Saturday, April 3, 2010

To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney ***

This is the 2nd in the series, and the one that got AAR Top 100 status. And I guess I shouldn't be too surprised to say: I didn't get why... Not that I usually disagree with the list. I often find books and authors I love. But not this one, and not some of the others either, which just reinforces that old "everybody's different" thing.

This one is about the new heir to the village titled property after Geoffrey died, his cousin Sebastian. I wasn't clear about why Sebastian and not his father inherited. Whatever. Sebastian was jaded and promiscuous and bored. He came to Wyckerley and assumed the seat of magistrate along with 2 other citizens, where he first met Rachel Wade, the heroine.

Rachel had recently gotten out of prison where she served 10 years for murdering her husband after 1 week of marriage. Apparently the sentence was light because her husband had abused her - she wasn't hanged, after all. But prison sapped everything out of her - her family pretty much disowned her, and she learned the hard way that just taking the prison abuse and shutting down your emotions was the only way to survive. But she had been picked up for vagrancy, having nowhere to go, and the court was thinking of sending her back to jail.

Sebastian decides he needs a new housekeeper anyway, and she's pretty to look at and he plans also to bed her, so he offers to be her guardian.

It's this last part that really took the joy out of the story for me. Look, even if she did acquiesce, I say it's rape for him to put her in the position of having to have sex with him. More than once, and meanwhile he's still the same old jaded, bored, rotten fellow. He even invites his jaded, bored, rotten friends over and pretty much subjects her to quite a lot more abuse at their hands before something snaps and he decided maybe his actions haven't been exactly humane. Mind you, that doesn't stop him from continuing to seduce her, but now maybe he has feelings. Maybe even for her.

I kept waiting for the author to show me the slow change in both of them, since I knew they were the h/h of the story. I kept thinking there would be a slow series of scenes where she begins to realize he's changed and that she can trust him. Even towards the end, when his mission in life is to make her come (now there's a worthy goal), he decides that the best way to do that is to restrain her by tying her wrists over her head. I dunno, that scene didn't make me feel any warmth toward him. And Rachel? Yeah, she did decide she had feelings for him, but I never did know why - he was a bastard of the highest degree, and I never felt the change in her even though I read about the change in him.

Then there's another of those incredible coincidental endings - if the author hadn't ended book 1 with a couple of well-timed coincidences, maybe I could have bought this one. But, well, it just didn't work for me for a letter to come out of nowhere right when it was needed - almost too late! - and for Sebastian to arrive in the nick of time, in a rainstorm no less. And Rachel, the dummy, to resist in principal to a solution that would have kept her out of jail again when more than once she had thought she would kill herself before she would go back to jail.

Again, the verbiage was well-written, but the story itself just didn't elevate itself to Top 100 status, even if I'd only read 99 books ever. I'm going with 3 stars because I liked it ok, but it seems almost like 2 stars because I expected so much more.

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