Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Lady At Last by Brenda Joyce ***

I'm reading these de Warenne books all out of order, and it's making me all out of sorts!! I like to keep all my characters in order and tidy and such, and somehow...

A long while back, I picked up The Promise of the Rose - in the beginning of my Romance novel journey, before I even knew about PBS or AAR or series or anything. I liked it - well, I gave it 5 stars anyway - and had no idea it was #2 in the medieval part of this series, or that there were others.

Then I happened upon a free copy of A Dangerous Love, and read it - and did the research where I discovered I had missed a lot of the series. Since one of the Reaching Challenges I'm involved in required a Pirate romance, I decided to get A Lady At Last - it's about the father and stepmother of the heroine of A Dangerous Love, which I also rated 5 stars.

After I finished Lady today, I pondered my feelings about this story. Then I read the AAR review, which gave it a D. I was on the verge of giving it 4 stars, and hesitated. That reviewer made some good points, and frankly I did find myself gnashing my teeth at both Amanda and Cliff (mostly Amanda, the immature twit) throughout the book. So, 3 stars it is.

Amanda was the daughter of a pirate. OK, he was once an officer and a gentleman, but over the years his business kinda crossed the line, and although he's a good pirate, the governor of whatever Caribbean island they are on (Jamaica?) decides to hang him as an example that he is cleaning up the seas. Amanda's mother is a lady in England, and her father has told her all these years he kidnapped her from her mother's arms. Amanda has been raised with little supervision - she is called La Sauvage by the people in town. She can sail and wield a sword and she can steal and lie and beg. She's a number of conflicting things, actually. Is she independent and can take care of herself, or is she a pitiful waif?

Cliff is the 3rd son of an earl, and he took to the seas at the tender age of 14. Although his family is loving and supportive, he prefers his solitude, his 2 illegitimate children, his home in Jamaica and the beds of any number of women to being tied down to family. And he will never wed, in spite of the de Warenne trait that all of them love Once and Forever. (I think I hinted at this in my review of A Dangerous Love, since it seems he managed to love a couple of times before Amanda - hence his son Alexi and his daughter Ariella.)

Fast forward - Amanda's father hangs - Cliff agrees to take Amanda to her mother in England - they spend 6 weeks at sea with the children, 300 sailors, a nanny and a teacher, all trying to make Amanda A Lady At Last so she can be introduced into polite society and find a husband.

Amanda is an immature twit. She's incredibly naive for someone who's spent so much time with pirates and also begging, lying and stealing to survive. She's reckless and doesn't think more than 2 seconds ahead. I found her fairly needy, unlikeable and annoying most of the time.

Cliff is incredibly attracted to her and manages to leave her only technically a virgin on the voyage. He is determined never to marry, so he can continue debauching and collecting bastard children I guess. They arrive in London where he tries to get Amanda's Mom to take her off his hands; Mom says no. He designates himself Guardian - which his family accepts while snickering loudly and often behind his back. The only two who don't realize Cliff is besotted with Amanda are Cliff and Amanda.

The usual stuff happens: the women make a list of possible suitors for Amanda, Cliff hates them all, they go to some balls, again he's always in a jealous rage... Blah Blah Blah. Amanda was wrong-headed and jumped to conclusions and... well she wasn't exactly the brightest bulb in the chandelier about everything. Eventually Cliff sees the light, and with a few more complications, we finally reach our HEA. Thank Gawd.

Truly, I almost gave this 4 stars just because I often like Brenda Joyce's prose if not the personalities she creates. There were gossipy and mean ladies, trying to ruin Amanda, the mother who could only think of herself and her own reputation, and we got to meet Cliff's family. What a bitch his sister Eleanor was...

OK - 3 stars because I did manage to finish it, and I had some moments of enjoyment reading it. Would I recommend it? Not unless you're a die-hard Joyce fan who must read everything she's written, or you feel compelled to read every single de Warenne tome out there.

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