Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Chosen by the Bride Finder, a man blessed with amazing insight, Madeline Breton has come to Cornwall to meet her new husband, the enigmatic Anatole St. Leger. But her dream of happiness soon diffuses in his overpowering shadow. Anatole knows only too well the legacies that to him have been more curses than gifts. But as Madeline embarks on an odyssey both otherworldly and undeniably real, she and her husband fall hopelessly in love--until she sees a haunting vision of murder and a terrifying enemy emerges to threaten both their lives. . . .
This is one of those books that everyone tells you is so good, and it wasn't bad, and it had a lot of good parts to it, but it did not bowl me over as much as I had hoped it would. It blends magic and historical romance amidst the gothic setting of the stormy seas of Cornwall, England. Ghosts and paranormal proclivities of the hero make for a good story, but despite all these things, it didn't keep me riveted. The story itself is a good one, so I can't understand why I wasn't more crazy about it. Granted, I did like it, but I didn't love it.
Perhaps it was our hero, Anatole St. Leger. A man haunted by his family ancestors. He has telekinetic powers (not unlike something out of a Stephen King novel) and he is also a clairvoyant, capable of predicting doom and gloom. He hates this talent, he thinks of it as the family curse. There are many family traits and customs he must deal with, but the main one is he must marry a woman that "the Bride Finder" picks out for him. The Bride Finder is a kindly elderly gentleman, a distant cousin of Anatole's who has the mystical talent of finding the one true mate for each lord of the castle of St. Leger. Anatole's father refused to marry a woman picked by the Bride Finder and that marriage brought nothing but unhappiness and eventual madness and death. Anatole submits to the Bride Finder's choice, Madeline, a young pretty woman who had no idea what she's getting into. Eager to flee her less than perfect family in London, she agrees to marry Anatole sight unseen, except for a miniature portrait of him that the Bride Finder gave him. She daydreams and fantasizes of the handsome young man in the portrait until she sees the real thing - and he's a far cry from what she thought she was getting!
Anatole is big. A tall, broad shouldered man with wild dark hair and an angular chiseled face that has seen much pain and unhappiness. He comes across as Mr. Rochester-ish to me. Untamed and just as uncouth in social etiquette, he is not a man to be toyed with. His new bride, Madeline Breton finds this out eventually. Upon their first meeting (which was pretty funny, though I will not spoil it by saying what happens) neither one of them is all that thrilled with what their new mate is like. But, they go into the marriage and their wedding night is not a big success. Yes, the deed is done, but Madeline, a virgin, has a knack for telling the truth and her idea of praise is not music to Anatole's ears. She manages to insult him and his lack of romance, though she didn't really mean to, she was just being honest. Nothing really steamy in the early stages of their marriage, though Anatole slowly learns he must try and woo his wife until finally there is one very romantic and wonderful moment outdoors for them. But, alas, the moment is overshadowed by a tragedy that happens soon after.
Meanwhile, there is trouble brewing for Anatole and Madeline in regard to his obnoxious cousin, Roman, and a mysterious woman seen in a cemetary that is somehow related to the Leger's arch enemies, the Mortmains. Anatole's sad childhood is also revealed which makes him a much more complex hero than most. Shunned by his mother as a child, I felt terrible for him and it's no wonder he is so forbidding and domineering - and antisocial. He has many emotional scars that need to be healed. Slowly but surely Madeline tries to help him and figure him out, but he doesn't make it easy for her. Theirs is a rocky road to happiness with many misteps. At times, I grew tired of reading about how Anatole would ruin a moment - again - forever stomping on Madeline's spirit, to the point where he scares her half to death when he finally reveals to her his family secrets. Did he have to be so callous about it? Yet she also comes back to him, even if it might take her a hours, or days to do it. She is resilient and determined, the long and short of it is - they are meant for each other, but it takes them a while to realize it. Much of what he does he can't help doing - he's got issues. I became much more sympathetic towards him as the story progressed.
The gist of the book is will Anatole and Madeline fall in love as the Bride Finder says they will? Can they learn to live together and will she be able to accept the dark secrets of his magical family or will she run away screaming into the night? I liked this book for it's complexity in both plot and the hero, but as I said before, it wasn't a pager turner for me, I put it down often. Madeline could have been more developed, this is really Anatole's story. Despite my hesitency in giving this a higher rating, I am looking forward to reading the rest of this St. Leger series.