Friday, July 23, 2010
Love has designs of its own....
To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness, and freedom -- by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.
But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines.... When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding - and now Gigi wants to be free to marry again. When Camden returns from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for her freedom, Gigi's decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled -- and one of London's most admired couples must either fall in love all over again... or let each other go forever.
This is one of the best historical romances I've read in a long time. I couldn't put it down, it was great. Such a different and daring plot. I'd heard mixed things about it, either you're in the "love it" or "hate it" camp - I'm in the "love it" camp!
The book flits back and forth during Victorian times between the 1880's and 1890's. It flashes back to the 1880's when our hero and heroine first meet and marry. You have to really pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each chapter to be prepared for whether it's a flashback or "present day." At first I didn't think I was going to like Gigi, the heroine. She's rash and selfish, used to getting her way, she acted like a spoiled brat - and she was! But she grew on me and I wound up loving her. Gigi grows up a lot over the course of the book, I loved her daring ways, she can face anything. Determined with her mother's help to marry a duke, Gigi is fabulously wealthy. But it's new wealth. Still, she comes mighty close to getting her wish until her fiancé, the duke winds up dying accidentally. Soon afterwards she meets his heir, Camden Saybrook who lives on the neighboring property to her estate. He is already promised to someone, but this minor detail is inconsequential to Gigi who still goes out of her way to ensnare him. And ensnare she does! Before long, the two have really fallen for each other, which surprises and enthralls Gigi who has never been in love before. But in an oh-so-Gigi manner, she forges a letter from his fiancée informing him that she has married someone else. Camden now thinks he is free to offer for Gigi and he instantly pops the question. He can't wait to marry and bed her. He's captivated by her. No one is like Gigi.
Wow... Gigi, how can you live with yourself? How did you expect to pull this off without his ultimately finding out? What did you expect? How low can you sink to achieve your own ends? But, of course, this is the young, spoiled, overindulged Gigi. Well, the whole thing backfires on her, Camden finds out the truth right before they marry. But, does he back out of the marriage? No! He goes through with it, just to get revenge on the little vixen who lied to him. They have a blissful wedding night, she is deflowered and ready for their Paris honeymoon and he leaves her in the dust the next day. *sigh*
Does Gigi ever fully acknowlege what a mistake she made and how wrong it was of her to lie to Camden? Not really, and that's what he found so unforgivable. He would have forgiven her if she had only come clean on their wedding night, but she didn't. The only remorse she shows is getting caught and found out, not so much in actually deceiving him. This is her flaw and cross to carry.
Ten years go by with this estrangement set up. They remain married, yet never see one another. They both develop lives of their own, Camden in New York, Gigi in London. But, Gigi wants more to life and she wants to re-marry. She files for divorce so she can marry her milquetoasty fiancé, Freddie. He's loyal and staid, tried and true, plus he loves her and is willing to brave the bad weather her divorce is certain to bring on. But, when Camden returns announcing he'll only divorce her if she gives him an heir first - all hell breaks loose.
There's a lot of controversy about this book, probably due to the way our hero, Camden treats Gigi when he returns to London solely to produce an heir. He makes it clear he will take no enjoyment in the act with her. He can barely stomach her. He's believable too. He takes her standing up and plants himself inside her, does the deed, finishes and leaves her all in three minutes flat! It happened so fast - I didn't have time to be shocked! I just had to keep reading to see what her reaction would be and if it would keep happening this way between them with each successive time! Of course it doesn't. The chemistry between the two is palpable and jumps off the pages. Camden is crazy about her, but it's the usual, he's too proud to let her know, he's secretly madly in love with her but can't admit it. Each encounter between the two becomes longer and steamier. You see, Camden has always loved her and always will. What a conundrum. Now, she wants to divorce him and he doesn't want to let her go - what should he do? I loved the first time he meets her lapdog fiancé - so civilized, yet it's clear Camden is not going to give her up, even if he doesn't articulate it out loud. But, Freddie knew what he was up against, I'm sure.
I really loved Camden. I like his kind of hero. Yes, he uses and treats Gigi abominably, but he's hurt, he wants revenge and - he still loves her! We see Camden as he was as a young man when he first falls in love with Gigi, and then with the numerous flashbacks we see how he evolves to the man he is today. Richer and much more worldly and cynical, unfortunately. I felt badly for him, but at the same time, he really didn't have to have gone to such drastic lengths for his revenge. What she did was incorrigible, but forgiveable if he really loved her. Male pride! Grr! Still, I loved his commanding take charge presence. He's big and handsome, he's become a man, yet he still has traces of that vulnerable, disillusioned young man that Gigi took advantage of ten years earlier.
One of the great parts of the story is the character development of everyone, including the delightful side characters like her mother, her neighbor, the Duke of Perrin, and Gigi's butler, among others. So many little details in the story bring humor and depth to it. It makes it stand out from others romances. I loved all the details we're given in regard to our hero and heroine. Little instances and backstories made me love and cherish them. I knew them and didn't want this story to end! For instance, I loved Gigi and her self assurance, but at the same time, she's really hiding behind a well constructed facade. Little things begin to come out about her personality that shows the reader how vulnerable she is. She has a priceless Impressionist art collection - yet she knows nothing about what's in it or the artists. It turns out she bought an entire art collection from some house sale to impress her husband, hoping that one day, if he ever returned he'd appreciate it. How pathetic. But at the same time it makes her human and endearing, she kept hoping long after she'd given up.
After Camden left her in the lurch, she went after him to Paris, begged him to forgive him - all to no avail. He wouldn't budge and it killed me to read about how she wouldn't give up at first until finally she had no choice but to go back to England defeated. We see how much she really loved him, but at the same time she had to go through hell to see just how wrong she was to lie to him. It's things like this that come out over the course of the flashbacks that deepen Gigi and Camden's characters. Again, in another instance which I found utterly poignant was their chance meeting in Amsterdam about five years into their estrangement. This could have been a chance at reconciliation, but the fates wouldn't have it. I gnashed my teeth at the idea of how Camden after realizing Gigi may still care for him from the look on her face when she saw him, tried to go back to her hotel to ask her to come back to him with a gorgeous jeweled necklace and a bouquet of wilted flowers only to find she'd checked out already - and then to find out years later she really hadn't checked out? Aargh! The pain! If only she'd known! *sob*
There are so many good scenes in the book, too many to list, but it does end happily, one of my favorite moments is the way she faces Camden in New York City, decked out in jewels (the Amsterdam necklace) in the midst of a dinner party he's giving. She enters the drawing room, wowing all the gauche New Yorkers and takes the bull by the horns - she's an original! It's her turn to take him back and she surprises him in New York like he did to her in London. The men are all drooling over her and they all know Camden's the lucky guy who she wants! It's a great moment!
Now, I haven't even mentioned the whole wonderful side story of Gigi's mother! I loved her! She has this developing storyline about how she originally wants to fix her daughter up with this middle-aged reclusive duke that lives nearby Hertfordshire. It turns out he's got quite a past reputation as a rake! Gigi's mother is still a handsome woman, around fifty, a widow and full of life. As it turns out, the duke takes a fancy to her and the tables are turned - I simply loved what happens between them! *giggles* One scene made me crack up where the duke wants to look his best and tells his valet he wants "the green one" for his waiscoat - shades of Darcy in the 1995 miniseries of P&P! I loved it!
Don't miss out on this book, don't be put off by it's unorthodox storyline. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for these sort of plotlines of couples getting back together, or long lost loves reuniting not unlike Austen's Persuasion. This is a great book and I am definitely reading everything Ms. Thomas writes! A winner and a keeper - I'm glad it's on my kindle so I can re-read again and again!