Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Review: Passion Wears Pearls by Renee Bernard (4.5 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
My latest book search was for something a bit more meaningful than usual, and I was delighted to see that my hopes were fulfilled in Renee Bernard's Passion Wears Pearls. It was better than I expected, to say the least. I'm usually wary of plots involving painter heroes, but in this case the heroine was not asked to model in anything more scandalous than a red gown. The book is filled with a gentle humor, particularly in the first half of the book, often in the form of witty repartee. I really loved the characters and the genuine relationship that builds between them. Eventually there is the standard drawn out angst over a hidden secret (the hero is going blind), as well as a final misunderstanding that causes hurt feelings, but neither of the plot devices were so frustrating that I felt the need to deduct more than half a star.
This is the first book I've read in Bernard's "Jaded Gentleman" series (it's actually the fourth book chronologically), so I wasn't familiar with the hero's story ahead of time. It seems that all of the men belonging to the group nicknamed the Jaded were gentlemen visiting India. They were imprisoned, but eventually escape with a fortune of jewels. The book opens with the hero struggling to paint one final masterpiece before he goes completely blind. The hero doesn't have any sort of title, but as the son of a baron he is still a member of the upper class. He meets the heroine when he hears her scream and rushes to her assistance. The heroine has become an impoverished lady by this point. She was the daughter of a wealthy business man, but one of her father's competitors basically stole her father's business. Even worse, the heroine became orphaned shortly after the family fortune was lost when both of her parents died through unfortunate circumstances. She is a strong woman, and has kept her head up while trying to make ends meet for several months by working for a vindictive seamstress. The hero rescues her from a cruel man who, with the help of the heroine's employer, tries to force her into prostitution. It's awesome to have a truly noble hero for a change, who beats off the heroine's attacker and helps her find decent living quarters. He is immediately bowled over by the heroine's beauty, and offers her a considerable sum (15,000 pounds) to be his muse for his final painting. Again, I was happy that - unlike similar novels I've read - the hero plans on painting her completely clothed. In fact, the heroine starts out being very concerned with morality and being proper. It was what was taught to her growing up, and I loved her all the more for being more historically realistic than most heroines. It also gives the hero and heroine a chance to develop a solid relationship before becoming physically involved. They don't even kiss til about the middle of the book, although there is plenty of sexual tension leading up the moment. And once they start becoming intimate, things steam up fast - there are a number of detailed love scenes in the second half of the book to make up for the lost time. I very much enjoyed their overall relationship as the hero quickly comes to care more about the heroine than his final masterpiece, and the heroine realizes that society's views on propriety don't always matter. As I mentioned in the introduction, the book does slow down a bit in the latter half when the secret and later the final misunderstanding come to the forefront of the story. That was disappointing, but they did fit fairly well with the plot and I didn't feel they were too big of a deal. Plus, the final resolution was very good. There's also an external conflict throughout the novel relating to the hero's escape from India, which gets somewhat resolved in the end. Looking back at the storyline of the entire book, I was rather satisfied at how everything played out.
I have little to complain about concerning Renee Bernard's Passion Wears Pearls. It contains a touching romance, includes some great humor, doesn't jump into the physical aspect of the relationship too fast, and has a happy ending that made me feel everything worked out. The book does contain some drawn out unpleasantness, but so does nearly every other romance novel in existence. After reading Passion Wears Pearls, I definitely plan to checking out the other books in the series. Maybe I'll even read the rest in order ;).