Sunday, February 28, 2010
Under the dark, languorous eyes of Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore, Whitney Stone grew from a saucy hoyden into a ravishingly sensual woman. Fresh from her triumphs in Paris society, she returned to England to win the heart of Paul, her childhood love...only to be bargained away by her bankrupt father to the handsome, arrogant Duke. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot - will not - relinquish her dream of perfect love.
OMG, this was such a good book, I couldn't put it down! I read it in one day - all seven hundred pages of it! Luckily, I've been sick in bed for the past four days and was able to read it uninterrupted.
First of all, let me say up front that there are:
It would be impossible for me to review this book without revealing what happens in the plotline, so keep that in mind.
On with the review:
This was Judith McNaught's first book which she wrote in the mid 1980's, the days when a hero raped the heroine and nobody thought twice about it. Oh how romances have evolved! Nowadays, that would be so un-PC, but back then it was done, so keep that in mind when reading Whitney, My Love and try to keep an open mind and be forgiving if you can. I was able to look at the story as a whole, although I can totally understand why some people wouldn't be able to read or stomach this novel because of the brutality depicted in the hero. It irked me as well and prevented me from giving it a 5 star rating, but it didn't ruin the book for me. If anything it made it more compelling and lifted it up from being just another funny regency romance to a darker, richer love story about two people who make terrible mistakes in their lives. The hero is an over the top alpha male who reacts irrationally before thinking, and the heroine, albeit lively and endearing, makes some costly errors in judgment.
Whitney Stone is an endearing plucky heroine. An unruly teenager with a crush on her neighbor Paul, she is sent off to France to live with her aunt and uncle. She is schooled in the ways of how to be a proper young lady and makes her debut in Paris. She is a huge hit! Now refined and beautiful she is eager to return to England and get her old love to fall in love and marry her. She's never given up her crush on Paul and is determined to get him and show up everyone who scorned her in the neighborhood - country bumpkins who have nothing better to do than gossip and criticize her! Little does she know that at a masquerade in Paris, she has caught the eye of the tall, dark and handsome Duke of Westmoreland. She has bewitched him, though she has no idea who he is, since he was masked while they danced once together. He, being the sexy uber alpha male that he is, has decided he will marry her, and whatever the Duke of Westmoreland wants, the Duke of Westmoreland gets!
Extrememly rich and powerful, Westmoreland has her background investigatesd and finds out that her father is up to his eyeballs in debt and makes him an offer he can't refuse. They make a deal that Whitney will marry the Duke, all unbeknownst to Whitney who has other plans. The Duke rents a place near her country home so he can court her without the notoriety of his ducal fame and fortune - and rakish reputation with the ladies. Posing as Clayton Westland, he wants to woo her in his own way. They have an unexpected meeting in the the woods soon after she arrives back in England and she hates him almost instantly. She thinks he is rude and arrogant and wants no part of him - she wants Paul! (Shades of Rhett and Scarlett as well as some Darcy and Elizabeth - I loved it!)
Clayton sets out to win her, but it's no easy task, Whitney can't stand the sight of him, even though they're always thrown together somehow. Plus, she's fixated on the vain and lacklustre Paul! Much of what happens between Whitney and Clayton seems to be in extremes. Whitney is a passionate, headstrong girl, much of what happens to her is due to her rash tendencies. Clayton is a take control man, if he wants something he gets it, come hell or high water, he takes no prisoners and shows no mercy. The two of them together are a combustible combination which can be either great or disastrous. To make a long story short, when Whitney finds out about the betrothal she is furious and instantly rebels against the idea, even though the duke is starting to grow on her. Ignoring the fact that her father will be beholden to Clayton for 100,000 pounds, she refuses to marry the duke, she is still bent on marrying Paul who has now finally offered for her. But, when Paul finds out that Whitney has no money, he begs off and Whitney finally comes to terms with marrying Clayton. Finally!
But, just when things are looking rosy for this couple and they're falling in love, the story takes a dark turn. Clayton believes some malicious gossip that a jealous enemy of Whitney's casually tells him (someone should have shot that girl after what she said!) and instead of being rational and thinking it through Clayton grabs Whitney at a London party and kidnaps her and takes her to his estate outside London. He believes that she has been lying to him all along and that she is a huge flirt and has been sleeping around with other men. Whitney has no idea what he's so mad about and is under the wrong impression that he's angry at her about Paul, but he won't let her talk or ask questions. He won't even come right out and tell her why he's angry. He's just so enraged that all he can do is act on it! He verbally abuses her and accuses her of all sorts of atrocious things. It's terrible to read this part of the book and emotionally upsetting to see him go so overboard and overreact - it's horrible! Poor Whitney is telling him she loves him and instead he winds up taking her to his bed and virtually raping her! It's just horrible what he does, but as soon as he realizes she had been a virgin, he immediately knows the huge mistake he made and he hates himself for it and she cries in his arms. But, the damage has been done and it's devastating.
She hates him at first, but as time passes she realizes she loves him and eventually they find their way back to each other, but it's a bumpy road, and even then after their marriage, their troubles are still not over. Once again, he jumps to conclusions when he sees an old note she wrote that she never sent to him. He overreacts and treats her horribly, accusing her again of being unfaithful and a lying bitch. He really has issues! This time once they get back together she makes him promise that he'll never behave this way again with her and that he won't accuse her of being something until he's given her a chance to explain herself. He always goes off half cocked and crazy without thinking first! Plus, he'd often manhandle her, grabbing her arms too tightly, etc. It was great storytelling, although disturbing to read at times. The author does her best to show both sides of where Clayton is coming from and why he does what he does, and he is indeed remorseful when he realizes the grave mistakes he has made. He is often much harder on himself than Whitney is, who I think forgave him much too easily. But, she's young and in love with him and she knew he was acting out of love for her, yet I'd be very wary of him if I were her in the future. But of course, that's if this were real life, and this is a romance novel after all!
I'm leaving a lot out since I don't want to reveal every plot detail, but this was a roller coaster ride of a book. The side characters were well developed and interesting as well as the settings and descriptions which I loved: the jewels, the dresses, the furnishings - very well done!
This is a lengthy book and it had it's ups and down, I often laughed and giggled in the first half, and then the story suprised me when it took on it's dark tone, angst took over and I had to read on to see what would happen next, searching for that light at the end of the tunnel. I was exhausted by the end but it was so worthwhile and satisfying!
One niggling thing, I was a little bit annoyed with the enhanced ending in my version of the book which was all about Clayton's brother Stephen who helped in getting Whitney and Clayton back together. I wish I had read the un-enhanced version so that I could have just savored Whitney and Clayton's story and happily ever after ending without all the business about Stephen and the set up for his sequel. I feel like it detracted from the main story and what happens with Whitney and Clayton when she has her baby.
I highly recommend this regency, but I give it a 4.5/5 instead of a 5 because of the brutality depicted in the story by the hero.