Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pleasures of a Tempted Lady by Jennifer Haymore

Pleasures of a Tempted Lady (2012)
Jennifer Haymore
Grade: C+
Genre: historical romance/ship
Sex scenes: mild
Source: NetGalley

Everyone had believed Miss Margaret Donovan – Meg to her family – to have drowned eight years ago when she fell overboard during the journey home to Antigua with her twin sister Serena. Serena had been involved in a scandal with Jonathan Dane, Earl of Stratford and the sisters were being sent home in disgrace. Meg’s body had never been found and it was assumed that she was dead.

Meg had been rescued by the pirate Jacob Caversham – a fate worse than drowning. He’s a brutal, selfish and ruthless man and when he discovers that Meg is an English lady, he decides to keep her to teach his (kidnapped) wife how to act amongst polite society. Meg manages to form a lasting friendship with the beautiful but common Sarah, mother of Caversham’s son, Jake. When Sarah dies, Meg takes the chance she’s been waiting for and escapes Caversham’s ship with Jake, heading for her father's family in Ireland.

Captain William Langley of the Freedom finds Meg and Jake in a small boat in the Irish Sea. Will can’t believe his eyes: he'd been in love with Meg when he knew her eight years ago and had planned to marry her; for eight years, he had mourned her death and she’s now alive and well before his eyes. Meg is much changed from when he knew her before. Life as Caversham’s prisoner has hardened her resolve and she’s terrified of capture but Will won’t let her head off to Ireland so that he will be out of danger.

Meg can’t be Meg anymore. In the wake of Serena’s scandal and Meg’s suspected death, Serena returned to England as Meg, leading society to believe that it had been Serena who had drowned. Meg’s reputation had been intact and it was only this way that Serena (the real one, that is) was able to marry Jonathan and become the Countess of Stratford. There's no way that the twins can let the world know about their real identities.

There’s a secondary romance between Jessica and Briggs, Will's first mate; it’s really quite sweet. As the youngest and prettiest Donovan sister, it was always presumed that Jessica would make the greatest match, but she falls for the rough and unrefined Briggs who knows she’s too good for the likes of him. Nevertheless, he’s every bit the gentleman (perhaps more so than other titled men of that time) and makes Jessica wait until they’re married. This is possibly my favourite exchange of the entire book:

“Your virtue …” His voice trailed off.
“Is a pesky thing,” she finished for him. “I’d like to be rid of it as soon as possible.”

Caversham will do anything to get his son back. Meg is terrified because she has seen how ruthless he is when he captures other ships and demolishes them to firewood. Caversham has men everywhere and Meg won't let Will or her family get hurt or be placed in danger whilst they harbour her. After all, Meg could be hanged for taking Caversham's son away from him. Meg and Will take Jake out of London for the country and their time together in such close quarters allows them to rekindle the attraction they both once felt.

I did like this book; I know the grade doesn't really reflect that, but I did. My problem was with Meg: I felt that a lot of the time, she was much too meek and worrysome. Yes, she's learnt first hand what happens when someone crosses Caversham, but she's already made the first step by escaping and so she should suck it up and be more optimistic rather than hiding out in her sister's house all day. I mean, clearly this is a classic case of me having no idea what it would be like in Meg's position and so I'm just feeling annoyed at her from my superior-never-been-kidnapped stance, but still.

I said in my review for Almost a Scandal that that was the first ship romance that I ever remember reading; I had absolutely no idea when I started Pleasures of a Tempted Lady that it was a ship romance, too. The nautical references were nowhere near as good as in Almost a Scandal, but that can be expected since (a) I don't think that Jennifer Haymore has a MA in Nautical Archaeology and; (b) most of PoaTL is set on dry land anyway. Even if I didn't learn anything new about ships from PoaTL, I at least have another ship book to add to my list.

Will is a really sweet hero. He's been in love with Meg since when they first met in London during her coming-out and was truly devastated when he thought she was dead. He was under the mistaken assumption  that she was back in Antigua and had communicated with her regularly by letter and had even proposed to her. Little did he know that it was Meg's social-climber of a mother who was responding to his letters and that Meg was presumed dead. For a while, Will was then engaged to Serena in London (he'd found out the truth by then) but then they broke off the engagement by mutual consent and Serena married Jonathan. Poor guy. Thus, finding his sort-of fiancee actually alive and floating in the middle of the sea was something of a shock.

I'm a little disappointed by Jake. Kids in romance novels are often cute and often play a big role in uniting the hero and heroine despite what differences they might have; Will and Meg already had a past connection and so it was a little different here. I love romance novels with kids. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any that I haven't liked and they always make for amusing reads. In PoaTL, Jake is described as being a bit slow and doesn't react in quite the same way as other children. It's never really explicit what sort of illness/condition he has and I doubt that it would have even been recognised with a proper medical name at that time. It's adorable when he starts to finally trust Will, but I just would have liked to see him open up a bit more so that the reader can fully get to know him.

I loved the secondary romance between Jessica and Briggs. Jessica is a really feisty character and used to getting what she wants, though not in a horrible bratty way. She doesn't care that she could make a great match because Briggs is the man she wants and she lets him know it, heedless of propriety or societal expectations. Briggs, for his part, is a model of restraint which was surprising but I love him all the more for it.

I would have liked to have seen more scenes involving the five sisters, especially Olivia and Phoebe. It's strange to think that for the first two books, all four sisters believed that the fifth was dead - was this something that they dwelled on a lot? Or had they got to the stage where they only thought of Meg fleetingly? We've seen in PoaTL that the sisters' normal rhythm is disrupted following Meg's appearance, but I'm really curious to know how well they've adjusted eight years later before her reappearance.

I have a big thing for sibling books and so I'd really love to read the previous books in the series to find out how the other Donovon sisters met their matches. There are five sisters in total, but by the end of PoaTL, all five are now matched up, which seems a little self-defeating in a series based around a set of siblings where the author could have made five books out of it. I guess it depends on how many books her contract was for. There's also mention of Beatrice, Lady Fenwicke who is a very close friend of Jessica and it sounds like she had her escape and big moment in a previous book, but I would really like to see her get her own book too and marry again.

This wasn't a great book, but I am very curious about the other books in the series. One thing that I really despise is reading books in series out-of-order, but I seem to be doing it a lot nowadays as I am reading more books via NetGalley. For the most part, I don't think I've read too-big spoilers about previous books, but I would like to actually read books in order for my own peace of mind. I figure that my curiosity about the previous books is a good thing – if I ever get my hands on them, here’s hoping that they’ll be as good as – if not better than – this one.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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