Thursday, February 25, 2010

REVIEW: The Club by Sharon Page

ISBN 978-0-440-24490-5
Genre: Historical Romance
(c) March 2009, Bantam Dell, Random House
Sharon Page's website 

Rating: 5 stars

Buy Links (paper): Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble
Buy Links (ebook): Barnes and Noble Ebook 

"Riveting and hard to put down! If you're looking for a historical romance that is unique and with substance, this is it!"

Enter into a world of dark pleasures and darker intrigues.

Jane St. Giles, Lady Sherringham, is on a mission to rescue her best friend, Del, who has gone missing. For this, she has to enter The Club, a place of sin and decadence, a place of which she is out of her depth. She is surprised to find that Christian, Earl of Wickham and Del's brother, has followed her and together, they made an uneasy pact to find Del. But when Del is found, Jane finds to her dismay that she is losing her heart to Christian, a man who determines only to teach her the pleasure she had never found in her husband's arms.

Expecting the usual historical romance, I was shocked and surprised to find that The Club much more. Instead of the usual balls and soirees and musicals, light flirtation and determined matchmakings by the mamas, The Club deals with the story of women abused by their husbands and the existence of a sexual club catering to the desires of married couples where anything goes (but the main couple didn't partake). It is different and it is certainly not gentle reading (not only because of the happenings in the club but also the subject matter of the book).

Jane and her friends typify the kind of woman who stayed with their abusive husbands--wanting to run yet in the end not finding the courage to do so, scared yet not having anywhere else to go. I think it is even harder for women in historical times for under the law, they are the property of their husbands. Their spirits are crushed and they learned to be quiet, to be invisible, to obey and do whatever their husbands wanted in order to escape their punishing hands. To these women, the death of their husbands could only signify freedom.

For Jane, the death of her husband was a relief, and she looked forward to a simple and contented life with her meager savings. Her crushed spirit started to mend, and because of her experience with her husband, she determined to save other women from such a fate. Her friends and even Christian referred to her as "crusading Lady Jane". However, Christian's appearance in her life showed her that not all men are the same. With Christian, she dared to do things, knowing he wouldn't hit her even if he were angry at her. The way he protected her and kept her safe warmed her heart and made her want to stay with him, but she'd vowed never to marry again. She didn't want to put herself under the control of a man again. Before Christian's re-entry into her life, she only sought for survival, but with him, she dared to risk her heart again.

However, Jane, no matter how crusading she is, is not one of those annoying TSTL (too stupid to live) heroines. Her heart prompts her to rescue the people she loved, even if it puts her in danger, and she is courageous when the going gets tough, but she knew when to obey Christian when it counts. As for Christian, he appears to be a rakehell hero who breaks marriages and even kills a man in a duel, but underneath it all, he has a good heart and well, appearances are deceiving.

Still, I wonder why historicals almost always portray the hero to be the sort of man who goes from bed to bed. Even if he beds only women who sought him out and who are unhappy in their marriages and whose husbands have mistresses, he is just the same as the husbands, even if he has a good motive of bringing the woman pleasure that is missing in her life. Don't heirs to dukedoms and earldoms have better things to do? Like learn estate management and how to take care of their tenants so they can take over when their fathers died? Or maybe, estates run themselves under the management of a good steward.

Anyway, finding Del led to discovering that a greater mystery and more evildoings abound. I especially like the way the author foreshadowed who the ultimate villain would be, yet in the end, she still managed to surprise me.

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