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REVIEW: Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran

Dear Ms. Duran,

I was a big fan of your debut The Duke of Shadows, published last year. I can’t say how excited I was to learn that you had not one but two books scheduled for release in 2009, one in June and the other in July. Having now read the first, I can say that The Duke of Shadows was no fluke – Bound by Your Touch confirms that you possess a rare talent.

On the surface, this is the familiar tale pairing a bluestocking spinster with a profligate aristocrat. Lydia Boyce and James, Viscount Sanburne meet when he interrupts a speech she is giving before an archaeological society, hoping to drum up funds for her father’s research. Lydia is devoted to her absent father, who spends most of his time in Egypt on archaeological digs, and relies on Lydia back in England to act as his secretary, agent and fund-raiser.

James is actually at the meeting for the opposite reason – he wants to flaunt an artifact that he’s snatched from beneath his hated father’s nose at said father, who is in attendance at the meeting. Lydia is piqued at the interruption to her speech and is more than happy to tell James and the assembled onlookers that he’s been snookered – the artifact is a fake.

This sets James and Lydia off on a sort of extended duel, the sort of which again, on the surface, is quite familiar to romance readers. James, in trying to discover how he was ripped off, finds evidence that Lydia’s father is involved. Lydia is outraged at the suggestion and vows to clear her father’s name. James is also being menaced by mysterious notes whose provenance he knows nothing about (and in fact he is eventually accosted and attacked). James and Lydia eventually join forces to unravel the mystery of the fake artifacts and their connection to the shadowy figures who are harrassing James.

The parallels in James’ and Lydia’s respective relationships with their fathers (and their sisters) is one of the strengths of the book. These parallels are not quite subtle, but such a deft hand is employed that I never felt hit over the head with them; rather they had a symmetry that I really appreciated (I’m a sucker for symmetrical plots). James had never felt close to his stern and uncompromising father, but he began to truly hate him when a tragedy befell James’ beloved sister and James felt that his father turned his back on her. Lydia finds herself having to come to terms with the possibility that the father she idolizes has feet of clay, and finally has it out with her selfish and shallow (and prettier) younger sister, who years before “stole” the man Lydia believed herself to be in love with.

I loved the fact that these relatives were all drawn as very real and believably human; each is clearly and recognizably flawed but none of them are evil. Both Lydia and James discover that their views of their fathers are not so much wrong as incomplete. I love the a romance with enough complexity in characterization to acknowledge that “good” people can do bad things and “bad” people can do good things.

The other main strength of Bound by Your Touch was (duh) the relationship between James and Lydia. It doesn’t matter how many times the bounder-meets-bluestocking story is told; what matters is how WELL it’s told. In this case, it’s told very well indeed. James had clear (if not always entirely sympathetic) motives for his headlong race into dissipation. Lydia had tried for love before and been burned, badly, so her choice to withdraw and focus on what she felt good and useful at – being her father’s right hand – was understandable. I often have no patience with heroines who wallow in misery for years over some minor humiliation that occurred when they were younger. In Lydia’s case, though, it helped that she was ANGRY – she didn’t show it much but when it came out it was impressive to behold. She was angry at her sister, she was angry at the suitor who spurned her and she was angry at herself because she felt stupid and shamed.

A minor quibble: I found the actual details of the fake-Egyptian-artifacts subplot a bit confusing, though it became clearer once the villain was revealed. It may just have been me, since a friend who has read the book as well didn’t have any trouble with it, and I haven’t seen the complaint mentioned elsewhere.

I am about to start Written on Your Skin, which I understand to be at least tangentially related to Bound by Your Touch. I am very much looking forward to revisiting the world you have created, one of masterful characterization and lovely prose. My grade for Bound by Your Touch is an A-.

Best regards.

Jennie

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers after July 20th. Send your complaints to Simon & Schuster (adam.rothberg at simonandschuster.com is my suggestion as his name is on the press release regarding Scribd)

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

16 Comments

  1. April
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 15:55:24

    I am so looking forward to reading this, as well as Written on Your Skin that I’m almost AFRAID to read it!

    All of the reviews are extremely favorable and I loved The Duke of Shadows so much that my expectations have been ramped up to incredible heights.

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  2. Jennie
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 17:23:30

    April, I know that feeling. It can be hard to tamp down on high expectations, but I think if a book is good (and BBYT is), then one gets involved enough in the story to stop making those comparisons and checking to see if their expectations are being met.

    I hope you like it!

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  3. EC Sheedy
    Jul 15, 2009 @ 23:56:08

    Curious here. Must I read the Duke Of Shadows before Bound By Your Touch? I already have BBYT on order, and after reading your review, I’m glad of it, but I don’t want to mess up a good series or trilogy by reading out of order.

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  4. mdegraffen
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 06:30:40

    I am reading this book right now and I have to say how much I love it! The writing is top notch. I love it when an author challenges your preconceptions of a much used plot device, and does it in a way that does not insult your intelligence. Run, do not walk, to get this book. You will not be sorry. Ms. Duran is one of the most talented writers in any genre I have read.

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  5. Barb
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 07:53:48

    @EC Sheedy. Duke of Shadows has no story connection to BBYT. Duran has not written a trilogy, but rather a stand alone (Duke) and two connected books–BBYT and Written on Your Skin. That said–by all means track down a copy of Duke of Shadows, you will probably enjoy it. But you don’t have to read it first in order to get the most from BBYT.

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  6. EC Sheedy
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 09:25:24

    @Barb
    Thanks for the answer to my query. I really hate it when I start a series or trilogy out of order, so it’s good to know I haven’t messed up this time. I’m *really* looking forward to Ms. Duran’s book/s.

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  7. Aoife
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 09:45:41

    I don’t have much to add to Jennie’s excellent review, or to Jane’s equally enthusiastic earlier review. They hit all the points I would have made, and much more coherently than I could have! I will say, however, that for some reason I really liked the characters in Duke of Shadows better, as well-written as Lydia and James were. Some of that may have to do with the relative novelty of a heroine suffering from PTSD, and some of it may have to do with the fact that I found the way James tried to embarrass/one-up his father a little juvenile. I know, I know, it all makes sense psychologically as the story developed, but for some reason at the beginning I kept thinking that James was a little old to be acting the way he did, and I think that had an impact on my appreciation of his character.

    I am really looking forward to WoYS, not only because I am at the point where I will read anything Meredith Duran writes, but because of the glimpses we caught of the hero in BbYT.

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  8. Stephanie
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 11:46:23

    I’m on the fence about this one. Every review I’ve read of BbyT has been laudatory, and I was sufficiently impressed by DoS to be willing to check out MD’s next work. But I don’t greatly care for self-destructive, emo heroes who make it their life’s work to stick it to dear old Dad, even if the reason for doing so is understandable. I can never help thinking that a grown man should find more constructive outlets for his energy. Constant one-upmanship just makes him look like a spoiled, petulant little boy. On the other hand, I like the idea of a heroine getting angry at various members of her family, instead of playing the martyr and sucking up all the crap they dish out. Maybe it’s all in the way the characters handle familial dysfunction.

    Bottom line: I’ll probably read this but I might try WoYS first, even if I’d be reading out of sequence.

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  9. Trish
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 12:16:17

    I’ve just started this one, am about 70 pages in and I am really enjoying it. James is a real piece of work, at times witty and charming, at others reckless and self-destructive. I look forward to his ultimate taming, redemption, overcoming his demons, whatever term you choose. Lydia is just what he needs.

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  10. KarLynP
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 13:00:20

    I love it when a book lives up to all the hype, and this one certainly did for me. I liked (but not loved) her debut Duke of Shadows, so I wasn’t sure if the hype was warrented. I finished Bound by Your Touch a few days ago and I can’t quit thinking about it, and now I am having trouble getting into a next book. It was a solid ‘A’ read for me. And I had no problem with the storyline regarding the fake artifacts. Now I can’t wait for the next book!

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  11. Scarlett
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 16:02:08

    I found the whole artifact thing a bit confusing too.

    For some reason, I don’t think I connected emotionally with the characters as much as I did in Duke of Shadows, but the book is still a wonderful read. James is a great hero, and I absolutely am chomping at the bit to read Phin’s story next.

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  12. ASable
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 18:35:57

    I’m still loving this book, even after a second pass.

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  13. Jennie
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 18:53:46

    I will say, however, that for some reason I really liked the characters in Duke of Shadows better, as well-written as Lydia and James were. Some of that may have to do with the relative novelty of a heroine suffering from PTSD, and some of it may have to do with the fact that I found the way James tried to embarrass/one-up his father a little juvenile. I know, I know, it all makes sense psychologically as the story developed, but for some reason at the beginning I kept thinking that James was a little old to be acting the way he did, and I think that had an impact on my appreciation of his character.

    For some reason, I don't think I connected emotionally with the characters as much as I did in Duke of Shadows, but the book is still a wonderful read. James is a great hero, and I absolutely am chomping at the bit to read Phin's story next.

    I think I can relate a bit to not feeling entirely emotionally connected to James and Lydia. BBYT is such a good book though; it probably would’ve been a straight A for me if I had felt that sense of connection. I’m not sure if it had to do with James’ behavior for me. Sometimes you just completely click with a h/h, and sometimes you don’t. I certainly “clicked” enough, but I can say that I could have connected more.

    I'm on the fence about this one. Every review I've read of BbyT has been laudatory, and I was sufficiently impressed by DoS to be willing to check out MD's next work. But I don't greatly care for self-destructive, emo heroes who make it their life's work to stick it to dear old Dad, even if the reason for doing so is understandable. I can never help thinking that a grown man should find more constructive outlets for his energy. Constant one-upmanship just makes him look like a spoiled, petulant little boy. On the other hand, I like the idea of a heroine getting angry at various members of her family, instead of playing the martyr and sucking up all the crap they dish out. Maybe it's all in the way the characters handle familial dysfunction.

    I think for me it’s all about how something like that is written; if it’s well-written it’s convincing and the hero is sympathetic in spite of his behavior. I felt that James did have sufficient reason (he thought) to hate his father, and that he got his revenge in petty ways because that was just his personality – sort of a chaos-creating child sticking his tongue out at his father. I do understand that type of hero not being appealing; for me, any type of hero is potentially appealing, if he’s well-characterized enough.

    Bottom line: I'll probably read this but I might try WoYS first, even if I'd be reading out of sequence.

    I get the sense that the storylines run somewhat concurrently, so it may be okay to read WoYS first.

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  14. CEmerson
    Jul 19, 2009 @ 10:04:12

    Reading this right now. DoS ultimately wasn’t a keeper for me, but I am loving BBYT. I’m in awe of Duran’s world-building: not so much the historical detail (though that’s excellent), but how thoroughly she’s imagined her characters’ social landscapes. I feel like she could tell hours’ worth of stories about the escapades James and his friends got up to at Eton, for example. I’m fully convinced she’s imagined the world in that much detail.

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  15. Top Ten Romances of 2009 by Janine | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 18:02:07

    [...] Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran* (review by Jennie) [...]

  16. Anu
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 14:56:17

    I just re-read BBYT this morning, and one story point continues to itch at me – why did James’ sister Stella never tell James that she’d willingly removed herself from her family and society? It didn’t have to be a big dramatic to-do, but surely a brief note to James in the four years that she’d secluded herself wouldn’t have overtaxed Stella.

    In the scene between her and James, she says that what happened to her is not about him – which is mostly true, of course, but not the whole truth. What happened to Stella affected the whole dynamic of her family, magnifying tensions between James and their father and splintering them apart to such an extent that they could no longer find common ground. She knew that, and yet couldn’t make the least effort to assure James of her well-being? For four years? It seemed to me that her reclusiveness in service to self-reflection hadn’t done her much good.

    It’s a minor point but really not as it formed a major foundation for James’ psychology – so it really clanged false and took me out of an otherwise satisfying romance. Well, I guess the false note makes me that much more glad that James and Lydia went to Canada and left that whole lot behind.

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