AUTHOR: Hope Tarr
STARTED: February 18, 2007
FINISHED: February 21, 2007
FIRST SENTENCE: Another sharp gust of wind knifed its way through the boy's thin woolen jacket and trousers, drawing a shiver that ran from the top of his hatless head to the tips of his thinly shod feet.
SUMMARY: [From amazon.com] Known as The Maid of Mayfair for her unassailable virtue, unwavering resolve, and quiet dignity, suffragette leader, Caledonia - Callie - Rivers is the perfect counter for detractors portrayal of the women as rabble rousers, lunatics, even whores. But a high-ranking enemy within the government will stop at nothing to ensure that the Parliamentary bill to grant the vote to females dies in the Commons - including ruining the reputation of the Movements chief spokeswoman. After a streak of disastrous luck at the gaming tables threatens to land him at the bottom of the Thames, photographer Hadrian St. Claire reluctantly agrees to seduce the beautiful suffragist leader and then use his camera to capture her fall from grace. Posing as the photographer commissioned to make her portrait for the upcoming march on Parliament, Hadrian infiltrates Callies inner circle. But lovely, soft-spoken Callie hardly fits his mental image of a dowdy, man-hating spinster. And as the passion between them flares from spark to full-on flame, Hadrian is the one in danger of being vanquished.
REASON FOR READING: Loved the cover, then loved the summary when I read the back.
THOUGHTS: I loved the characters, and I loved the plot. There was chemistry and true to life action. What I had trouble dealing with were some of the sexual scenes between the characters. Tarr uses quite crass language for the Victorian age, and while these scenes could have worked in many books, they feel quite wrong with these characters. These brief bouts actually ruin what could a great romance.
From the instant the meet, Callie and Hadrian have sparks that fly off the page. After a string of bad romance novels, it was nice to feel moved again. The way the plot develops, with Callie and Hadrian actually develop a romance instead of tumbling headlong into it, is quite nice. What's even better is that both characters are intelligent and articulate, they act as real people would act. They're motivations are real. Callie, up until her betrothal, had never made a decision in her own life. Once she walks out on her parents and toad of a fiance, she starts making her own way. Thus, it is understandable that she would take up the cause of her gender. Hadrian was born in a brothel and lived on the streets, his every motivation is to remain off them.
I'm also glad that Tarr actual throws in certain "personal" scenes (think Britney Spears song "Touch of my Hand"). That was shocking because I've never read something like that before in a romance novel - but it wasn't off-putting. In fact, it was nice to see a heroine who wasn't afraid of pleasure, or the ability to find it herself. This book was decent, then the "Me Time" scne occurred and I started rooting for the novel, fist pumps and all... then the language hit. Even if these characters were supposed to be more experimental and naughty in the sack, the language was just not right.
Hadrian was born on the streets, so maybe having him say "Fuck" would be right. But it wasn't, because there was absolutely no crassness in him up until that point. Then, having Callie say things like that, well it tossed me right of the book. And then the, umm, back door deeds - another risk that, this time, did not pay off - it just felt false. What's worse is that these areas could have been easily avoided and the book would have benefited. I'm not saying that the actions for the characters were wrong, just the way they were written. Tarr could have done the same things with slightly milder language. When the OMG Misunderstanding occurs instead of Callie exclaiming, "...before you fucked me" should could have easily said, "...before you had me." Same emotion, same anger, but more in her character.
Crassness is fine, as long as it's in character. While I applaud Tarr for taking risks, she went too far. The plot was fine (thank you new time period), and so were the characters. Tarr just needs to find a balance between daring and stupid.
MISCELLANEOUS: Cover artists take note: this cover was sexy without being skanky. Follow suit.
KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBSing it after Beth reads it.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]