Sunday, March 13, 2011
NOTHING IS MORE INTOXICATING
Reynaud St. Aubyn has spent the last seven years in hellish captivity. Now half mad with fever he bursts into his ancestral home and demands his due. Can this wild-looking man truly be the last earl's heir, thought murdered by Indians years ago?
Beatrice Corning, the niece of the present earl, is a proper English miss. But she has a secret: No real man has ever excited her more than the handsome youth in the portrait in her uncle's home. Suddenly, that very man is here, in the flesh - and luring her into his bed.
THAN SURRENDERING TO A DEVIL.
Only Beatrice can see past Reynaud's savagery to the noble man inside. For his part, Reynaud is drawn to this lovely lady, even as he is suspicious of her loyalty to her uncle. But can Beatrice's love tame a man who will stop at nothing to regain his title-even if it means sacrificing her innocence?
First of all, let me begin by saying The Legend of the Four Soldiers Series was a captivating read. I loved it even more than the author's previous Prince Series. I had a sneaking suspicion who this last and final book would be about and deliberately did not read any kind of descriptions of it ahead of time so I would be surprised when I got to it. Overall, the writing in each of the books was superb. I seem to have a penchant for Georgian romances and Hoyt's novels are a pleasure. They're sexy, well written with complex plot lines and memorable characters. Her heroines are (usually) strong women, used to a certain type of environment. Suddenly thrown off balance and plunged into new and unfamiliar territory, they rise to the occasion and become soul mates to the men they love.
Each chapter begins with a short blurb of an ongoing fairy tale that is the constant thread through the entire series that pulls it all together. Each soldier has his own tale that parallels the main storyline. Finally, what I consider a deal breaker when it comes to historical romances, Hoyt's books are true to the period. Customs and manners were meticulously researched. The gentlemen and ladies' costumes were well described, as well as the settings, locations and descriptions of the various places, whether it was an urbane London drawing room or the frigid backwoods of an eighteenth century North American settlement.
I sped through the series, eager to get to the final book and see how it all wrapped up. Who was the traitor of Spinner's Falls? We are still on the trail to find out who betrayed the regiment that was ambushed and massacred seven years earlier near Quebec at the infamous battle. It is integral to the plot line of each book. Someone betrayed them to the French and their Indian allies - an officer within their own regiment. The Spinner's Falls massacre affected each of our heroes in their own individual way, unforgettable scars they are forced to live with for the rest of their lives.
How ironic that this final book turned out to be my least favorite! I had been dying to get to Reynaud's story - and how he evaded death. In the previous books, we are under the impression that Reynaud has died - burned at the stake by Indians after his capture at Spinner's Falls. Images of his death were gruesome and harrowing, as mentioned more than once throughout the series. Reynaud was Lord Jasper Vale's best friend from To Seduce a Sinner and the brother of Lady Emeline Gordon in To Taste Temptation. His death was so hideous, Jasper and Samuel Hartley (the hero in Temptation) wish to keep the truth from Emeline. Reynaud's horrific death is one that stays with us throughout the series. It is probably the main driving force of why Vale, Hartley and Munroe (from To Beguile a Beast) all are on the quest to find the traitor that betrayed their regiment.
As it turns out Reynaud was not burned at the stake after all. He was enslaved for seven years instead. Only now he has escaped and made it back to London, penniless and in rags, determined to regain his title and holdings that go with it as the Earl of Blanchard. Presumed dead, a distant cousin had assumed the title and moved into his townhouse with his niece, Beatrice Corning. Beatrice, a young and unattached young lady has always had a fascination with a portrait of the "dead" Reynaud. Now, all of a sudden, he shows up out of the blue, acting like a madman. I forgot to mention someone is trying to kill him. Reynaud slips in and out of a fever, imagining he is under attack by Indians again, although his attackers are really assassins in London. Beatrice is accidentally hit by a bullet in one of these attacks and Reynaud oversees her recovery and makes love to her while he's at it.
Their romance and courtship is non-existent. One minute they're strangers, the next minute they're lovers. There is almost no getting to know one another. I had a problem with this. Beatrice falls into his arms while almost unconscious and then becomes immediately engaged to him. How convenient. They both realize they love each much too soon, and it felt rushed and forced, nothing like the tantalizing slow build up of the other books.
At the same time, there is a mishmash of other plot lines going on. Reynaud must petition to regain his title in the House of Lords. His cousin, who is a politician, plans to keep the title by declaring Reynaud mad. He is involved with this higher up power hungry politician who has an agenda of his own. Can Reynaud prove his sanity and regain his title? How can Beatrice help? What happens with Beatrice's sick friend, a young man who lost his legs in the war? Can she get Reynaud to help pass a bill allotting money to veterans who were permanently wounded fighting for the king? The bill can narrowly pass if Reynaud regains his title and can vote for the bill in time. Despite the mishmash, I really admired the way it all came around with Reynaud's speech in the House of Lords to pass the bill.
Overall, as I said before, it was a great series. I enjoyed this last book, but it didn't have the same impact on me as the others. Reynaud's character needed more fleshing out, and Beatrice, who had a good heart and meant well, was a lacklustre heroine compared to the others in the series. She just did whatever she was told to do and didn't have much to her. Their relationship, albeit tempestuous, was the most unrealistic of them all. Reynaud, understandably, carried a lot of baggage due the past seven years and it left it's mark on his mind. The fact that Beatrice was willing to go along with whatever he told her to do was beyond me. Still, it was a fun read and kept my interest until the very end. All the other characters from the previous books are reunited here - just like a big reunion! If there's one thing I can say about Elizabeth Hoyt - she's a great storyteller!
One more thing - I love, love, loved this cover - my favorite of them all!
Legend of the Four Soldiers Series: 5/5