Sunday, September 14, 2008

Passion by Lisa Valdez *****


I mean, Wow.

OK - I read this because it's an AAR Top 100 and I have this QUEST to read them all. Or most of them. I figure I can't really know what is popular and good in romance if I haven't read "the classics" - that is, the ones people like the best.

I had read some things about Passion, including a lot of commentary about the delay of over a year now in the publication of book 2 in the series, Patience. It's clear that this author must be having some loss of confidence or mojo or muse if she can't finish or publish the second book. The speculation is that it's related to the backlash from readers, although mostly I've read positive things about the book.

First off, this book dances on the edge of erotica - the protagonists meet and immediately sneak behind a screen in a crowded exhibition to have sex which the author describes very graphically. They do this day after day, without knowing any more than each other's first names, and even those only by the 2nd or 3rd time. In public, mind you. With the offending words that so many romance readers widen their eyes at, like the F word and the C word and the Q word and.... ok, you get the jist of it. And he's a rather demanding and dominant fellow too, with an insatiable appetite and a sizeable appendage, which we learn a lot about. Graphically.

So it's pretty SHOCKING and I guess some readers were taken aback, and some even aghast. So - hey, if you don't like it, don't read it, ok? You'd know by page 10 it wasn't for you!

As their attraction with each other deepens, they begin to share more details with each other. Passion is the heroine's name - her father is a vicar, and she was named for Passion Sunday. Her sisters' names are Primrose and Patience. She's a widow who values duty and honor and family, and she plans to live the rest of her life solitary because her marriage was apparently pretty loveless. Since they had no children, she believes she is barren, especially considering her husband may have fathered a bastard (or 2). She's not anxious to repeat that mistake, and now values her independence and solitude.

The hero is Mark - he's also an earl with a misleading other name, which adds to the confusion later. He doesn't really like the duties of an earl, and is actually - gasp - in trade as an architect. He has a dreadful mother who cheated on his father, and a wonderful brother Matthew, who is in love and plans to marry Rosalind. As it turns out, someone is privy to the information that Matthew's biological father was the gardener - and that someone is blackmailing Mark into marrying her daughter to keep that information private.

Mark had never planned to marry, and indeed he informs Patience early on that he usually tires of a woman by 2 months into a relationship. That's fine with her, since she has no plans to marry again either. But by the 2nd encounter it's obvious her heart is beginning to be engaged - and if you look past the shock of where they Do It and how it's described, you can begin to feel his heart engaging as well. He convinces her to give him the full 2 months - you know, before he tires of her. (hmmmmm)

It's pretty obvious from his dealings with his mother where he learned to feel that love was an illusion, and that women were only good for one thing ( A Good F) and only for a pre-determined short period of time. But to keep his brother's paternity a secret (even from the brother, and especially from the brother's fiancee), Mark goes forward with the plans for marriage, intending to dump the woman as soon as he gets his hands on the offending letter.

That is, until it's uncovered that the woman in question is Passion's beloved cousin Charlotte. Once Passion learns the truth of his identity as the Earl to whom her cousin is engaged, and even after she learns about the blackmail, she decides their relationship - which was always going to end soon - is now over and that no matter what, he must go through with the marriage to keep from ruining her cousin.

Each of them is acting to protect a loved one, without thought of consequences as it pertains to their relationship until it is too late. Mark soon realizes that Passion has completely unfrozen his heart and he is in love with her, and now they are doomed to live without each other.

In spite of the sensational beginning, it is indeed a romantic love story where the protagonists must choose between family/duty and what is in their hearts - and duty seems to win out, so that you are left with the agony of their parting, and the anguish of Passion knowing her cousin is married to her heart's true desire. In fact, as part of the blackmail bargain, the letter will not be given up until Charlotte has born three heirs...

Sigh. The ending is so romantic and fulfilling - ok there's some criticism of the epilogue, and to that I say "are you people never satisfied?" At least they weren't Doing It in public anymore. 5 stars.

1 comment:

Cindy W said...

I've been waiting to read your review! Can't wait to read it!