- Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Bantam USA; Reissue edition (30 July 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553583565
- ISBN-13: 978-0553583564
- Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 2.2 x 17.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,288,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Stealing Heaven Mass Market Paperback – 30 Jul 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
This is certainly worth reading but perhaps not as a first foray into Madeline Hunter's work. There is enough here to satisfy a stalwart fan but as a new reader it might put you off reading her others. I would suggest reading her medieval series in chronological order beginning with 'By Possession' followed by 'By Design', and then this novel with 'By Arrangement', 'The Protector' and 'Lord of a Thousand Nights' completing it. (Note, they were not written in this order). With the order in place, this will become a much more fulfilling story which slots in nicely amongst the others. :)!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Marcus of Anglemore is a knight of King Edward during the 1300s. His former home and lands have been restored to him and now the king has arranged a marriage that will further unite the Welsh and English and provide Marcus with more power and land through his new wife. By Design, the prequel to this story provides the background here and it is when we are first introduced to Marcus as a young boy.
Marcus has proven himself a valiant knight worthy of the king's favor and is all that most medieval heroes are - handsome, available, alpha, smart, highly trained in battle, extremely perceptive, and very sexy. On top of all those characteristics he is more than the average medieval hero in that he is very sensitive, understanding, and caring when it comes to the woman he cherishes. In fact, his understanding of the heroine's treasonous dedication to the Welsh cause is one of the most outstanding aspects of this book. I have not ever seen such tolerance and empathy from an alpha hero before and it in no way makes him seem less of a man - only much more the fantastic hero.
Nesta, the heroine, is the oldest daughter of a rebel Welsh chieftain, Llygad, who is deceased. She has been previously married to a Scot and is referred to as the king's whore. This description of her as the king's whore kept me from reading this book for months. I could not imagine an endearing tale about a king's whore. But - please do not let that stop you. While the validity of that rumor is not known for most of the book, it does not lessen the vitality of this captivating story.
Marcus is to marry Nesta's younger sister. It is not an alliance he is anticipating with any favor. One night he slips into the garden of his future wife to determine the reason he has been denied an introduction to her. For weeks, she has been reportedly ill but Marcus correctly suspects that it is only a ruse. Once in the garden, he spots Nesta, a beautiful alluring woman, and assumes she is his bride-to-be. That garden meeting is the very beginning pages of Stealing Heaven and it starts the book off with a bang! Their attraction to each other is so immediate and downright chemical that it flies off the page. When Marcus discovers that Nesta is not to be his bride, he can barely contain his ire. From this point, the book just gathers steam, getting better and more fascinating with every single page.
Although there are some interesting secondary characters, this story is primarily about Marcus and Nesta. It reaches the level of truly great romance. There are many, many pages devoted to their relationship - making the growth of their love only more real to the reader. When rating a romance book, one of my primary requirements for a high rating is the time dedicated to the development of the romance. This book certainly rates five stars in that aspect. The sensual scenes are some of the best I have read. I had not remembered Hunter writing such sexy scenes in her two previous books I had devoured. They are powerful - not distasteful - and rate about a 4.0 to a 4.5 out of 5.0 (see More About Me for rating guidelines).
Stealing Heaven is a wondrous tale that I could hardly put down. I relished each page and felt that Hunter's writing was truly unique. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is part of a series of which I have been unable to establish the order precisely. This is my best guess at the order of the series: By Possession, By Design, Stealing Heaven, and By Arrangement. I have not read them in order and they can be easily relished as stand-alone books. However, Hunter is better than average when it comes to writing sequels involving characters from other books. If you can read them in order, you will be in for an additional treat.
Let me explain how I view this author. Madeline Hunter is for me one of the strongest writers in the genre of historical romance. I mourn the fact that she will not be writing more medieval romances (there are so few good writers for medievals), although I am excited about her move to a different time period, one that I am far more familiar with. The reason why Hunter is an auto-buy author for me is that her plots are (almost) always different and challenging. Her heroes and heroines are complex characters, who merit closer examination through re-reads. There is enough historical detail to ponder over during each re-read - and to feel that I am right there in that city, or that hamlet or that castle or fortress. I also learn something new from her best books, whether it is the fact that medieval people sometimes had more sophisticated toilet facilities than suspected, or the fact that trade was more extensive than I had thought.
Stealing Heaven begins with a great scene - a man (the hero Marcus of Anglesmore) is climbing a garden wall to sneak a look at his betrothed. Why is his betrothed avoiding him? Why is this man so determined to view his bride, if he cannot avoid this marriage? Why does he have to marry her? Great questions. The plot thickens when Marcus discovers that he encountered the sister of the woman he is to marry, and that she is forbidden to him both by the laws of the church (after he marries) and by the fact that she was Edward III's mistress "the King's Whore."
We have met Marcus as young Mark in BY DESIGN, where he was the heroine's younger brother and a definite brat. He is older, more mature. He has not however come wholly to terms with the events of his childhood. It is not necessary to read BY DESIGN first, but some things about Mark make more sense if you have read that story first (or later).
Nesta is more of an enigma. She is consumed by her desire to fulfill her father's dying wishes, and to get her sister away from Marcus. She however cannot avoid her attraction to her sister's intended, even as she uses her body to taunt him and distract him. I will not provide too many spoilers here for those who have not read the book, but I will say that things do not turn out either as Nesta or as Marcus intended. Loyalties are challenged, and difficult decisions sometimes rest on half-truths (or half-lies) and omissions of the truth.
Some old friends from Hunter's earlier books (published earlier, that is) appear in this work. We meet David (hero of BY ARRANGEMENT) some years before his own marriage; we meet Addis (hero of BY POSSESSION) as a proud father but also a mentor to Mark. And we see a bit of Joan and Rhys (protagonists in BY DESIGN, the prequel to this work). It is always good to see old friends.
There are some problems with this work. First, I cannot buy the plot entirely for historical reasons. That is my particular problem. Secondly, this book lacks the historical detail, the specifics of geography, economy, and everyday life that made her first four books such a delight to read. I did not get as vivid a sense of being there on the Welsh marches or in London as I had hoped. Thirdly, the characters seem to lack the emotional intensity that her protagonists in earlier books had. Somehow, I cannot connect to Marcus or to Nesta. Her goals are understandable, but it is easier to relate to smaller causes or a quest for personal vengeance than a Grand Cause. No new secondary characters appear who match those in earlier books. This book could have done much more with Addis, David, Joan, and Rhys as well. We see them in glimpses here and there, and for the most part, they seem pale shadows of what they are in their own books. [I do not know if this is a good thing, because they could have taken over this story, or a bad thing].
I do wish that the book had a different title, because the title derives from comments made by Marcus that seemed like purple prose. While the writing is good (as always), I felt that hte book needed a little editing (two "vague smiles" from David within three pages was a bit too much). These may seem like petty things, but Madeline's titles have been so good for her first four books.
Finally, I wish to add that the label given to the heroine did not make sense given what was revealed about herself and the King, nor did her admission to Marcus make sense either. This part of the story could have done with a little more fleshing out.
I would have liked to rated this book higher, but while it was a good review, it lacked that emotional intensity, that tension, that complexity that the best books of hers have had for me. I am measuring Hunter against Hunter. In any other author, I would rate this book at least half a grade higher. Even among the better romances I have read this year, this is not a keeper for me, nor is it a book that demands an immediate re-read. Either quality would have merited a higher grade.
Grade = B
Rating = 3.9 (B)
Breakdown = romance element 3.8 (B); characterization 3.6 (B-); plot development 3.9 (B); writing 4.3 (B+)
This book, had it been written by any other author would have been an excellent read. However, having been written by this outstanding, virtually incomparable author it is merely good. In her previous books she seamlessly blended rich history with sensual, heart-stopping romance. With this book the history is sparse and not quite as interesting to read. Also the whole part about Nesta and the King is ambiguous at best and there really wasn't a happy resolution to that. I think the biggest problem I had with this book was the heroine Nesta and her treatment of Marcus. I thought she came across as a shrew and her refusal to accept what was between them lasted almost to the last page which I found really annoying. This was purely personal taste though and wasn't taken into account when I rated this book.
In short I recommend this book to both fans of Hunter and to those who are new to her. Although to new readers I would strongly suggest to start with her earlier works which are simply brilliant. Recommended :)
The main couple consists of an English Lord and the daughter of a former Welsh leader. Marcus is in the service of King Edward, holding lands in the conquered territory of Wales. Nesta is a Welsh loyalist. The story takes place during one of the Welsh rebellions against England. This could have been a great tale. Unfortunately I couldn't really love either character. Marcus was weak and gullible, constantly risking being destroyed by Edward just to keep Nesta with him. This would have been romantic if Nesta had been worth the risk. Nothing about her was likable. She ruthlessly risked her own neck and Marcus's by committing numerous acts of treason to help the Welsh rebellion. He ran in circles trying to keep her from getting herself hung, meanwhile losing the respect of his peers and chancing forfeiture of his family's home, land, and status. When he would open his heart to her, she would lose her temper and tell him there was no love between them. The only time Marcus and Nesta were not fighting was when they were "making love". (But don't dare call it "love" when speaking to Nesta... she insists it is only "lust".) The whole book repeated these themes over and over. I could not see why Marcus would think she was worth the gamble, which made me see him as a total sap.
Irritating characters , repetition, and no true romance... not a great combo. Hunter's use of realistic events made it worth finishing the book, although many pages were skimmed through.
Nesta knows that Marcus is trouble as she finds herself quite attracted to him. She keeps reminding herself that her loyalties must be to the Welsh rebels though she is also fettered to the English King. However, as much as neither one wants to feel an attraction, Nesta nor Marcus can stop the passion turning into love that threatens their lives if they fall prey to it.
Though Genith weakens the possibility of a historical triangle romance, fans of fourteenth century tales will fully relish this vividly colorful tale of love. The story line is filled with a taste for the era especially the impact of the monarchy on everyone else. Nesta is a lively individual straddling several worlds while Marcus knows what he wants, is willing to go out and get it, but has no idea how to succeed without alienating his beloved's family and His Highness. Fans of deep textured historical romances will believe that Madeline Hunter's latest novel STEALING HEAVEN lives up to its title.