29 October 2011

Heiress in Love (Christina Brooke)

All right, there are going to be a couple of reviews here where I’m kind of “ehn” about a book BUT have to stress that this is wholly subjective and not really critical of the book qua book. Sometimes things don’t strike my fancy, you know?

Such was Christina Brooke’s Heiress in Love, the beginning of a series which will be guided by the Ministry of Marriage—a group of wealthy and powerful British aristocrats cold-bloodedly planning alliances without regard to the feelings of the parties involved. Jane, Duchess Roxdale, recently rid of one loveless marriage, now forced by her late husband’s cruel will into contemplating another arranged match, with notorious roué Constantine Black. She’s got to overcome her disgust with Constantine’s infamous immorality, and her own repugnance with the matrimonial act. Luckily, he’s got the patience and expertise to help with the latter, and as she gets to know him, she realizes the former doesn’t tell the whole story.

The only reason I didn’t adore it—because it is marvelously written, with a lot of striking metaphors—is that I’m just not into rakes. Lord Horndog is a common hero in romances, and I get it. First of all, he’s got the mad skills born of practice with which to pleasure the heroine beyond distraction. And there’s vicarious satisfaction in the Earl of Sexington’s being seduced into swoony monogamy.

But I don’t like it, particularly in historicals, where so much of the rake’s sexual proficiency stems from encounters with prostitutes, servants, and lower-class mistresses  with elements of both (I should note that this is not the case in Heiress in Love, which I appreciated). There’s an unequal power dynamic that squicks me out. And I sometimes yearn to read about a heroine who has actually had great sex before, so that the HEA is less founded on hot and cold running orgasms. I’m perfectly aware that virgin heroes and experienced heroines exist in romance, and I just need to read more of them. (Also writing one—my heroine is a widow whose marriage was loving and affectionate, and the hero’s . . . well, I need to do more research on the sexual mores of the Chinese merchant class during the Qing Dynasty. But he’s not gonna have much of an amorous history.) Suggestions are welcome.

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