Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mavreen by Claire Lorrimer **

This is an old-school, old-style historical romance - about 550 pages or so of angst and drama and purple prose that doesn't really offend but doesn't exactly make for the best read either. Mavreen (not Maureen) is the illegitimate daughter of a titled aristocrat and the governess of his 2 daughters. His wife is frigid and apparently hates men and sex, so he dallies until he meets his true love, who remains his mistress for the rest of his life (Clarrie). He doesn't know about his daughter because the governess runs away and only sends him a note on her deathbed about their child.

Mavreen is a curious mix of hoyden, wild-spirited child and gracious, loving and sensual young woman - not a mean bone in her body, independent and all things good. While her father doesn't ever publicly recognize her and indeed doesn't even tell her for years, he does act as a kindly uncle, making sure the family raising her has plenty of funds and resources. When she is about 15, she meets the Frenchman Gerard who holds her heart all her life. Unfortunately for both Mavreen and Gerard, Gerard must marry titled money, and so is betrothed to another woman. Mavreen has an offer from a friend of her father for her hand in marriage as well - a marriage that will bring her into society and allow her to live a good, respectable life with a man 3 times her age. Gerard, the bastard, asks her to promise NOT to do this - where the hell does he get off asking her that when he himself is betrothed to money?? He plans to make her his mistress, living the life of her father's Clarrie.

Mavreen decides to marry the old guy instead, thwarting Gerard - who meanwhile never did get around to marrying.

Then the 2 embark on a lot of years of one marrying then the other, so that every time they met they couldn't marry due to a previous engagement. The old guy dies, right before Gerard marries. Then Mavreen marries again, and Gerard's wife dies. What a tangled web, huh? And yes it gets close to 600 pages of this, racing about England and the continent after each other and taking on spouses and lovers to fill in between the 2 or 3 times they ever actually get together. Gawd it was frustrating. At one point it was almost like that play where the married man and married woman meet once a year at a summer cabin for a long-term, 1x a year affair - but Gerard misses the first meeting and Mavreen rebels by becoming a courtesan for a while.

If you like old style, purple prose and a couple that doesn't get together much, this is your book. Otherwise, stay away. 2 stars.

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