Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Review: Seduction Wears Sapphires by Renee Bernard (5 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
It's official: Renee Bernard has joined the ranks of my favorite authors. I've been looking forward to reading more of her "Jaded" series ever since I read Passion Wears Pearls, and I was not disappointed with my latest selection. It turns out that the series is actually Victorian, although I hardly noticed the difference. I meant to read the series in order, but the first book did not appear to be my cup of tea - I almost always avoid revenge plots. However, Seduction Wears Sapphires - the second installment in the series - had a much more appealing storyline. It's a very well written love story between the debauched rake and the strong-willed, proper heroine, who frequently trade intelligent and amusing barbs back and forth as they try to resist each other. The story is immensely engaging, the conflicts are somewhat original, and the final resolution was particularly satisfying. There were a few minor annoyances in the plot, but they were vastly overshadowed by the novel as a whole.
To begin with, the heroine in Seduction Wears Sapphires puts pretty much every heroine out there to shame. It's not that she's unrealistically perfect (probably far from it), but the decisions she makes throughout the story show her to be a twenty-four year old woman of incredible emotional strength and fortitude. The book opens with her making the voyage from Boston to England. She's an American who grew up in a rich merchant family, but has had to live in relative poverty with a harsh aunt ever since her parents died. As a result, she is readily willing to do a favor for the hero's grandfather in exchange for 20,000 pounds. She is well-educated in books, and in addition to becoming independent she wishes to use the money to start an academic school for women in the hopes of giving them more opportunities. It turns out that the hero's grandfather wants her to chaperone his eventual heir, who has turned into a rake. He loves his grandson, but wants to know he is able to turn his life around. So he gives the hero an ultimatum: act like a gentleman for a few weeks, or he will give the hero's inheritance to a cousin. The reader finds out over time that the hero had developed a romantic love for a woman a few years ago in India, and was devastated when his selfish actions helped lead to her demise. He's basically punishing himself emotionally by becoming a wastrel. At any rate, as you can guess with this type of plot, the hero and heroine start out by butting heads and its quite fun to watch. She can definitely stand up for herself, and uses a combination of "pluck", wit, and charm to take on the ton. It's only as the story unfolds that the protagonists begin to understand each other, and admit to themselves their growing romantic feelings. When they eventually consummate the relationship, in the second half of the novel, it's the heroine's prerogative and with her fully realizing the likely outcome of the relationship. I don't want to give anything away, but some of the choices she makes around that time really demonstrated her impressive character. I also loved that Bernard set up a typical misunderstanding towards the end of the book, and then took things in a different direction. The actual final misunderstanding/conflict played out rather dramatically, but it was the good kind of dramatic where you know everything is going to come together splendidly and you're ready to cheer for the characters even as they finish working things out. One thing that did bother me was that the hero was ready to jump into bed with another woman as late as 30% into the book (it doesn't end up happening), although the hero and heroine are still developing their relationship with each other at the time. I guess it allowed for more character grow on the part of the hero later on. I also wasn't thrilled with the hero being devastated by a previous relationship, but it really wasn't brought up much.
Renee Bernard's Seduction Wears Sapphires far exceeded the average historical romance. With it's thoroughly enjoyable writing (especially dialogue), it's original take on several aspects of the romance novel, and a heroine that adds considerable depth to the overall story it is well deserving of a five star rating.