Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Devilish Mr. Danvers by Vivienne Lorret

My Experience:  C
Synopsis:  For the first time in her life, Hedley Sinclair holds the keys to her own future. She's inherited the crumbling Greyson Park, but the disrepair does nothing to dissuade her. No one will ever lock her up again or attempt to take away what's hers. No one except Rafe Danvers—the charming, fiendish man from Fallow Hall. He's determined to claim Greyson Park, but if Hedley isn't careful, he'll claim her heart as well.
Rafe has every intention of ridding Greyson Park of the conniving Sinclairs once and for all. The last thing he expects is to find the beguiling Hedley—the younger sister of his former fiancée—standing in his way. With drastic measures called for, he plans to marry her off in order to regain control of the estate. The only trouble is, he can't seem to stop seducing her. Even worse, he can't help falling in love with her.

Not Quite Sleeping Beauty - Not Quite Cinderella
Not Quite a Devil - Not Quite Prince Charming

This is my first read by Vivienne Lorret.  IF the sample of the next book lives up to my curiosity about Montwood, I will probably read that one. I am going to need more than the teaser provided at the end of this book to entice me.  TSTL heroines and the heroes that kiss them make me vomit.

Despite an overused concept of bachelors wagering to be the last man standing alone and the fact there were enough plot holes to drive an eighteen wheeler through, I DID enjoy this book.  I felt it was worth the "come try this author" price, the premise of the book was intriguing and most of the secondary characters were of more than two dimensions.  The villains were so over the top I could hear the cackles of Snidely Whiplash.  Sometimes, obvious villains just make my heart happy, this was not one of those times.

Wisdom from precocious children used to disguise conflict provocation didn't work for me at all.  They reduced Caliope, who had intrigued me at first, to a cut-out that doesn't induce me to part $ from my pocket for the first book.  The pacing was well balanced, the grammar and structure lovely and though the descriptions of Greyson Park, Fallow Hall, and the village, etc, were a bit skimpy, what was there was adequate to give a sense of perspective if not a feeling you are there.  Historical accuracy and attention to the societal strictures was played with, considerably.

**spoiler alert** 
Most of the following review is a spoiler, I won't apologize for that. I like spoilers mostly because they are seldom what I expected.  Besides, some peeves, plot formula annoyances, and narrative jarring might be another reader's favorite thing.  I found two good books last month in just this way. So, Read at your own risk or come back to share your thoughts after you've read the book.
**spoiler alert**

Hedley Sinclair's bewilderment at life outside the attic and beyond the shadows was a breath of fresh air, even if her name was annoying as heck.  [every single time I read it, I heard Harvey Korman say, That's Hedley!]  She definitely stood out from the heroines we're assaulted with these days.  You know ... those smart-mouthed women with modern morals and expectations waltzing around in costumes in Historical Romances. Or it started out that way, before you can warm up your coffee she's lusting after the hero every chance she gets.

Even so, Hedley kept me reading.  Just when I was fed up with everything else, she drew me back in. Her character was so determined to live in peace and make the best of what she had I wanted to cheer!  Her conflicts were centered on survival and holding on to what was gifted to her with strings she could live with, maybe.  Her inner dialog was poignant and amusing, as was her turning the tables on the hero.  Best of all, she had the good sense to ask for help.  In reality, her life was probably a great deal like many young misses that were excessively sheltered then sent out in the world without a clue, except most families did so in love or as duty rather than to hide their sins.

That said, I needed to see more of her baby steps and have more of her past explained.  I could easily see this book as an A Experience, plot holes and all, especially when the Rake -that is, of course, nothing of the kind, see below- is trying to do the right thing.  That kind of farce is always fun.

I continually turned to the next chapter feeling like I'd missed a page, or two. I felt like I was overhearing gossip for much of this book. If an author is going to all the effort to create troubled pasts, intense presents and conflicted futures for our H/h and sprinkle their lives with friendships that go back to childhood ... then share it with me, please, in enough detail to give the characters depth, not allusions of more than we're reading.

For example, there IS a difference between being locked up in the attic when a child and being kept there as a lunatic, that is, others being afraid she is a danger to herself and others, AND being a shadow that wanders about as she will with some congenial, or at least instructional contact ... a big difference in the result of maturing.  The confusing narrative regarding this could have been clarified and there would have been no question of why she never asked for help before, not to mention how she functioned when exiled to Greyson Park.

As written, this book left me with enough questions to write a quiz. Who the heck taught her to be nice, kind and care about others?!  She apparently didn't have any examples to follow so she just gleaned this from the air?  From the kindly rats?  Maybe it was the birds visiting her attic window that also taught her how to gut a pheasant and cook it thoroughly so she didn't end up spending a day or two in the outhouse, or with worms from the dog. Of course she walked twenty miles, alone, without a map, compass and food or water - to start a new life and found a disintegrating reality.  The woodland critters showed her the way as they sang to her.  It might have happened, we aren't told how she made it, or how she did so with a trunk of old clothes.  Who taught her to sew?  To clean?  To brew a pot of tea from herbs?  Who taught her to read?  To speak so well  not only when challenged but in a social setting?  To put up her hair and put on a corset?  How come her teeth weren't rotted out of her head on a diet of broth and bread?  Did someone teach her to floss after stealing cheese?

Here's the thing, I want the whole story - or I wouldn't have bought the book - not to guess or fill in the blanks.

Here's the other thing, If a cure for emotional trauma from a character's childhood that was used as an excuse to torment that character emotionally and physically is going to be presented, I expect it to be more than Telling the Story for the First Time followed by  a Good Cry OR Carriage Sex Interruptus.  Not only is it unbelievable but it diminishes the trauma and drama in the first 76% of the book.  I almost quit reading but I wanted to see if maybe, just maybe, the author was going to demonstrate it ain't that easy, life has repercussions that take more than will and a penis to overcome.  Alas.  It was just another magic wand in the hand of a so-called rake.

Which brings me to The Hero, Rafe Danvers and Rakes ... puhleez.  Rafe Danvers was barely an alpha hero considering his decisions with regards to his first fiancée, his purchase of a property without evidence of ownership before turning over money, his obsession with restoring reputations he supposedly didn't care about, his inability to remove a treasure that later, literally, fell in his lap, and fretting about every little thing from his sister's labor to expressions on Hedley's face.  Oh, he may have oodles of sexual experience, drink like a fish, and make idiotic wagers till the wee hours of the morning, but not only do we not see any of that in this book, we only hear about how stupid all that was.  And really, those three tired standards are not the definition of a rake at all, are they?

If the author had given another label to her hero, I would applaud her daring at not only giving us a heroine beyond the ordinary but also a hero that could hold his own, even with rakes.  As it is, I kept waiting for his immoral, licentious, self-absorbed personality to emerge.  It never did and I was glad of that.  I actually love the fallible, confused and occasionally stupid hero [if he realizes it, of course, and then does something meaningful about being stupid].  Rafe was tied in knots over noble stuff and making one mistake after another error in judgement.  If people hadn't called him a rake, we might not have realized what he was supposed to be.  He was caring, strong enough to say no, idealistic enough to believe he could fix the world, and he knew how to laugh at himself.  Plus he was ... an artist ... I swooned, what can I say.

His story had as many holes as Hedley's. I never managed to reconcile the Rake thing or why the scandal of his father's decision to paint the underbelly of the ton wounded him so.  I'm sure the answers are in another book, not the one in this series but probably in the story of his sister.  That sort of stinks in my not very humble opinion.  I prefer to choose books based on plot and characterization within the historical period of preference.  Stand alone or series is mostly irrelevant to me.  Authors that tease me with the implication the rest of the story was in another book lose my willingness to purchase anything they write.  I want the complete story in one book that can stand alone.  It didn't use to be too much to ask.

As to the villains of the piece - ::wave, wave, wave::
I could hand wave the fact Hedley's mother wasn't certain who was Hedley's father.  Risking her position, conceivably being locked in the attic herself, before the heir and spare were produced shows just how much gall she had.  It doesn't explain how she managed to convince her husband to leave her in complete charge of Sinclair House, the family estate.  I could hand wave that too, why not? Her reaction to Hedley was a response to her own guilt and shame, got that, though she had no shame about her lack of fulfillment of her wifely duty. It all made a twisted sort of sense if I wrote sub plots and scenarios in my imagination, why buy a book then?  Alas, the sister made no sense whatsoever, sorry.  Someone as manipulative and capable of having her way as Mommy Dearest would never put up with blackmail from her own child, especially once the secret was out and daddy moved on.  Either mother was a spineless imbecile tortured by her own child, or she was a manipulative witch that could connive big bucks out of our hero, even convincing him that she possessed the deed to what would be her husband's property, by law.  Can we have it both ways? [maybe she was a Rake]

What was an Impossible Stretch was the fact Hedley's father -living in Brighton for the past 12 years which means Hedley was 11 when he left- couldn't remember what his grandmother looked like.  Considering granny's former occupation there was surely more than one image of her about.  Even if as a child Hedley didn't look like Grandmother there was a recent history of hair and eye color difference in the family.  OK, wife fooled around, he found out and it hurt his pride.  But why didn't father take his children - both of them - where they'd be cared for properly or ensure they had proper care at home?  [probably because he was a Rake]

Most Incredulous of All, villain wise, was the fact the grandfather did nothing to intervene on Hedley's behalf, like kick his son's ass with both boots while shoving an image of his mother down his son's throat.  He'd only been dead two months at the beginning of the book.  Hedley says he "saw her" but he did nothing? Who is the true villain, the one that commits the atrocities or the one that stands by and gives implied approval by doing nothing at all?  But most confusing of all was whether he genuinely thought Hedley was a lunatic or not, why leave her a dilapidated property?!  And why leave her no way to maintain it?!  [probably because he was a Rake]

None of these questions are answered by the way.

Life is like that.  Which is probably *why* I like the book. Ms. Lorret gave me the raspberry when I wanted answers, just like life.  It doesn't endear her to me though.  I expect answers in my leisure reading, and a happily ever after I can believe in.  This book didn't give me either.  That's enough to make me hesitate to read another book by this author.  Without a splendid sample for the next book this is probably a one book how-dee-do and so-long for Ms. Lorret and me.

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