on 13 June 2002
This is the first novel by Karen Hawkins that I have read.
Headstrong Sara Carrington is a lot of fun; I only wish that Hawkins could have woven a more interesting world around her. The plot is basic - she must find herself an accomodating, docile husband who will allow her complete freedom, before her over-protective brothers find her a strict husband to control her. Admittedly, this is a Regency-set novel, and what else did well-to-do young ladies do back then but look for husbands? As a twenty-first century reader, however, I wanted something more, although I must confess that her frequently disasterous attempts to make a match made me smile.
Another problem was the distinct feeling I had that this was a rapidly written book squashed between two more substantial novels. There is obviously a previous novel about the hero's cousin and his wife, and there appears to be an attraction blossoming between Sara's favourite brother and her best friend. I found this emerging relationship quite intriguing - I'd like to know more about them. A clever plot device by the author!
A quick note about the hero. Well, he was okay. Devastatingly handsome, passionate, red-blooded etc, although I never felt like I could fall for him personally, which is possibly the book's biggest disappointment. He was a fairly well-rounded character, though, with an interesting and painful history, and, rather bizarrely, suffered badly from headaches. They didn't seem to put him off hotly pursuing Sara, though, or making love to her, either! The sex between them was fairly explicit, yet tastefully described.
I don't, of course, read romantic novels for brain-food, but don't expect intellectual fulfilment on *any* level from this book - many fundamental period details are missing and not even the dialogue is particularly reminiscent of the Regency. The only sub-plots are other romances. The lower classes are invisible, the war with France never happened, and as long as all you expect on the next page is yet another glittering social gathering, or a heady clash of testosterone and oestrogen, the pace moves along quite nicely.
Two-and-a-half stars - two of them just for Sara.
on 8 September 2003
First, this book does not have an appealing heroine. Sara is a self-centered and obnoxious woman, whose unfortunate marriage to her ex-husband who turned out to be much lesser than she had expected of him, does not excuse her from her personality. She has no redemptive qualities to speak of--she is neither kind, nore generous, nor is she witty or loyal to her only friend Anna. The book only highlights her daring escapades to find a husband before her brothers intervene in her life, which I suppose, is meant to emphasise her independence and courage made all the more obvious by its contrasting setting in Victorian times. It does not work. All I felt, was that Sara is silly and foolhardy, leaping into what she thinks are adventures--to live her life as fully as she can before her youth fades away--only because she was too silly to think about anything else but her enjoyment and herself.
Having read The Abduction of Julia, I was looking forward to read Nicholas Montrose's story. But he turns out to be completely different from the portrait of him in the previous book. Whether or not this is a deliberate writing ploy to emphasise the misunderstood aspect of Montrose's life, this certainly does not produce the effect that one is reading a book about Montrose's redemption. I felt that I was reading a completely new story about a completely new 'hero'.
The climax was long awaited for but never arrives. Montrose changes his mind about keeping Sara or letting her leave, because he is worried that he will go mad with his migraines. The conclusion of the book, to deal with this paranoia of Montrose, was that he should exercise more. Voila! Having lived for something like 30 years, Montrose had never felt that exercise might be the solution, never tried anything to help but whisky. Hmmm.... doesn't it make you wonder a little at our hero's intelligence, capability and determination to overcome his physical handicap? How about those qualities of courage, loyalty, perseverance? None to speak of really. All that the book tells us about Nicholas is that he has a severe handache problem but he is really gorgeous. Okay.... how's that for a really clever and romantic book? And to combine this with his brilliant investments and financial astuteness, his planning for his future.... nothing fits with the image of the previous book, and certainly does not fit with his character as portrayed even in this current one.