The topic of this month is TBR Challenge New-To-You Author
Genre: historical romance
Part of a series: Wentworth #1
My Rating: 5 stars
In February the topic is a novel written by a New-To-You Author. So I went to my kindle and just picked the first one I saw.
It hasn’t been in my kindle for long. I bought it because I had read very good reviews about it, knew it won several categories in the All About Romance Annual Poll and it’s a keeper for many people.
Madeleine DuMais goes to England in 1849. She is half French and has been working for the British government for years. Now she is required for a mission in the south of England, in a little town called Winter Garden, where affluent people spend their winters.
There’s a smuggling ring that has to be broken up. This will be her mission. In Winter Garden, she meets her partner, another spy, called Thomas Blackwood who pretends to be a scholar, someone who fought in the Opium Wars and was injured and now is writing his memories. She is supposed to be his French translator.
Together, both of them have to discover who the leader of that smuggling ring is. They will live together in a quaint cottage.
Apparently, nothing happens. They talk, they go to little social reunions, to an afternoon tea, or a dinner, or walk through the woods. Everything is so calm and unpretentious! But both Thomas and Madeleine feel a strong attraction towards each other. A powerful chemistry sparks between them from the get-go. She is not an innocent virgin and recognizes desire and attraction, and is quite frank about it. She would be very happy to enjoy their time together. But Thomas is more of a mystery, as he wants her to desire him, to long for him, to feel something stronger than a passing fancy. His feelings are described in sentences like these:
But he didn’t want light. He wanted dark desire between them, uncertain excitement, unmatched sensuality and erotic thought.
And you keep on asking yourself if there’s something more in this story than just two government agents trying to discover a smuggler, because such a couple looks very noteworthy to be spies.
I don’t know. I’m no spy, but I think that in that line of work you have to be quite discreet, so nobody looks at you twice Calling a very beautiful woman, moreover, a foreigner, to live with a bachelor in an isolated cottage, well, everybody is going to gossip about you, don’t you think so? I didn’t see the reason for those people to be together. So why is a French woman necessary for something that is basically police work? If this mystery was solved in a later moment of the novel, I shall not tell you, as I don’t want to spoil anything.
It is obvious that the ‘suspense’ part about the opium smuggling has not a great importance. Nobody really cares about that part.
Because, do you want to know something? I didn’t care, either. This novel was delicious, it was such a compelling read that I was sipping it as if it were a very rich Burgundy wine. Dark, full-bodied, with a subtle flavour and a persistent aftertaste of, well I don’t know those things that are usually told about a wine and you just don’t understand what they mean because you just love the taste of that wine, but they sound so poetic! Something like ‘black currant, fresh red fruits and spice’. Those were my feelings while I was reading this book.
Yes, it was a ‘slow reading’. I wanted it to last. It took me a week when I could have finished it in just a few hours. I read a chapter now, another one hours later. It would have been a crime to read it non-stop. This is a Grand Cru, you cannot drink it as if it were water.
I could feel the intensity of their emotions. There was an interesting sexual tension at the beginning, but in this book the most important part is –I think- the emotional tension, slowly and subtly increased. There are quite a few sex scenes, very explicit and hot and totally loaded with emotion. When Heroes & Heartbreakers chose their Top 5 Sex Scenes in Historical Romance the first one was taken from this book, under the label ‘angst’.
The main characters are adults and they behave that way. He’s 39 and she ten years younger. There are no silly misunderstandings, or juvenile dialogues. The tension comes from the intense emotions of these two people. I had this impression that they were going to be totally absorbed by the other, that there was a strong passion boiling underneath their quite unremarkable daily lives. It was steamy, it was torrid, but in such an elegant way that I’m still wondering –
How has she done it?
There’s nothing in this book, so
Why do I love it so much?
I understand someone else’s experience with this book can be very different. So, if you read this book and say
... It’s boring, nothing happens...
... The suspense plot is the least suspenseful I’ve seen in years...
... It’s just two people wanting to jump on each other’s bones...
... There’s more sex than the story needed...
... C’mon, look at that cliché, and that trite twist of the plot...
... And that silly idea that the English culture is somehow better than the French culture...
... Yes, he manipulates her...
If you say any of those sentences about this book, I’d tell you, ‘yes, you are right. That can easily be your experience with this book. I understand it’.
But, for me? It was just powerful and amazing, like a very old and tasty wine.
So what do I think about this new-to-me-author? Well, the novel made me think of Mary Balogh in the sense of the intensity of the emotions, but the sexy part was more or less like an Elizabeth Hoyt novel. And in a sense, there’s that elegant treatment of the erotic scenes that reminded me of Robin Schone.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to look for Adele Ashworth’s backlist because this was an absolute pleasure.