcoming stories will be even stronger. I think that most fans of JR Ward will like this book. If you don't care for the WARDen's hip lingo and brand name dropping, you will probably hurl the book into the corner. I am used to that about her, and I consider it part of her style. The things I love about her writing are here: her detail, her way of putting the emotions and the heart there. The characters I fall in love with, and their complex relations with each other. She doesn't let me down. And, like I said, I love the big stakes battle unfolding in this book. Long story short, Danielle was a happy camper!...more
I was a little resistant to reading this because the heroine is a prostitute, not because I look down on them, mind you. I just don't like the idea ofI was a little resistant to reading this because the heroine is a prostitute, not because I look down on them, mind you. I just don't like the idea of a heroine having to sell her body for money. . But I like to challenge myself as a reader and read books that get me out of my comfort zone. It was a very good book. It was heartbreaking at times as you realize that a girl who was continually sexually abused by a so-called guardian would have little self worth and wouldn't hesitate to sell her body for a living to keep food on her table. The wonderful thing about this book was that she was such a good person. She also was one of the most cheerful people you could ever meet. She traveled from town to town with her pets, a dog and a mule, happy to be a wandering woman, and enjoying her freedom, even if selling her body is the cost.
The book begins with her telling a young guy who goes to her for his first time how great he was to boost his self-confidence (although he wasn't, but she isn't in her profession for the enjoyment of the sex, anyway).
This was before I wised up and started recording the names of characters, so unfortunately I don't remember the names of the heroine and hero.
The hero is a bitter man who is on the hunt for revenge. He has a prejudice against prostitutes but has to work with the heroine to achieve his goals. But her good heart worms her way into his affections. The skillful writing of the author shows this transition in his attitude, along with a reader who is 'wary' about the heroine being a prostitute.
This book is a western, so you get to see the views of the old West and, there is menace as the same person who hurt the heroine rears his ugly head again, trying to reclaim her.
If you get a chance to get a copy of this book, I can't recommend it highly enough. You might cry while reading it, and although the heroine and hero suffer much, you will go away from reading it with a smile on your face....more
I stayed up until 3:30am reading this book on Friday. It was just that good. Certainly not a book that is light and fluffy, but so excellent that youI stayed up until 3:30am reading this book on Friday. It was just that good. Certainly not a book that is light and fluffy, but so excellent that you feel as though you have eating a ten course meal instead of a sweet, tasty cupcake. Erith is not what I would call a nice guy. He's selfish and blunt and doesn't work too hard to observe social niceties. He lives for his own desires, and goes where he wants to go, always drifting, and leaving nothing behind that he regrets despite the many mistresses that he's cast aside. He's abandoned his children, out of grief when his wife died, but abandoned all the same for sixteen plus years. He's had more mistresses than he could count, and he doesn't have honorable intentions towards our heroine, Olivia. The interesting thing is that his behavior is consider more socially acceptable than Olivia. It's one of the hypocritical aspects of society that never fails to irritate me. A woman is no good when she is forced to take lovers to support herself. Yet a man can have as many lovers as he wants and no one blinks an eye, as long as he's semi-discreet and doesn't marry a woman who has a past.
I must admit it took me a long time to warm up to Erith. I felt he was a selfish man who didn't really understand what loving was, or he forgot when he lost his wife at a young age. He thought that his desire to give Olivia pleasure and trinkets was a act of generosity to be thanked for. He doesn't understand that his actions could make things even worse for Olivia when he decides he's had his fill of her. On the other hand, I loved Olivia from the beginning. I find it heartbreaking that a woman would have to sell her body for a living. The thought of it just sticks in my craw. But I would never hold that against a woman. Olivia was a strong, capable, likable person. She hated men, and she had a lot of reason to hate men. Yet you never get the impression that she's deliberately cruel or even thoughtless. What was done to her was pretty lousy, and it was done by a person who should have taken care of her and cherished her. And even Erith, who declared his love, had to almost lose her to do the right thing by her. That's why I just about washed my hands of him. But the truth is, we don't really get to choose who we love. We are ordained by fate to love people, more than we want to. That's what happens to Olivia and Erith. He didn't want to fall in love again after his wife died. He just wanted to exhaust his obsession and lust for Olivia, who he hears is the greatest courtesan of all time and who he must have because of her reputation, but he does end up falling for her. And that's not the end of his journey, for this man has to learn that love is about giving up one's self and putting another person's needs first. That's what true love is. It's not just giving when it's easy or when it costs little. Love is giving up things that a person considers most important for the person who is loved.
Dark and compelling, this is a book that isn't a fun read. But it's a wonderful story that will stay on the mind, challenge the reader to explore different kinds of characters whose motivations aren't pure or demure, and don't exist in the pretty ballrooms and sitting rooms of a Jane Austen novel. These characters live on the fringe of that same society, where the light is dimmer, and their choices are drearier. Perhaps Olivia could have been Emma, or Elinore, or Jane, or Lizzy, yet she doesn't get to live in protected circumstances or genteel poverty. Instead she's a woman who received a very poor hand of cards to play, and did the best she could under the circumstances. And Erith is no Darcy or Captain Brandon. But still, I am glad that Ms. Campbell told us their story....more
Incredible book about the healing power of love and acceptance. The heroine had a terrible life before she met the hero. And instead of judging her, hIncredible book about the healing power of love and acceptance. The heroine had a terrible life before she met the hero. And instead of judging her, he opens his heart to her and makes her his bride, giving her the love and care she always needed....more
To Beguile a Beast takes a tried and true romance theme and does it justice. In this case, the Beauty is the fugitive mistress of a powerful duke, who
To Beguile a Beast takes a tried and true romance theme and does it justice. In this case, the Beauty is the fugitive mistress of a powerful duke, who takes her children to start a new life, not as a kept woman, but as a legitimate housekeeper. The Beast is a naturalist who was tortured by Indians in the colonies, as the result of an ambush against British soldiers.
The writing flows and compels. The romance not only involves Helen and Alistair, but also the bond that develops between Alistair and Helen's troubled children, Jamie and Abigail. I guess I am just getting older, but lately I really appreciate the idea of a hero or heroine who has children meeting someone who embraces those kids and makes them part of their life in all ways, founding their own parental bond. In this case, I loved how this relationship develops between Alistair and the children. I felt bad for them that their father wasn't really a dad to them at all. He didn't even talk to them or acknowledge them, although they didn't lack materially. They were just possessions to him. Whereas Alistair does spend time with the kids and genuinely cares about them.
As much as I liked this book, I didn't love it as much as The Raven Prince. I think the subject matter might have been a bit more dicey for me. I don't really like the idea that Helen willingly committed adultery with a married man. I understand her actions were those of a young, starstruck girl-woman, and she fully accepted the accountability for those actions. I didn't judge her for her actions, I just felt disappointed for the choices she made, but probably nowhere as near as she did. She threw away a lot for a man that wasn't worthy of her love, and paid the price for it. The one good thing that came out of it was her children, and she decides to make tomorrow a different and better day for herself and her children, which definitely shows character in a person. From a creativity standpoint, it makes sense to have a story for once about the 'other woman', but my deep-seated issues with infidelity give me a bit of heartburn about that. I'm never going to take that subject likely, so I do always feel a twinge when I read a book and the characters go down that road, past or present. Conversely, I didn't like that Alistair gave Helen such a hard time about her past when he finds out. I mean, he really rubs it in her face. Considering that his past is hardly lily white (a man who admittedly has slept with prostitutes (another ick factor for me), it was sort of like kicking a puppy. I know part of his issues were jealousy because he will never be a duke or have the powerful, accepted status in society as a duke. And also, his issues with his disfigurement. For all my disappointment with him, I did love how he rallies around Helen in her time of need and works to ensure the safety of her children from their father.
The other issue I had was I guess I expected the duke to be a bit more sinister. I was waiting for other shoe to fall, and when it does, it's a bit of a thunk instead of a bang. Helen seemed very afraid of the duke, and when he appears, he doesn't have even a smidge of the presence that Alistair has. Stylistically, I would have liked a little more Gothic flavor here. The book sort of begs for it, really. I suppose it's just my melodramatic/drama hound nature. I just felt like I wanted something deeper, more intense in this novel. Maybe more angst and flair than it had. Having said that, I do like the crafty way that Alistair deals with the situation. I love a hero who has as much or even more brains than brawn and uses them to solve a tricky problem.
Despite my misgivings, I found this to be a pleasant, highly enjoyable read. The powerful passion between Helen and Alistair made for good reading, along with the relationship between Alistair and the kids. As before, Hoyt sets an authentic historical tone that really works for this reader. The story of the beast finding love with the beauty will always be timeless and beloved to this die-hard fairy tale lover, and Elizabeth Hoyt gives it a different spin and gives it justice overall. ...more
I must admit I am not a fan of the courtesan/prostitute heroine because I dislike the idea of a woman having to sell her body for survival. For that rI must admit I am not a fan of the courtesan/prostitute heroine because I dislike the idea of a woman having to sell her body for survival. For that reason, I did not read this book right away, although I was very intrigued by the storyline of a hero who would do just about anything to keep his heroine. I read some scenes from it at the bookstore, trying to decide if I was "ready" to read it, and I couldn't stop thinking about story and how good the writing was. Finally, I decided I had to read it and I read it within a few days of buying it.
This book is one of the best historicals I have ever read. It was intense, it was well-written, it had believable characters who made real choices, good or bad. And at the heart I think it did have a really good love story. Not the sweet and light kind, but a love story all the same. I have championed this book and I have tried to explain why Kylemore isn't a bad man. He's not an emotionally healthy man. And he does some things that are not right, namely forcing Soraya to have sex with him after he kidnaps her, not to mention kidnapping her in the first place. I would never defend or excuse that behavior. But reading the book, you can understand what his motivations are. He is completely desperate at the thought of losing her. Yes, he's like a child who has a toy taken away from him, on one level. But I believe that he is motivated by a deep, obsessive love for her. I find myself very intrigued by obsessive heroes. I don't know why because that would be really scary in real life, but I do like it in romance novels. I love when the hero truly cannot exist without the heroine.
Kylemore somehow found his way into my heart. I did find him to be a sympathetic, albeit flawed hero. There were aspects about him that I did like, such as his devotion in his own way to Soraya. He waited for Soraya for years when she was with another protector. As far I as I recall, he didn't even take another lover in that time. When he had her as his mistress, he compartmentalized their time together, making it seem that it was not as important as it was. But deep down, I believe being with her was the highlight of his existence. Also, he was going to ask Soraya to marry him. Dukes did not marry their mistresses. It just wasn't done. They had their mistresses but married virgins or respectble widows, and the two aspects of their existences didn't meet. Yes he told himself it was to anger his mother, but I believe it was because he genuinely loved Soraya and wanted to make a life with her.
So, viewing his actions in light of the facts given, I do believe that his behavior was not completely rational. His kidnapping and captivity of her was done from a knee-jerk, emotional level that wasn't ruled by logic and negated right and wrong. Not excusable, but definitely actions I could understand in light of what motivated Kylemore. There was also an aspect of knowing that as a powerful duke, he shouldn't have to be told no or be denied anything he wanted. That is the part I didn't like.
The scenes where they struggle against each other physically, mentally, and emotionally were riveting, and I didn't even want to put the book down for a minute. I was drawn in and I knew I had rarely if ever read a romance novel with this degree of complexity of relationships. In some ways it was hard to watch how Kylemore scared Verity and wore her down. At some points I wondered if he would drive her to insanity. That was painful to read. She deserved better. I wanted to tell him, "If you're trying to get this woman to stay with you and love you, you're going about it the wrong way." But Kylemore was raised by a very evil woman, his mother. How would a man raised in that environment know how to give or receive love? You could not expect that of him, considering his background.
Truly Verity was the more emotionally stable and well-adjusted of this pair. I really liked how Ms. Campbell really plays with society's concepts of morality in both this book and in Tempt the Devil, having the courtesan be the more virtous and more respectable and laudable of the pair. And truly in my mind they are (in most cases).
Back in this time period, there was no such thing as equality between the sexes. Women were property and chattel. Women's choices were extremely limited. Men had the power and they had the choice to have sex with women according to their wishes and wants. Women had to submit in various ways, either as wife or mistress. I can see that this dynamic is played out in this novel. Verity had to become a courtesan out of survival, and she did it until she was financially secure. I found it repugnant that her first protector was an older man who made her an offer to become his mistress at the young age of fifteen, and he felt that that was the right way to save her from a harrowing situation. If he really wanted to help her, he could have placed her in a safe situation and helped her to get a living that wasn't prostitution, or at least waited until she was older. But he saw how incredibly beautiful she was and wanted her. Thus his motives were selfish and although Verity now had some protection, he sent her into the life of a demimondaine.
Verity/Soraya accepted her position as a courtesan and made the best of it, but it wasn't the life she wanted. When Kylemore made her an offer, it was business, pure and simple. She could not make the mistake of getting her heart involved. She didn't expect Kylemore to be emotionally involved either. When their two year contract was up, she had achieved the means for financial security. There was no reason to continue in that life. By leaving Kylemore, she could close her life on one chapter and start another. I want to reread this book to study again how the wall broke down and Verity was able to love Kylemore. I think that this part is probably one of the most important elements, because knowing that she accepts and loves him doesn't make what he did okay, but at least you can hope that they will have a hopeful future together and that there can be some emotional healing for both of them.
Words fail me to express why I loved this book so much.I just did. It's not for the faint of heart reader who wants a happy-go-lucky rakish hero who wouldn't ever consider harming a woman or doing anything she didn't consent to. But for a reader who is willing to put aside her list of what a hero does and doesn't do and read this book and evaluate Kylemore as an individual, I believe that this reader may find that there are untapped depths to this book that make it a fascinating and enjoyable read....more