Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer
5 Stars. (Historical Romance)
Another fabulous read from Eileen Dreyer. I read Barely a Lady last summer and really loved it. It was dark, emotional frustrating and heartbreaking all at once but what really got me was the way Dreyer wrote a hugely realistic historical. She brought together real life historical events - Battle of Waterloo - and the suspicions and tensions surrounding Wellington, and many other political leaders and secret societies of the time to influence her own suspense/mystery aspect to the novel.
The same can all be said for her second book in the Drake's Rake's series featuring Diccan Hilliard, another member of the secret Drake's Rake's society and his wife, the plain, crippled but seriously strong and honorable, Grace Fairchild. These are both lovely characters and I loved each one dearly. Diccan was tangled and living many lies, but his grief, sorrow and heartache all rang so true for me. Grace is a very strong woman. Loyal, dedicated, charming and sweet, she is exactly the kind of woman Diccan needs. Her courage and capabilities along with her vulnerabilities made her leap from the page. No wonder she walks around with a hoard of men she either saved or saved their family members, ready to protect and befriend her. She's a dynamite woman and doesn't even know it!
This book was so different in tone from the first - not as overtly angsty in my opinion - but it still had me flying through the pages. Grace and Diccan are far from a match made in heaven at the beginning of the story. Neither one wants to be with the other despite the fact that through mutual acquaintances they have formed a tenuous friendship of sorts. Grace is plain, shy, a soldier's daughter better suited to the battlefield where she tends to wounded soldiers than the dinning rooms of the ton. She wants nothing more than to retreat to the home she inherited in the country and live her life peacefully and by her own whim. Enter Diccan who leads a double, if not triple life, with many out to get him as they plot to bring down the British political leaders. Diccan is a spy and is fighting for his country, but his cover as a member of the Drake's Rake's is just that - he is a rake - one of the most well known and well liked. When he wides up in Grace's bed drugged and compromised, they are forced to marry which sets in motion a very windy and often heartbreaking journey for the two.
Diccan is trying to protect Grace, Grace is falling in love with Diccan, who is continually hurting her in the worst possible ways to protect her while he also begins to slowly loose his heart to his plain, and unbecoming wife. It's a topsy-turvy story with a lot of intrigue and many twists but overall a very enjoyable read.
I know that this second book has gotten VERY mixed reviews and I can understand the negative ones with one particular scene in mind. I get it! I do. It's despicable what Diccan is forced to do to protect his wife and to some readers it all might seem really far-fetched and stupid. For me though, the whole premise (without giving spoilers) is exactly what captured my heart in the first book. I adore the fact that Dreyer doesn't make everything all neat and tidy and pretty. I've read the "forced-marriage" scenario many a time and I have to say it has never been my favouite, mainly because it always comes off too easy. In reality if you were forced through a series of events to marry someone you either couldn't stand, weren't attracted to or simply didn't want, you wouldn't be falling in love with them so easily from the word GO!
This is exactly what every other romance I've read with this forced marriage theme presents to readers. This fancy, neatly tied in a bow series of events where the hero is a rake but also totally honorable, never looking at another woman and the wife is cold but also hot for the hero without a thought to the life she may have lead if she hadn't been forced into marriage. I really appreciated the way Dreyer mixed up this over-used blueprint and took things to another level. She focused on the hard stuff. She made her characters work for the love they share for one another and she forced both Diccan and Grace (more so Diccan) to make the really awful mistakes that would seriously shatter a person. He shattered Grace, just as Jack shattered Olivia in Dreyer's first book Barely a Lady . It's real, it's harsh, it's heartbreaking, frustrating but ultimately satisfying when the hero and heroine can learn to forgive and move forward.
Every emotion felt real to me in this novel. It all hung on a tenuous and very weak string for Diccan and Grace, but somehow they made it through and it was so satisfying to go through the angsty drama and heartache to get to the end where they predictably live Happily Ever After. As in all romance novels. I understand that for readers who like the formula, or who read romance for the escape from the everyday reality of relationships that this book would grate on one's nerves. But honestly, if you are really looking for unique stories, or stories that you've seen down before but really want to see them done differently and with oomph, than Dreyer's books are for you. They're honest, electrifying and really interesting to read with not only the romance, but the mystery involved.
Dreyer works some real magic in her stories and having loved both her historical romances I am especially excited about the third in the series featuring Kate and Harry Lidge, who have been battling it out, snipping at one another since book one in the series. They clearly have some unfinished business and some serious sexual tension buried beneath all the animosity. I can't wait for the sparks to fly when betrayals, secrets and passions are revealed.
Never a Gentleman is not for everyone, but like I said, if you're looking for a new perspective, a wonderful writer and interesting, realistic and much researched historical than Eileen Dreyer's Drake's Rake's series is for you! I would say to read them in order though, I don't say that often, given the fact that I have been known to read a series out of order, but in this case to get the full impact of the separate stories and characters (who show up in each book) as well as the burgeoning relationships between each separate hero and heroine you need to start with book one. All the characters show up in the first book and continue to play important roles in the preceding books. For Kate and Harry especially, you'll want to get the full impact of they're loathing by going back and seeing their introduction in book one.
Another 5 star read for me and Mrs. Dreyer!
**to read my review of Dreyer's first book - Barely a LadyBarely a