Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)'s Reviews > To Have and To Hold

To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney
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** spoiler alert ** This book is one that sneaks up on your senses. You start reading the first sentence and before you know it, you're hooked. It was that simple. The writing flows, and the beauty of it is captivating. Yet at the same time, it is not flowery or florid. Just exhibiting the careful and artistic use of words to tell a story of redemption and growth. Sebastian Verlaine is not a pretender in the world of rakes. He is a true rake. He has lived an aimless existence of a sybarite, doing only what felt good to him, and only as long as it pleased him. He is on the crux of either descending to a lower level of debauchery, or turning his life around. When he encounters Rachel Wade, a woman just recently released from prison after 10 years, and arrested for vagrancy because she is homeless, this becomes a crucial moment in his evolution.

The manner in which the story enfolds is interesting. Sebastian has recently inherited Lynton, which is property from his disceased relative. He decides to go and stay there for a lark, and for fun and out of drunkeness, agrees to act as a local magistrate. As such, he is in a position of power to offer Rachel Wade a job as his housekeeper. In reality, it is also the position of his mistress. Sebastian finds himself fascinated by this beaten down woman, who was sentenced for murdering her husband, who had committed depraved acts on her. He is attracted to the luridness of the situation, and also by the woman herself.

When reading this, you are thinking, how could a person do a good deed for such a questionable reason. You see Sebastian laying his trap and allowing Rachel to settle into her position and you worry for Rachel. Yet Rachel is no fool. She knew all along to expect something along those lines, but her choice is to be put in the gaol for vagrancy, and to starve, or to accept relative comfort of a job, a place to stay, even if the price tag is to accept the unwanted attentions of her employer.

So begins this unlikely romance. At first, this is more of a character study as you watch Rachel adapt to no longer being a prisoner for ten years. You see her gain her self-confidence and overcome her sense of shame for being a convict, when she had been falsely accused in the first place. At the same time, you see Sebastian plotting and continuing along on his nefarious course, yet at the same time, slowly changing and developing a sense of purpose when before he only had a sense of boredom and jadedness. This evolution is so well done, that by the time you realize why Sebastian is such a rake, you have already forgiven him for it and accepted that this was his past. This was profound to me, because I have read more than a few books with rakes who really never seemed all that repentant, and certainly weren't fully changed by the love of the heroine. Characters that you wondered if they wouldn't end up falling off the wagon years later on, after the book was over.

The first sexual encounters are not consensual. Yet this is also done tastefully. Again, you are not reading this book as a romance novel at this point, but as a fiction work, and so it doesn't jolt you or offend your senses. Instead you keep reading, to see how this will unfold.

There are moments when I felt, that Sebastian would commit the final act that would serve as the straw breaking the camel's back, and I would come to hate him. Gaffney leaves the reader poised on the cliff of expectation, so skillfully keeping the reader's interest, as Sebastian has to make a choice, whether he truly is an unforgivable, irredeemable rake, or if he is a human being who does have ethical boundaries he won't cross. This moment arrives when he invites some of his jaded companions to his house, and allows them to bait Rachel verbally but does nothing. The situation worsens as one of the attendees states his intent to force his attentions on Rachel. At first, he acts like he could care less, because that is how the old Sebastian would have reacted. At the last minute he intervenes, and the breath that I was holding is let out.

From this point on, the story shifts as Sebastian learns how to love for the first time in his life. He becomes a caring person, learning to put someone else's needs first. And it really is touching the degree to which he devotes himself to making Rachel happy. I love redemption stories, so I really enjoyed reading about his transition to an honorable man. Or maybe, that seed was always deep inside of him, but he didn't allow it to germinate. When you get a glimpse into his family life towards the end of the book, you really have no questions as to why Sebastian acted the way he did at the beginning of the book.

This book works wonderfully on many levels, as a fiction book, and as a romance. It's not at all predictable, which is refreshing. Of course, you know that a happy ending is going to be given, but you don't exactly know how it will arrive at that point until you get there, and you almost want to read it again just in confirmation.

To Have and to Hold is a good example of the fact that romantic fiction should be respected for its power. Romance novels are wrongly labeled as fluff, trash, and worthless. But how could a book with such a deep message, and with such powerful storytelling ever be considered fluff? I will proudly put this piece of romantic fiction on my keeper shelf.
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Reading Progress

January 9, 2009 – Shelved
January 9, 2009 – Shelved as: historical-romance
January 9, 2009 – Shelved as: victorian
January 16, 2009 – Shelved as: bad-boy-rake-or-rogue
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: abused
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: angsty-read
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: knight-in-tarnished-armor
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: mistress
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: owned-copy
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: part-of-a-series
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: tormented-heroine
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: widow
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: wrongly-accused
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: favorites
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: redemption
January 22, 2009 – Shelved as: the-scandalous-offer
Started Reading
January 23, 2009 – Finished Reading
June 12, 2009 – Shelved as: aar-top-100-romance

Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by new_user (last edited Jan 31, 2009 09:08PM) (new)

new_user Good review, Danielle. It was actually the exploration of the darker aspect of human nature (that kind of morbid fascination with the lurid) that first made me put Gaffney on my TBR. The review where I first learned of it was over at Racy Romance Reviews. I have yet to read THaTH, but I certainly plan to. I'm really interested to see the apparent psychology in this book.

Oh, but you may want to put a little spoiler tag where you reveal Sebastian's pivotal moment, LOL.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks. That's a good point. The exploration of Sebastian's character was one of the best parts of the book, IMHO.

message 3: by Yz the Whyz (last edited Jan 31, 2009 09:26AM) (new)

Yz the Whyz Danielle,

I just have to say this, you write very beautiful, very well-written reviews. I have been reading almost all your reviews everytime I see it on my homepage..I guess the advantage of having you as a GR friend, and I thought, I'll just let you know how I appreciate them.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thank you so much! I appreciate that. I just try to say something meaningful about the books. Thanks for reading them.

Karen Hey Danielle ~ I haven't read your review here because I don't want to read the spoiler yet, but I read somewhere else that if you enjoy the first two books in this series, you will like Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. Do you think they're similar? I tried to read that book and gave up, but I might go back and try again because I really enjoyed To Love and to Cherish and this one seems pretty good too.

UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish Beautiful, Danielle.

message 7: by Nisha (new) - added it

Nisha Love the review and it makes me want to read it. Normally, I would never pick up a book that is so...questionable, but I trust your judgment.

SheLove2Read Sounds like a good book. Thanks for the review.

Tammy Walton Grant Well done! Sounds like something I'd love, and makes me want to read it.

Yz the Whyz said: "I just have to say this, you write very beautiful, very well-written reviews. I have been reading almost all your reviews everytime I see it on my homepage..."

And, oh yeah, what Yz said (which was beautifully said as well) :)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Oh, sorry, Karen. I haven't read Flowers from the Storm. I'm intimidated by the Quaker speech, so I can't say. I've heard varying opinions. I'm a big Laura Kinsale fan, so I will read it one day.

Thanks, ladies.

I hope you enjoy it if you read it, Nisha, Sherri, and Tammy.

message 11: by Lisa Kay (new)

Lisa Kay Wonderful review, as per your usual Lady D. After reading this and 'Jess the Romanceaholic', I just might have to pick up this book. Maybe make a trip to the library. I already feel the tears welling up. Thanks!

message 12: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) (last edited Mar 04, 2011 10:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks, Lisa. This is one worth reading!

bookworm80 This is spot on. Gaffney is such a great writer, I think the romance genre lost a lot when she stopped writing romance.

Sarina Thank you, for the detailed review. It has helped me decide whether to invest my time in this book, and I think I shall.

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