Monday, March 29, 2010

Romance Lives Even in Troubled Marriages . . .

I have now read two of Tracy Anne Warren's "Mistresses" series and have enjoyed them all. I love historical romances -- in fact, there was a time when just about the only romantic fiction I read was historical in nature, preferably from the Regency period. Obviously I have branched out considerably since then, but I still harbor that particular love of historical romance that has been with me from my earliest years. I have already reviewed some of Warren's books here and on Book Binge and I just wanted to share this one with you. Some folks have not cared for this particular book, stating that they thought it was formulaic and predictable. That was not my take on this book and I will happily share my thoughts here.

Vivacious Gabriella St. George is penniless yet proud. Thanks to the benevolence of a generous relative, she gets a chance for a new life in London, never dreaming it will entangle her in a sensual battle of wills with an irresistable rogue who doesn't believe in love. With one scorching caress, Anthony Black invites Gabriella to share his bed. But she wants his heart and his name, so the determined beauty embarks on a daring game to win both.

Firmly committed to the pleasures of bachelorhood, Tony Black, Duke of Wyvern, has no intention of offereing to any woman more than shared moments of erotic delight. But Gabriella tests his mettle, undermines his resolve, and cracks the ice around his heart with each sweet smile, teasing glance and rapturous kiss. Suddenly a man who relishes only carnal pleasure must confront the unexpected: a passion that may lead to everlasting love.

In the interest of fairness, the hero is once again an experienced and probably a jaded gentleman who has come to view love as an unnecessary complication in a life that is well ordered and comfortable. But Tony's view of love is shaped, not be a surfeit of willing women, but by the rejection of a mother who is more determined to protect her physical charms from the ravages of time, who cares more for her current lover, than for the son who had lost his one friend in the world, his father. Sent away to boarding school just days after his father's death, Tony Black learned well that loving is risky and often receives nothing in return. His absence from his home extended for six years. Now he is viewed as one of the ton's most accomplished rakes, and the hostesses and mothers of hopeful debutantes have essentially removed him from their lists of possible husbands. He is a loyal friend to those he truly likes, begins and ends his affairs with a style honed with long experience, and enjoys his wrinkle-proof life.

Gabriella St. George, on the other hand, is a young 17-year-old girl who is driven by rage and a desire for vengence against one of Tony's friends and thus comes under the censure of Tony himself. However, once Gabriella learns that the man she has loved, who acknowledged her as his daughter but who had used her and her actress mother woefully and repeatedly over the years, was a dishonorable man who took what he wanted without thought of the consequences, was a murder and philanderer, and who ultimately broke her mother's heart she had to rethink her anger and leave behind her plans for revenge. The very man who was the object of her rage turns out to be her best friend -- her uncle -- and who now offers her sanctuary and a home, opportunities to become accepted by society, and possibly make a good future for herself with a good marriage.

As is often the case, there is quite a range in ages between these two, but that was often the case in 19th century society marriages. It accounts for the large numbers of young, marriageable widows that floated around the edges of London society and who were often the objects of passion by those men looking for satisfaction outside loveless marriages.

As was also often true, Tony and Gabriella's marriage became endangered because of her determination that her marriage would be founded on true affection and not just on a wild passion. It is also another case of a man who had been greatly wounded early in life and who not only found it almost impossible to conceive of loving anyone but couldn't even tolerate the word. This was not as unusual as it may seem to contemporary readers, and Tony believed that his passion for Gabriella, his care and provision for her would be sufficient to bind her to him. Who needed love?

Warren has given us what I think is a somewhat different story here -- of course we have the great disagreement and series of misunderstandings that are often part and parcel of historical fiction, but these two enter into an agreement wherein Gabriella, living in her own townhouse in London, becomes her husband's de facto mistress. Gabriella's body welcomes his advances; her heart despairs of ever reaching his heart. She even welcomes the stated purpose of their conjugal exchanges being the procreation of an heir. At least she would have his child if she could not have his love. It is a curious set of circumstances.

I liked this book a lot. I love Warren's writing style, her gentle wit and her strong characters. I like Gabriella who represents so many women who were left without resources on the outside edges of society and who must make her own way in the world. I like the continued involvement of characters who appeared in other Warren novels as a way of expanding one's awareness of their life and experiences. I sometimes get a bit weary of the "grand upset" that seems to be the conflict in so many historical romance plots, but I enjoy stories that seem to accept that such breakdowns in relationships occur and must be resolved. Warren seems to be able to help that happen in creative ways. I like all the romance, the joy that Gabriella finds in her relationship with Tony, even though she knows that he has treated her regardfor him as unimportant.

There's lots to like in this book, and it is one of those historical romances that rolls along and keeps on keeping on, and of course there is the warm fuzzies at the conclusion. A good read and another good Warren effort. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.

1 comment:

Dr J said...

I really liked this series. I really liked Tony in this book and loved the romance.