The book begins beautifully and has a truly refreshing ending but some chapters in the middle are quite a challenge to read through, something due to Ivory's style I suppose. While Ivory's writing is rich and compelling it is also demanding. If you are looking for a light read with a familiar storyline this book is not for you. However if you have had enough of the love/lust at first sight pattern this is a book to sink your teeth into.
Graham and Submit are two wonderfully portrayed characters, real and complex. Too often in romance books one or both of the main characters undergo a miraculous, almost unbelievable, change in order to ensure a happy ending. No such easy solution here and that's what makes the book worth reading.
Graham is charming, wild, irresponsible and often childish but he is never mean and never stupid. He is ruled by his emotions (not for lack of brains, though), enjoys life and refuses to feel guilty about it. Submit is serious, reasonable, has a sharp open mind and the fact that she is not easily shocked, plus, that she has a very strong sense of self makes her a good mate for Graham.
The fact that Graham is a very appealing hero (and he is! faults and all) and that Submit is not boring is a tribute to Ivory's deep understanding of human nature.
The dialogues are delightfully sophisticated, through them we discover the character's inner strengths and weaknesses and follow the growing friendship between two completely different people who move in different circles of London's society.A friendship that will eventually bring Graham and Submit together, supposedly against all odds, without giving up their essential personalities. When Submit finally agrees to take Graham on she knows exactly what she'll get. She is not blinded by his charm and faces the future without illusions. She is clever enough to see through Graham's rakish facade to the intelligence and kindness of the man inside and sensible enough to know better than to try and change him (though she is also honest enough to admit she might be tempted). No starry eyed acceptance but a mature one. Yes, I agree with the reviewer who called this book "a romance for grown ups", it is that and more.
There is so much more I loved in the book:
* Henry - the man is already dead when the book begins and yet he is one of the main characters as he was a shaping force of both our hero and heroine.
* The rolls reversal between the male and female - Submit is the strong cool-headed one while our hero Graham is the emotional needy one.
* The consistent behavior of the characters, start to finish. No unexplained out of characters starts here.
* Graham's relationship with his mistress, which I thought further illuminated his personality. I disagree with the reviewers who felt his involvement with Rosalyn detracted from the story.
So why after raving so much I give a grade of 4 stars?
Because as I mentioned at the beginning of my review the pacing was uneven, a few chapters were too detailed, and though I realize they were meant to reveal what drives Graham in the pattern of his life, long paragraphs could have been shortened to a few lines without detracting from the story, and at the same time move the story forward more fluently. So imagine how frustrating it was to finish the book and realize that some of the issues depicted in these paragraphs were left untied, for example: Graham's children disappeared in the middle of the book never to be heard of again or the struggling twin's fate...
These and a few other minor flaws prevent the book from being a 5 stars read but the book is so unusual, the characterization so remarkable that I urge you to read it. For me "Black Silk" is a keeper.
P.S. - "Black Silk" was my first Ivory book. After reading it I tried one of her latest books and it didn't come close to this one. While some of her writing style is recognized I felt it lacked the depth of Black Silk. So even if you are not a fan of Ivory's current writings you might want to give Black Silk a try, it's worth it.