Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Written on Your Skin by Meredith Duran

Book Description:
Beauty, charm, wealthy admirers: Mina Masters enjoys every luxury but freedom. To save herself from an unwanted marriage, she turns her wiles on a darkly handsome stranger. But Mina's would-be hero is playing his own deceptive game. A British spy, Phin Granville has no interest in emotional entanglements - until the night Mina saves his life by gambling her own. — Four years later, Phin is finally freed by his new title from the bloody game of spycraft. But memories of the girl who saved him won't let Phin go. When he learns that Mina needs his aid, honor forces him back into the world of his nightmares.

Phin is a man intent on control. Mina is fiercely devoted to her independence. As they match wits, their practiced masks begin to slip, kindling an attraction more dangerous than any treasonous conspiracy. For in two lives built on lies, love can prove the darkest secret of all... 

Follow up to Duran's highly acclaimed, Bound By Your Touch, I was lukewarm about this Victorian romance of a young woman, Mina Masters who we first meet in Hong Kong.  She is not what she seems.  Outwardly she comes across as a bubble-headed debutante who lives with her mother and stepfather.   A party is given in her honor.  But, as we get closer to Mina, we realize all is not well.  She detests her stepfather who has been psychologically torturing her mother for years.  Mina would like nothing more than to stop him and run away with her mother - but how?

Lo and behold, the man she thinks is nothing more than a would be suitor, an American businessman in trade, turns out to be a spy who is trying to expose her stepfather of his traitorous deeds.  Who is this spy?  He is the oh so handsome and complex, Phin Granville.  But, it looks like Granville has been poisoned and collapses in Mina's arms while dancing.  She takes it upon herself to rescue him, realizing almost immediately what the real situation is (she's extremely intelligent beneath that Barbie doll facade and knows her way around poisons and antidotes for some reason.)  She is more than happy to help the man who is working on exposing her stepfather while in Hong Kong - it's her ticket to freedom.   She helps him escape - barely. 

Four years later, they meet again, only now they are in England.  Phin is out of the spy business now and just wants to live a normal life.  He's come into his family title, he's rich and wants to marry and sire children.  Is that too much to ask for?  Yet, "just when he thought he was out... they pull him back in."  His old spy associates have, in a sense, imprisoned Mina because she is the key to finding her ruthless stepfather who has escaped from jail and kidnapped her mother!  The only one who seems to be able to help is Phin - because Mina has requested only him to assist her.  He owes her a favor and she's cashing in.  But, then she escapes from her gilded cage before he sees her again.  She's on the loose and it's up to Phin to find her (which he does) and so begins this complicated and thoughtful relationship that develops between them while they travel together across England in search of her mother.  Evading bad guys, and foiling Phin's former spy master boss, they somehow manage to fall in love - but you'd never know it.

The scenario is interesting, but it was bogged down with much too much talk, talk, talk.  The verbal sparring that went on between the hero and heroine, only succeeded in boring me to tears and I lost interest mid-way.  There was this constant game being played, neither one wanted to admit a fondness or attraction for the other - even though it was sitting like a two ton gorilla between the two of them.  I found it a bit dreary and not very compelling, when it should have been.  I didn't find much chemistry between then (maybe due to all the talk) and frankly, I didn't really like Mina very much, which is a killer for me.  If I don't connect with the heroine then it's pretty certain I'm not going to get into the book.  Still, I persevered, for I like this author, and she was kind enough to sign this book and send it to me, via a friend, who was at a book signing fair last Fall, here in NJ, that I couldn't make it to.   

The plotline certainly sounded like it should have been better, but I longed for less analysis and more romance!  Still, the writing itself was right on, the period, language, descriptions and locales were all well done, but by the time these two finally get it on, I was so fed up with their endless bickering - I'd given up on them already and didn't find much satisfaction by the end. I was just glad it was over and I could move on.  Perhaps this will be more of your cup of tea than it was for me.  In any case, I do intend to read more of her books, for her first book, Duke of Shadows is one of my very favorites - so I know Ms. Duran has it in her to tickle my fancy! :)


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