Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

Skeptic Scale: ♥♥♥♥♥

I want to cry my eyes out. I swear I was breathless reading it. How have I never read anything by Cecilia Grant before? Did I even know what romance was before reading this? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER WAS I? I wish I never read this thing. My whole concept of what romance should be is ruined. Everything feels like sawdust now. Titanic feels like an episode of Seinfeld. The Notebook can eat my shorts.

He: Our hero is a younger son in a genteel but not aristocratic family. He had been a soldier in his prior life where he has seen some depressing stuff. He comes home to England scarred and not himself. One particular event - a man dying horribly in his arms - during the war has affected him so deeply that he feels like he needs to pay "penance" for what he sees as his role in that man's death. So to atone for his "sin", he begins raising funds to support the man's widow. He's not a rich man, but he's a gentleman, so he can't exactly "work" for the money as a regular person would. He decides he will gamble for it. He's a clever gambler, but even still, he can't afford the big bets for fear of ruining himself and his chances for helping the dead man's widow. Enter the heroine - she's a mathematical genius with a facility with cards, so clever he almost can't believe his eyes. With her help he will be able to win the fortune he needs and with his help she may finally be able to win the fortune she needs to earn her independence.

She: Here's where the writer just took my breath away. We've seen plenty of "fallen women" in Regency romances. They're the women who fall on hard times and have to do some "bad stuff" but they still retain a sense of goodness and light. It's like they're just hanging around waiting to get saved by the handsome hero who sees their innocent light beneath all the layers of smut and then kiss kiss bing bang, and everything is nice and happy again.

This heroine is NOTHING like that. She's fallen so far and so hard she can't really "come back". And she's not one of those stoical types who's just keeping her head down and bearing her burden. She's angry. Enraged. So fierce that her fury almost hisses at you through the pages.

Even under all the layers of that anger and ferocity - she's not innocent and sweet. She's a harlot. She loves sex. She's manipulative and clever and ambitious. And she most certainly has no use for men who want to "save" her.

What I loved most:
1) There was such an amazing build up between heroine and hero that you feel that tingly anticipation you did when you were a kid sitting ascending up that last, really fearsome arc of a roller coaster. 

H & h are attracted to be another, yes. They need each other to achieve their respective goals but they fight bitterly even as they work together like true partners. They learn from each other, and eventually they grow to respect and love one another for exactly the people the are. She doesn't become "good" and he doesn't even want her to. 

2) She's such a bad@ss heroine. She's smart and fast and cannot be kept down. Not by other men, not by her circumstances, not by anything. She behaves true to character in every single page and nothing, not even his wonderfulness diverts her from her purpose. 

3) She has a purpose. Too often we read a perfectly "nice" romance novel and when it's all over, you're still wondering what was so great about the heroine anyway? This one is single minded about earning her independence. She's focused and best of all, she doesn't really need anyone else to save her. She's so far beyond "saving" she just has to figure it out herself.

4) The passion that burns between H & h is beautiful. And it's also unholy, irreverent and profane. I don't think I need to mention this, but I will - the sex scenes were stupendous.

5) The hero is just what a fallen woman needs. A man who wants to jump down that glittering waterfall of sin and disgrace into an inky pool of lovely madness just to be with her.

Skeptic's last work: What a perfect, perfect, perfect book. I want to hate CG for ruining every other book for me forever. But I can't. 

It has been gently suggested to me by my long suffering husband that I just might have lost a little perspective here. Hmmm. So it's not normal for to be thinking about this story a week later and feeling heartsick and happy at the same time? Could it be that I might have to declare a moratorium on reading historical romances for a few days so I can GET A GRIP? 

Maybe. I'll think about it. In the meantime, I shall continue to skulk about the house with my wrist to my forehead, sighing gustily and staring broodily off into the distance. What do husbands know of romance anyway, right? ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment