Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Slightest Provocation by Pam Rosenthal

Book Description:
As children of feuding Derbyshire landowners, Mary Penley and Kit Stansell eloped against their families' wishes. But neither their ardor nor their marriage could survive their own restless natures. — Nine years later, Kit is a rising star in the military while Mary has made her way in a raffish, intellectual society of poets and reformers. A chance meeting re-ignites their passion, but still they have very different values. Yet when Kit uncovers a political conspiracy that threatens all of England, they agree to put their differences aside. Amid danger and disillusionment, Kit and Mary rediscover the bonds that are stronger than time, the selves who have never really parted-and the love that is their destiny. 

Is it possible to rekindle a relationship that took place years ago?  Despite different backgrounds and upbringings?  Is sexual chemistry enough?  Is it possible to love someone again who betrayed you over and over?  Are second chances believable - or is it just something conjured up in fairy tales?  Is it possible for someone to "grow up?"  What is true love?  What constitutes a soul mate? Is it possible to loathe someone as much as you love them?  Is older and wiser - a good thing?

Pam Rosenthal's The Slightest Provocation asks all these questions.  Kit and Mary married as young lovers, eloping against their parent's wishes.  She, springing from a wealthy family (in trade - horrors!) and Kit, coming from a well to do aristocratic background.  Never mind, that his father, the 7th Earl of so and so really isn't his father.  His mother, the dutiful wife of the Earl, produced the obligatory heir and a spare, and was then free to take a lover, or two, or three over the years - Kit being the result of one of her more lasting liaisons.  No love lost, since it turns out the Earl was more interested in young men than women anyway.

So, Kit and Mary run off, they have a tempestuous relationship, young marrieds and all that jazz, yet, as expected, they are young and stupid.  Kit winds up experimenting with courtesans and Mary turns to his best friend in retaliation.  Uggh.  They separate, end of relationship.  Yet, to preserve their respectability, they remain married, but go their separate ways - for ten years!  Mary is now ready to remarry.  She's had a few lovers over the years - discreetly, as warrants her station in society, and Kit had gone abroad, doing his best in the Napoleonic Wars. Both have grown up quite a bit and, as chance would have it, they come across one another one night at an inn in France while waiting for a packet to take them across the English Channel.  Whatever would we do without convenient cozy inns that provide clean rooms and good food?

Hmmm... did I mention sexual chemistry?

One thing leads to another... it's too irresistible - the slightest provocation throws them together in a room upstairs and well... you can imagine what happens.  Yet, all is not rosy and gay afterwards.  They are married after all, and they did go their separate ways for a reason.  Although in bed, they may be perfectly compatible, outside the bedchamber is another story. 

Yet, this is just the beginning of the story.  Fate throws them together again and while Mary is visiting her widowed sister in the village where they grew up - the same village that Kit is from, by the way, she and Kit decide to embark upon an affair!  A married couple, openly estranged with one another, headed for the divorce courts - having a secret affair with one another?  How scandalous!  Clandestinely, they meet - often - and carry on.  Where will this lead?  Much is discussed between them, and there is a mystery to solve as well about who is stirring up trouble in the country, fomenting rebellion.  Can Kit accept the fact that his wife is an intelligent, modern (by early 19th century standards) woman with a mind? That she may even have some pertinent and logical opinions?  She may even be cable of actually talking about politics and discuss what she considers is fair and right in the world!   On the other hand, can Mary accept the fact that her husband has grown up and is no longer the Peter Pan she married?  He is now a gentleman that is pursuing a career with the Home Office and is trying to prevent a rebellion amidst the common folk of Derbyshire.  May find that he just might not be the flibbertyjibbet twenty-one year old she married.

They have their differences, yet the common denominator is they cannot live without one another. Over the course of a few weeks they get to know one another again and realize - it's not all bad!  Is there hope for this couple?  Can they overcome the past and renew their marriage vows and live happily ever after?  Can they respect one and another and treat each other as equals - as soul mates?  As best friends - as well as lovers?

Although, I found this plot line intriguing, (it's one of my favorite kinds, Sherry Thomas is aces at this type of romance), I found this book to be just so-so. Often it came across as somewhat scattered and dull. I had high hopes when I read the description of the story, but it faltered here and there.  Still, it wasn't bad, but I think with the proper editing, it could have been a lot better.  It started out well, but somewhere in the middle and second half, it got bogged down with the possible rebellion brewing and the totally unnecessary sideline of her niece running off with the local aristocratic boy.  The sex scenes were okay but I kept hoping for something more emotional and passionate.  Kit and Mary's relationship needed more oomph, it was lacklustre and I felt we were too at "arms length" to appreciate what was happening to them.   Read it and see for yourself.  Still, I will definitely read more by her, I haven't given up on this author, for I think she has a lot of potential and her plot lines are intriguing to me - I have high hopes!



Svea ~Muse in the Fog said...

Thanks for this review! I had forgotten I have this on my shelf, lol. I hope her next book is completely brilliant for you :)

Marie-Thérèse said...

I read, or rather, attempted to read, this book a couple of years ago. I never was able to actually finish it as I really couldn't keep my eyes propped open long enough to get to the end.

Like you, I thought the plot sounded intriguing and I'd read some of Pam Rosenthal's blog posts and found them witty and intelligent, but the novel proved to be painfully dull. The prose was laboured, the subplots were superfluous and uninteresting, and I never ended up caring in the least for either Mary or Kit (not because I found them "unlikeable" or unsympathetic but because both were just so bloody tiresome!)

I've read a couple of Rosenthal's erotic books (written under another name) and found them slightly less dull but not ultimately any more engaging. I've decided she's just a writer who doesn't work for me.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Svea - thanks for stopping by! Yes, I'm hoping the next book I read of hers is better.

M-T - I have high hopes for one of her other books that one the RITA that year for best historical romance, The Edge of Impropriety. Did you read that one?

Marie-Thérèse said...

Sorry for the delay in response, Julie! Holiday festivities interfered with my blog reading ;-)

no, I haven't read 'The Edge of Impropriety'. I remember reading a lot of reviews of the book and the excerpts included in some led me to believe I wouldn't like it any more than I have her other work. I'm curious to see what you think of it, though!

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