Friday, February 26, 2010

REVIEW: A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash

ISBN 9780061231360
Series: The Widows' Club, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
(c) June 2007, Avon Books, HarperCollins
Sophia Nash's website

Rating: 4 stars

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

"Exciting historical read, with the right combination of action and romance"

Sophia Nash is a new-to-me author. I first picked up her book, The Kiss (review to come), because I was intrigued with the characters' situation, that of friends becoming lovers. When I learned that it's the second book in the series, I searched out A Dangerous Beauty, the first one.

And I wasn't disappointed.

A Dangerous Beauty is an exciting read, with the right combination of action, romance, angst, humiliation, yearning, betrayal and ostracization.

I like that Luc St. Aubyn, Duke of Helston, recognized his feelings for Rosamunde Baird quite early in the book, but that he was hindered from his declaration by things that he believed are important to Rosamunde but that which he couldn't provide for her. It was his stance that the St. Aubyn family owed Rosamunde quite a bit for the things she had suffered in the 8 years of her nightmarish marriage, so the aforementioned belief coupled with his need to make amends made him think that the best thing he could do for her was to stay away from her. There was also his grandmother's hope for him, which ran contrary to what he wanted. Selfless, yes, but a bit presumptuous of him. The least he could've done was ask. Well, in the end, he did ask, but it was a reflex reaction and Rosamunde did well to reject him.

Actually, they each have their own preconceived notions of what the other wanted. Perhaps if they talked? But I guess the time wasn't ripe then. Still, the last time they made love, the scene was so touching I wanted to cry. It was also told from Luc's point of view, which made it doubly heart-wrenching.

I've never seen a heroine so ostracized and who suffered so much, except for the heroine in Ain't She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, perhaps. So why do I like this? Because it makes my heart ache and break for Rosamunde and when that happens, it's a good thing. I then root for her and am glad to see the comeuppance of those who dealt with her badly. When my bloodthirsty needs are satisfied by the hero, the book leaves me with feel-good sensations.

I'm just a bit surprised that there wasn't more interaction among the widows, but merely superficial conversations. Or maybe, the reason was because Rosamunde came into the club late and hadn't been with them enough time to form the bonds of friendship. She did have a friend though, her younger sister Sylvia, who sacrificed her youth to stay with Rosamunde in an nightmarish marriage. I did find that funny, but I soon forgot about it in the rationale that the sisters were close and Sylvia was a very loyal sister.

I certainly wouldn't mind reading more about Luc and Rosamunde, and I hope they're featured in the rest of the series. I just have one beef about this story and it's a spoiler, so I'll blank it out.

I understand that Luc thought Rosamunde wants nothing to do with him and only wants to return/be reconciled to her family. Also, he was fully convinced that St. Aubyn men don't make good husbands, hence he sought to spare Rosamunde. And being a filial grandson, he sought to fulfill Ata's wish for a grandchild/heir by proposing marriage to Grace Sheffey, since Rosamunde hasn't borne a child in her 8 years of marriage to her first husband.

Now, my question is this: What if Grace had said "yes"? Then there would have been no HEA for Luc and Rosamunde. If he had really loved Rosamunde, why didn't he fight for what could be and ask Rosamunde her opinion of the matter (or if she even loved him)? Why did he succumb to Ata's wish, even if he didn't love Grace?

For me, that's one weak point in an otherwise excellent story.

Update March 14: Received a response from Ms. Nash some days ago on my question/concerns above. To avoid spoilers, I'll have to blank this out as well. Read at your own risk!

Your rationale is absolutely correct for our modern age, however, I could not discount the mores of the Regency era when honor (and living up to a promise or a word) was everything to a gentleman. You see, Luc believed that there was an unspoken understanding that he would one day offer for Grace. He thought Grace and Ata believed this. And they did. It was hinted out loud when he asked Grace for the use of her townhouse to give a ball for Rosamunde. He was also certain that Rosamunde wanted nothing to do with marriage ever again as she had said it to him. And she had no reason to marry again. She was restored to her father and to her family. So yes, a modern day man would probably try to figure out a way around all of this but a Regency era aristocrat with a high moral standard probably would not. Remember how Mr. Darcy could not bring himself to address Eliza Bennett when he first returned with his friend who proposed to Jane (in Pride and Prejudice)? He, too, believed Eliza would not have him, and did not love him...This is an example of another man who, at first, gave up hope before finally gaining the courage to ask her to marry him - just like Luc did in the end.

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

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