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Charlotte Featherstone

REVIEW: Pride and Passion by Charlotte Featherstone

REVIEW: Pride and Passion by Charlotte Featherstone

Dear Ms. Featherstone:

I confess that I read this book because I just loved the cover.  The positioning of the characters, the color of the dress, the frills at the cuff of the man’s outfit. It was very evocative.  The soft against the hard.  It’s a clinch but an evocative, sophisticated clinch.   This is the second book in the Brethren Guardian series and I have not read the first one.

Charlotte Featherstone Pride and PassionLucy Ashton seeks passion.  She thought she had found it in the arms of an impoverished artist, Thomas.    The night that she offered herself to this artist she had given him a lace handkerchief with her initials embroidered on it.  Lucy believed that this handkerchief was lost to her when a fire consumed her beloved’s rented rooms.  She seeks his presence  through seances and soothsayers, exploring the occult for answers.

Lucy’s father, however, wants her to marry the “passionless and priggish Duke of Sussex.”  What is worse is that the Duke of Sussex has returned Lucy’s handkerchief but while the Duke of Sussex wants answers about where Lucy’s handkerchief was found, Lucy begins to weave fantasies of reuniting with her artist beloved.

Sussex is part of a group known as the Brethren and they guard some artifact, as far as Lucy  knows.  “Their business was mysterious and secretive, and dangerous.  From what she knew of their secrets, there existed  an onyx pendant, which was the very essence of evil,  and some sort of chalice they protected.”  Lucy took the necklace and swallowed one of the seeds inside the pendant in hopes that it would connect her with her dead lover.  Now Lucy is being told that Thomas is an enemy of the Brethren, a rogue Freemason, and thus an enemy of good.

Lucy’s portrayal is one of a hapless but privileged young woman who had no control over her life.  Her taking the lover, her seeking out the occult is her way of taking control.  Accepting her father’s choice would be an acquiescence that she is powerless.  I think that is an interesting concept but I couldn’t really understand Lucy’s thought process here.  Could a passionless and priggish man be part of a secret and mysterious and dangerous society?

Lucy’s constant reference to Adrian York, the Duke of Sussex, as passionless isn’t effectively carried off because the reader sees Adrian’s point of view and thus we know he is full of passion.  Repeated protestations by Lucy ring hollow.  This is likely a more effective technique if the story is told primarily from Lucy’s point of view, either in limited third or first person.

Instead the alternating point of view made it hard to drum up sympathy for Lucy’s position.  The reader knows her artist is the bad guy.  The reader knows that Adrian totally loves her.  The reader knows that he burns to get her into bed.  I objectively understood what was supposed to be portrayed here but it wasn’t convincing.

Adrian is not passionless and priggish.  He’s in love with Lucy and torn up that she appears to be in love with a man who killed a friend of his in cold blood, a man who is an enemy of the Brethren Guardians.  Fortunately, Adrian’s quest to win Lucy’s hand is aided in part by his sister and Lucy’s own cousin.  Adrian has enjoyed what Lucy seeks and that is rigid control over his life and his emotions (because of a secret!) but he seeks to lose himself in Lucy.

The secret society, the grail artifacts, and the rogue freemasons were probably there to provide suspense but the it seemed more like a game amongst men than a true and riveting danger.  I also felt that it took away from the romance even though part of the conflict arose from the secrets and artifacts.

I did enjoy the close friendship that Lucy enjoyed with her cousin and Adrian’s sister and once the romance got rolling, I enjoyed Adrian and Lucy together.  The secondary romance between Adrian’s sister who is blind and the supposedly philandering Marquis of Alynwick is heartwrenching and ends in a cliffhanger.

There were a couple moments of in the book that had my eyebrows raised including one love scene which took place when both were supposed to be in imminent danger and may have been brought about by slightly drugging both of them.  And there was a huge coincidence that brings the story full circle.   Suffice to say I liked the cover much more than I enjoyed the book. Finally, I wasn’t sure whether this was supposed to be a play on Pride and Prejudice with the Duke of Sussex playing the part of Darcy. C

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone

REVIEW: Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone

Dear Ms. Featherstone,

037360528501lzzzzzzzMy love of Joey Hill’s books aside, I normally don’t read erotic fiction, but your novel’s cover description caught my interest.   A novel exploring opium addiction?   Really?   Since I’m currently trying to expand my reading horizons, I thought I’d give your book a shot.

Anais Darnby and Lindsay Markham have known each other since childhood and have loved each other for nearly as long.   When they finally confess their feelings to one another, their future happiness seems assured until another woman puts Lindsay in a compromising position.   Unfortunately for him, Anais catches them, jumps to the worst conclusion possible, and flees.   Lindsay chases after her but when his pursuit results in failure, he journeys east where he loses himself completely to his opium addiction.   A year later, he returns to England, determined to find Anais again.   But he’ll have to make a choice about which he loves more — Anais or opium — because he can’t have both.

I love the friends to lovers trope, so Anais and Lindsay’s story predisposed me to like this book.   Because of their history as childhood friends, I was able to suspend my disbelief when it came to their being unsure of each other’s feelings.   I certainly understand why they could be blind to the truth — that Anais worships the ground Lindsay walks on and that Lindsay thinks Anais is the most stunning woman he’s ever known.

On the other hand, I wish more would have been done with Anais’s insistence on things being black and white, right and wrong.   This comes out more and more in the second half of the novel, but I think it would have made her objections to Lindsay’s opium’s use more powerful had I been more clued in earlier.   Maybe I was just slow to pick up on it.   Opium addiction in and of itself is a bad thing, so I hadn’t even been aware her opposition to it stemmed less from its usage and more out of a desire that Lindsay be more like her seemingly perfect father and less like his own obviously flawed one.

I do think Lindsay’s struggle between the Anais of his perception and the Anais in reality was well done.   Many readers dislike the Madonna and whore dichotomy and I usually count myself among their number, but it made sense here.   Lindsay placed Anais on a pedestal, blinding himself to her flaws, so when he has to confront them in his quest to win her back, he finds himself at a loss and prefers to lose himself in his opium cloud where he can have the Anais in his mind, if not the Anais in his reality.     It’s a difficult struggle for him since Lindsay is the one who awakened Anais sexually so he’s also the one who took away the very Madonna status he assigned her, even if only subconsciously.

As I said earlier, I don’t read much erotic fiction but I’ve paid attention to previous discussions regarding its conventions.   Because of this, I wasn’t too bothered that the plot was simpler than my usual preference.   It’s functional but certainly nothing memorable.   But more to my surprise, there wasn’t as much sex as I was expecting.   In fact, I’m not entirely sure I’d call this an erotic novel.   An erotic romance, on the other hand, perhaps.   I’d be interested in hearing from readers more versed in erotic fiction who’ve also read this book.   What did you think about the label?   Is this an erotic romance or an erotic novel?

One thing that disappointed me was the lack of actual opium addiction.   It was true that there were many references to it but Lindsay never struck me as being truly addicted until the latter third of the novel.   I realize part of this was intentional.   Lindsay spent a good portion of the novel thinking he had his habit under control, like many addicts do, and it spiraled out of control when he thought he lost Anais for good.   But for a book described as being about a man who had to choose between the love of his life and a crippling addiction, I never got the impression the addiction was ever that crippling.   Other readers might disagree.   This simply could be a case of misled expectations as a result of a slightly inaccurate cover blurb.

And speaking of the cover blurb, it also led me to believe something about Anais that wasn’t true.   I also realize this was intentional since Lindsay believes something is going on between Anais and another man for a good portion of the novel, but I also felt that Anais’s self-flagellation was out of proportion to what actually happened.   It’s consistent with her unreasonable standards of purity and goodness but based on her health condition when she and Lindsay reunite, I actually thought Anais had syphilis.   I don’t know if that was intentional or it’s simply my jumping to completely ridiculous conclusions but when the actual truth came out, I admit I was a bit disappointed because it was something I would expect from a Harlequin Presents novel, not a book about addiction.

Despite my efforts to go in with an open mind, I think misplaced reader expectations still prevented me from enjoying this novel fully.   Ironically, it had less to do with the erotic elements and more with the story elements — namely, the portrayal of Lindsay’s opium addiction and Anais’s big secret.   On the other hand, I think readers looking for a story about friends to lovers who then reunite and must circumvent obstacles to reach their HEA might find something to like here.   Just don’t expect anything gritty and don’t be too surprised by a Harlequin Presents element or two.   C

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.