Friday, August 6, 2010
THE GREATEST PASSION
Lady Isobel Hume is an expert swordswoman who knows how to choose her battles. When the king asks her to wed a French nobleman to form a political alliance, she agrees. But that's before the devilishly charming Sir Stephen Carleton captures her heart-and tempts her to betray her betrothed, her king, and her country.
IS WORTH THE GREATEST PERIL
Sir Stephen Carleton enjoys his many female admirers-until he dedicates himself to winning the lovely Isobel. So when a threat against the king leads Isobel into mortal danger, Stephen has a chance to prove that he is more than a knight of pleasure...and that love can conquer all.
I'm really falling behind in my reviews, so this is short and to the point.
I really loved Mallory's last book, Knight of Desire, and it took me a while to get around to reading this one. Pleasure didn't have the same amount of heightened drama and poignancy as her first effort, though I did appreciate the research that went into writing this medieval romance. The writing itself was great, it was seamless and flowed well, but the actual plotline was frustrating to me between the hero and heroine. They meet, there's an attraction, they give into it, but then she won't trust him. It's almost a reversal of her first book in which the hero wouldn't trust the heroine. Isobel, the heroine, was kind of a medieval tomboy, playing swords as a young teen who then gets married off to an elderly lecher. She can't forgive her father for doing this to her, having been the apple of his eye. The theme of women and their utter helplessness while at the mercy of men in the medieval ages is strong throughout the story, as it was in her first book. Despite Isobel's talent with a sword, she was still a woman that had no say in her future.
Some years go by, Isobel is a young widow, eager to inherit her dead husband's estate, having paid her dues over the years. Only now she finds out that she's going to be married off again to someone not of her choosing. She seeks help from the King (of England) who decides to marry her off to a French nobleman to try and make peace in that part of France by marrying a Frenchman to an English noblewoman. Isobel isn't crazy about the idea, but what can she do? While waiting for her betrothed to show up, she meets - and likes - Stephen Carleton who is a handsome young knight in the king's service. We've met Stephen before in Knight of Desire. He is the younger half brother of William, the hero from the last book. Stephen is now grown and quite the ladies' man. He has an eye for Isobel at once and the two of them develop "a thing" for each other - yet, she is betrothed to another - and Stephen's not a marrying kind of man.
This thing leads to another, and they can't deny their mutual attraction for each other which they can't stop. They keep bumping into each other - alone - in the oddest places. They have some clandestine up close and personal moments, yet Stephen resists bedding her, knowing it is unworthy of Isobel without marriage. Yet, ironically, she wants to bed him before she marries her French nobleman, which he does and then he becomes the noble knight and asks her to marry him instead. She won't, for she thinks he is unable to be faithful to her (knowing what a ladies man he is) and she doesn't want him to marry her strictly out of honor. She hurts him by rejecting his offer - and coincidentally her French bridegroom shows up around the same time. Due to some really lousy timing, Isobel must leave with her fiance right away to Rouen, leaving Stephen out in the rain and cold - literally. He is crushed and goes to drown his sorrows.
More drama ensues as we find out that Isobel's fiance is up to no good and she is at his mercy when she arrives at his home in Rouen. She's more like a prisoner than a soon to be bride and our suspicions about the intentions of her Frenchman are justified. Luckily, Stephen ultimately follows her in the guise of diplomacy (it turns out he's really a spy for the king and he hasn't given up completely on her) and there's the usual danger and rescue at the end which is exciting and everything works out for Isobel and Stephen. As much as the plot was well thought out and all made sense, I didn't find it compelling, although it wasn't boring either, it was just kind of ... nice. I saw the pitfalls before they came and expected the eventual outcome. Stephen was okay, but didn't have the charisma to hold my interest. His rakish charms and good looks were worthy of a romantic hero, but I couldn't shake the idea that he was William's younger brother, and to me, William was the better man and Stephen was a bad boy. I just wasn't in the mood to read about a bad boy medieval rake who changes his ways over a tomboyish widow who turns him down when he asks her to marry him. It just sounds like he was hung up on something he couldn't have and she should have trusted him more and given him the benefit of the doubt - easier said than done.
There were some very good scenes in the book, yet, ironically, they were not scenes between Isobel and Stephen. My favorite moment was when Isobel and Stephen's older brother William are ambushed together and she must protect him from further violence. William is hurt and Isobel almost single handedly saves him. I found this part gripping and I suspect it's because I liked William so much in the last book, I was anxious for him, I still love his character. I was glad to see his wife Catherine made a few appearances in this book as well, and she was able to talk some sense into Isobel about Stephen in the end.
All in all, it was a pretty good medieval but I had trouble with the actual love story between the hero and heroine. I wasn't overly sympathetic with either one. Isobel should have agreed to marry Stephen early on, taking a leap of faith, particularly when she had the King's blessing to do so and Stephen should have shown some more good sense in flirting with her in the first place. But then we wouldn't have had the angst and worry and hand wringing that goes on in most romances. I think I'm getting a little jaded of these type of plotlines and need a break for a while.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher after winning it in a giveaway..