Saturday, October 2, 2010
His blue eyes beguiled. His muscular form could have satisfied any fantasy. He had a delicious foreign accent-and to top it off, he was royalty! What woman would dare refuse the most sought-after lover in Europe? Miss Twice-a-Jilt Penelope Trask, that's who. And, unfortunately for Damien, marrying Penelope was the only way to inherit his kingdom. Good thing this enchantingly infuriating woman didn't seem completely immune to his many charms. The passionate way she returned his kisses told Damien he wasn't the only one head over heels. But wooing was difficult amid assassination attempts, wild magic, and desire so strong it threatened to overwhelm him every time they touched. Why had no one mentioned the road to happily-ever-after was so difficult?
I really enjoyed this Regency romance with a magical bent to it! Having fallen in love with Ms. Ashley's most recent Mackenzie series, which I adore, I thought I'd check out her back list, starting with her Nvengaria Trilogy of which this is the first.
Damien is Crown Prince of a mythical land called Nvengaria, located somewhere in the mountains of Eastern Europe, a tiny kingdom of which almost no one has ever heard of. Somewhere in the Moldavian region, a tiny principality, not unlike Monaco, it is full of legends and wild cossacks! The men there are handsome blue eyed devils, their woman dark haired beauties, full of passion and daring. This was a steamy romance that starts off with a bang - Damien in bed with a Russian princess or countess or something like that. Normally, I don't like to read about the hero having sex with someone else in the first few pages of a book - but it worked here and there's quite a surprise at the end of the scene that hints at the kind of lover Damien is and what's in store for the future!
In order to remain Crown Prince and avoid being murdered by one of his archenemies in Nvengaria, he must marry the descendant of the princesses of Nvengaria. She just happens to be the unknown Penelope Trask who lives quietly on a small estate in England. The daughter of a nobleman, she has led a sheltered life (somewhat) and is considered "on the shelf." She has no idea what she's in for or who she really is. There's a magic spell that enfolds Penelope and Damien making them irresistible to each other, neither one of them can keep their hands off each other as soon as they meet. Staid and serious Penelope has trouble resisting this dashing and swoonworthy stranger who sweeps her off her feet. Damien, who falls for her instantly (due to the spell) is too good to be true. The practical side of Penelope is doubtful and wary of this foreign prince that insists she must marry him, despite the magical attraction - what is she to do?
Not only is Penelope wary - she's in for some surprises - these Nvengarians are something else! Damien is a connoisseur when it comes to love games and he fully intends to introduce Penelope to them all! An eager and fast learner, she appears to be up for anything - who'd have thought some nobody from a little known village in England would become so worldly overnight? It must be that Nvengarian blood in her she didn't know about. Pretty racy!
As much as I liked it, the story was far fetched most of the time. You'll like it if you remember it's a fantasy set within Regency England. Don't be a stickler for reality or in depth characterizations, basically, it's a fun lusty romance. I enjoyed the unusual plot line, Damien was quite fetching in that tall, dark and sexy way of his. I really loved the fairy tale idea that he completely turns Penelope's world upside down and won't take no for an answer, whisking her off to his mountainous land of lore and legend. He's pretty irresistible. I did worry that he fell for her too quickly, all due to the magical spell, no real courtship to win her trust and love. Once it wears off - where would she be in his regard? His promiscuous history with other women posed a problem - can Penelope live with that? It was hard to believe that wouldn't be a problem, and she did jump to conclusions about him and wondered about this point too. But by the end of the book, we are reassured that it's more than just magic that binds them to each other although I felt her characterizations were not as complex and detailed as in her Mackenzie books. As I said before, it was just a fun story, nothing overly deep, though Damien and Penelope do have to fend off various murder attempts which added drama!
I enjoyed the many side characters throughout the story, including the villainous Grand Duke Maximilien who's not as bad as he seems. Penelope's bubble headed mother and her noble fiance,who is also her best friend's father, had a nice little side story too. Damien's Scottish highlander friend, Egan MacDonald, perked my interest as well. There are a lot of little touches and characterizations throughout the book that give it color, mostly of Damien's many servants and retainers who help him win Penelope's trust and escort them back to safety in Nvengaria.
There are some surprises and suspense towards the end, as well as some humor added throughout the story. Most of all, there is the sexual tension between Penelope and Damien, leading up to their wedding night. It all made this a fun read. I'm eager to read the rest of the series now. The stage is set for Maximilien and Egan, who star in the next two books which center around how they find love, although I find it hard to believe Meagan, Penelope's man-crazy best friend is meant for Maximilien! Should be interesting!
P.S. I bought this on Kindle only to find out as soon as I bought it - it was offered for FREE the next day! Grr! At least I liked it!