REVIEW: Vanquished by Hope Tarr
Dear Ms. Tarr:
Tara 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.