This is my third Madeline Hunter after the Sinner and the Seducer (both sublime).
Once again Ms Hunter has managed to enthrall me. I give this four stars compared to five for the other two but this doesn't mean much as they're all brilliant! I love the connections between the books which give a little more insight into the characters as the stories unfold. This particular story manages to satisfy as do the others. Vergil's character initially failed to stir my interest but this was probably due to my curiosity about the characters from the other two books and my need to catch glimpses of their lives. As the story unfolds however I found Vergil growing on me as did Bianca. I will now no doubt be looking to the following books for their story now.
A very satisfying read yet again from a great author and one that makes me eager to get on to the next book, the Charmer.
This series is excellent if you fancy reading solid romantic stories with enough action, intrigue and brilliantly portrayed human interactions. Just great!
The last 40% of the book grows increasingly slipshod - Americanisms and bad grammar all over the place. The word 'snuck' snuck in so much it became positively irritating. The storyline isn't bad and I liked the characters - although a hero called Vergil simply reminded me of Thunderbirds! - but the careless writing makes me wonder whether to bother with Madeline Hunter again.
What a joy to discover someone new to read, i've just finished 'The Saint' at 01.00 in the morning and ordered the rest of the series. Vergil Duclairc is a relatively new viscount, searching to discover who drove his brother, the previous viscount, to suicide, at the same time holding the rest of his family back from financial and social ruin. The added complication of Bianca Kenwood, an independant American heiress and his ward, is added to the mix. Initially Vergil plans to have his rakish younger brother marry Bianca so keeping something of her inheritance - not specifically her money - in the family. Bianca simply wants to escape her guardianship so she can continue her training to be an opera star. She is unimpressed and undaunted by English Society and its rules and by Vergil's autocratic manner. However, of course, unexpected passion, secrets, blackmail and attempted murder draw Bianca and Vergil together. Now that sounds rather melodramatic but there is remarkably little hysteria or high drama in this writting. Bianca's attempts to escape her guardianship are reasonably sensible, she employs her own people and tries to arm herself with appropriate information, she is not only spirited defiance and dramatic gestures as with some heroine's. Vergil is by turns, understanding, loving, vulnerable and can even apologise for his mistakes without having his nose rubbed in it. There is subtle but real feeling for the wasted death of the brother, there is no improbable denial of Vergils feeling for Bianca or vise versa. Bianca's determination to persue her singing career despite this love could have come across as rather spoilt child but instead was understandable as a painful but informed decision where neither initial choice was perfect and the resolution, though as swift as most, lacks the jarring improbability of some others where big emotional hurts are discussed, forgiven and forgotten in 3 lines! My only slight critisism is that in avoiding high melodrama the pace of the novel is rather level which means that while i read the book in one sitting, I was not turning the pages with thrilled avidity, however i was absorbing with quiet delight.
We were first introduced to a much younger Vergil Duclairc in the first book of this series - The Seducer: A Novel (Get Connected Romances)- as a second son of the Duclairc family, before he ascended to the head of his family as Viscount Laclere. Now that he has his own story, it's apparent the author intends his portrayal to be that of the "Saint" among the group which binds this series together - the dueling club to which they all belong.
However, none of these men are saints, all are seducers and these books are older regencies where the less saintly the heroes, apparently the better they sold. Nonetheless, Vergil - or "Laclere" as he is now known, is somewhat stiff and set on propriety. Well, the test to his soul has arrived in England, fresh from the shores of America in the person of his ward, Miss Bianca Kenwood, who neither knows nor gives a rip about good Old England's social class rules nor the proprieties. She's an heiress and she has one single, solitary purpose - that of becoming an opera singer. Further, she's gifted, she's determined and she's not above pushing, rebelling, or going against what is considered proper in order to fulfill her life's dream.
Since the Duclairc family is in need of money to fill the family coffers left depleted by their previous heads of family, Vergil has Bianca in mind for his rake of a brother, Dante of The Sinner (Get Connected Romances). Yes, Dante's known for bedding anyone who will have him and yet, there's a sweetness that stands out about Dante that measures up to his looks. I honestly found Dante's wooing of Bianca funny in that she was probably the one and only woman who was ever able to resist him.
Of course, this is Vergil's and Bianca's story all the way and the guardian/ward love stories are among my favorites. The more staid and stodgy the guardian and the more hoydenish and rebellious the ward makes the story all the more appealing for me. This book had some of those elements, except Vergil was not portrayed as being staid and stodgy enough - he was, however, from the first time his path crossed with Bianca in love/lust or whatever. He simply was plainly attracted beyond measure. Bianca's gift for singing was true and pure and this part I loved. How in the world will they get their issues resolved? Well, it helps when we learn that Vergil has another part to his persona which is revealed later in the book. In the end, we get a sweet story of love along with the ever present intrigue that is part and parcel of the dueling club.
Madeline Hunter is a bright star in the historical romance heaven. She is a superb writer with a clear understanding of the strength of understating emotions to put across the force in them. The cold aristocratic façade of Vergil hides many layers and passions. He made duty the altar at which he serves to protect his family. He firmly draws his ward Bianca into this circle of protection, so be it if it does not suit her purpose. Bianca's free and passionate spirit breaks open the locks to the various layers of Vergil. Through the maze of threats against the Duclairc family, as well as Bianca's firm purpose in life of establishing herself in an operatic career, they find a deep an everlasting love. The tale is tensely and colourfully woven and keeps the reader absorbed. However, Bianca's continuing vacillation in the choice between her love for Vergil and pursuing the dream of an operatic career eventually smacks of self-indulgence to the detriment of Vergil. Self-indulgence not so much in the difficulty of the choice, but in her obliviousness to the impossibility of Vergil's situation. It falls solely to him to find a solution to the impasse. Accordingly Bianca's seemingly perpetual vacillation is perceived as a brittle note echoing through what should have been a satisfying end to the novel. Having said that, it is still a thoroughly gripping read.