Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Dangerous Love by Brenda Joyce *****

I had been thinking Brenda Joyce was a favorite author for me and then I realized this was actually only my 3rd book by her, and I only rated the second one 3 stars... So where did I get the idea she was a favorite? Well - maybe she is after all, because I did love this story!

I got this book as one of the 8 books taken from a bag going to charity this summer on my road trip. I'm still sorry I couldn't have just taken the whole bag. But that really would have been greedy, no? Ok now to the book.

This is a historical romance, just post-Regency (1838), with a half-blood hero, Emilian St Xavier - a viscount who is half Gypsy, half English, raised by his English father from age 12 on, and a bluestocking heroine, Ariella de Warenne. Apparently the de Warennes have this thing about falling in love at first sight - maybe I should have remembered that from Promise of the Rose since he was also a de Warenne. (it's a huge series but I chose not to wait to read this one.)

Ariella is almost a spinster at 24, and she is the product of her father's SECOND love-at-first-sight relationship, with a Jewess, and raised by him and his THIRD love Amanda. (Their book is A Lady At Last.) She loves to hang out with eccentric people and attend debates and political discussions in London, and is only visiting her family somewhere north of London when she meets Emilian St Xavier. However, when they meet, he lets Ariella and her father believe he is the leader of a Gypsy camp that has just set up on their property, never letting on he is also their neighbor and a viscount.

Ah, and then Ariella falls in love at first sight with him, thinking he is Rom. She sneaks back later that night, drawn by the music and dancing, and sees him dancing. She doesn't hide very well and he sees her, and takes her into the shadows where he attempts a full ravishing seduction. But he does not seduce her from love at first sight - he does it as payback, as revenge for the English who killed his Gypsy mother 1 month earlier. The concept is brudjo, and it is described as cutting your neighbor's hay and selling it back to them, something Gypsies are fairly renowned for.

The story involves the bigotry and prejudice of the English against the Roma - Emilian's Gypsy half-sister is almost raped and then chased from an inn where she was reading palms, and she is saved by Ariella and her older half brother Alexi (product of Cliff's FIRST love at first sight - he was a very busy and very loving fellow!). Later a gypsy youth is accused of stealing a horse and the vigilante mob tries to hang him. Ariella tries to convince them to wait for her father to dole out justice, and instead they reduce the sentence to flogging, which Emilian takes for the youth. The flogger is brutal with his punishment, and Emilian almost dies from it and is nursed to health by Ariella in the de Warenne home. Emilian, however, cannot believe that Ariella or her family could ever be happy with him in their lives, in spite of what they say and their actions to the contrary.

The writing style is lush and dramatic - something you would really have to be in the mood for, because it's all but over-the-top. People don't "say", they "cry" - as in, "Wait!" she cried. Ariella pushes Emilian to love her, and she makes an awful lot of assumptions about him, about his feelings and about their future together. She pursues him relentlessly, and I felt she really needed to listen to him a little more. It's something that got very, very close to being annoying - for all her intelligence, she let her hormones take control and make decisions for her more than once. But Emilian's struggle with his 2 halves, his passionate Gypsy blood and his staid viscount upbringing, was very credible. The story was moving and emotional, and I loved it all the same.

So - not in my Author-glomming list, not on my AAR Top 100 list - but in my 8-books-from-California list, and a passionate, emotional read to boot.

5 stars.

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