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REVIEW: Vanquished by Hope Tarr

Dear Ms. Tarr:

VanquishedTara Marie’s brief post is what got me to buy this book. She said “It was dark and erotic.” Those are two compelling adjectives for a romance book these days. She was right, it was both dark and erotic. I’ll add one more adjective: brave.

Hadrian St. Claire was the son of a prostitute who begged and stole on the streets of London until he was saved and put in an orphanage. There, a patron took interest in him and St. Claire remade himself into a successful portrait photographer. He specializes in capturing women, in immortalizing their deep desires and thoughts in pictures. He doesn’t hesistate to bed the women either. Unfortunately, St. Claire has another vice which is more dangerous: gambling. After a deep night at the tables, St. Clare finds himself owing 400 pounds to Bull Boyle who liked to extract a pound of flesh for every 100 pounds a debtor owed him.

St. Claire arrives home one day to be offered a proposition. Ruin Calendonia Rivers, the leader of the London suffragette movement. St. Claire, for the princely sum of five thousand pounds, is to Vanquish her –obtain a photograph of her utterly exposed. If she is vanquished, the movement will fall. St. Claire is lured by the enormous sum of money and while he is dismayed at the offer, he agrees and hopes that Calendonia is someone he doesn’t have “to work too hard at hating.”

Callie is a well-bred spinster by choice. Ten years ago, she was engaged to the son of a prominent family and she broke it off. Her family was upset with her and so she packed her bags and moved in with her Aunt Charlotte where she has lived ever since. Callie is drawn to Hadrian just as he is drawn to her. She is purposeful and decent and while it pains him to debase her, he must or suffer dire consequences. This is the dark part of the story.

The erotic part of the story is the vanquishing of Callie. Hadrian employs his formidable charisma to seduce her and of course, the seduction works both ways. He appreciates all that is good in Callie, her vulnerabilities and her strengths and her courage.

At the critical moments of the book, there seemed to be an easier path and you always took the more difficult one and for that I thought the book was brave. Sometimes I wondered if it wasn’t a little contrived to take the difficult path but overall I appreciated it.

So what keeps this book from being a keeper? There were some extraneous characters which I thought were inserted merely to create interest in a sequel and added nothing to the story. The villian was not only over the top but a covenient scapegoat for everything. There is the infamous sex scene which seemed, like the extraneous characters, to be gratuitous.

But the plot was tight, the suffragette issues were not overdone, and Callie and Hadrian were a touching pair whose HEA was well earned. Thanks to Tara Marie for recommending it and thanks to you for writing it. B.

Best regards

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

7 Comments

  1. jmc
    Sep 26, 2006 @ 07:52:06

    Jane, I finished Vanquished feeling very much the same as you. My notes in my reading journal : excellent setting, main characters (not always entirely likeable but real); suffrage issue fits in well, not grafted onto love story but part; uber evil villain (why?); needed a little trimming. Technical grade: A-, but not a keeper. Overall: B.

    That said, I enjoyed the book enough that I’m looking for Tarr’s backlist at the library.

    ~jmc

  2. Keishon
    Sep 26, 2006 @ 08:09:16

    I guess I’ll have to order this book as it is not found here in any of the major bookstores and I haven’t checked Borders yet as it’s quite far away. I was thinking about this book this moring and curious to know what your thoughts were on it since so many starting with Tara Marie read and enjoyed it. I’ll have to order it, I guess. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Tara Marie
    Sep 26, 2006 @ 11:32:12

    I loved this book!

    It didn’t matter that the villain was completely over the top and extraneous characters meant she’s writing sequels and if they are remotely as good as this one I’ll be very happy.

    …excellent setting, main characters (not always entirely likeable but real); suffrage issue fits in well, not grafted onto love story but part…

    JMC, you nailed it. I loved how the suffrage story flowed with the romance, beautifully integrated. They both grew as individuals because of the other and made each other better people.

    This probably my favorite book this year. I’ve read it twice and it sits quite happy on my keeper shelf.

    Keishon, I ordered it through my local indie bookseller and it was a project to find, but it was so worth it.

  4. Tara Marie
    Sep 26, 2006 @ 11:35:54

    Hey Jane, I pulled this quote out of you comment from my original post:

    If I don’t like it, I’ll write my “scathing and mean” letter to you!

    I must say I’m relieved you liked it–LOL.

  5. Kristie(J)
    Sep 26, 2006 @ 11:53:08

    I was surprised when I saw this one in the book store a while ago. They usually don’t stock the smaller publishers. So with that I bought it up real quick. I’ve read most of her backlist and really enjoyed them. It was a while before she published again. Haven’t read it yet though. I really do need to start reading books from my TBR pile. It’s getting scary. And this will be one of the first!

  6. Sybil
    Sep 27, 2006 @ 00:42:31

    This looks great. I wrote it down after I read Tara’s review too. Go team tara ;)

  7. Jane
    Sep 27, 2006 @ 08:06:50

    JMC – I was really grateful that the suffragette thing was handled well. There is always the danger of that type of book being overly preachy. I loved the introductory chapter quotes.

    Keishon – I had to special order this too.

    TM – saved! :) What’s next to read?

    Kristie J- I want to know what you think of Hard Evidence. I saw at Sybil’s site that she is a fave of yours.

    Syb – Team Tara indeed.

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