Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Musings on: Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter
I became a fan of Madeline Hunter with her Rothwell & Seducer series. That led me to her back-list of medievals, which I enjoyed as well. With her new series, The Rarest Blooms, Hunter introduces us to four women from different backgrounds who, through varying circumstances, have come to share a home. Under the tutelage of the homes owner, Daphne, the women raise and sell rare flowers. Ravishing in Red is the story of Daphne's cousin, Audrianna Kelmsleigh.
Audrianna's father was accused of letting bad gunpowder be used during the Peninsular War, which resulted in the tragic death of soldiers. The outcome of the tragedy sparked an inquisition that ultimately led to her father's suicide. The stain of suicide left a bad mark on her family. With future marriage prospects gone, Audrianna decided that she would live independently and left her mother's home to live with her cousin Daphne.
Audrianna remained convinced that her father was wrongly accused, so when an ad appears in the paper by the "Domino," wishing to meet with Audrianna's deceased father, she goes in his place, hoping the meeting will result in information she can use to clear her dead father's name. She travels alone to the meeting place, a coaching inn, with her cousin's gun as protection.
Lord Sebastian Summerhays, one of the Audrianna's father's persecutors, also read the ad and goes to the coaching inn hoping to find the source of the bad gunpowder. Sebastian and Audrianna come face to face believing that the other is the "Domino." While the two are distracted, the real Domino shows up. A tussle occurs, the gun is discharged, Sebastian is grazed, the whole inn is alerted, and they are compromised.
Sebastian thinks up a plan that paints the two as lovers in order to keep Audrianna from being accused of trying to kill the marquess's brother, but the speculation is damning and soon Sebastian is being depicted as a villain and Audrianna's already weakened reputation is at stake. For Sebastian there is only one solution that will clear both their names and hush rumors: marriage.
Ravishing in Red has everything in it that I love about Hunter's writing. The historical detail, characterization, and descriptive writing make reading her books a joy. Hunter shines at writing male/male and female/female interpersonal relationships in a very believable way, and both types are present in this book. The four women in the Rarest Blooms House are shown to care deeply for each other. They have come together and formed a sisterly commune, that is an escape of sorts from their pasts. The one rule of the house, that no one pry into anyone's background, gives all the women a peace that they may not otherwise have.
I was especially taken with Sebastian and his brother, Morgan, the marquess. Morgan is chair bound due to war injuries that resulted in him losing use of his legs. The relationship between Sebastian and Morgan is very interesting. Due to Morgan's injuries, Sebastian has stepped into his brother's place as marquess. It is a role that he never intended to have and he struggles with his brother being alive to see his position taken. This causes Sebastian a lot of strife, especially when he begins to feel that he and Morgan share not only a life and title, but Audrianna as well.
Sebastian is my favorite type of hero. A reformed rake, he's doing his best to keep his repaired reputation as spotless as possible, that's why when the fall out from the inn fiasco takes place, he feels that marriage is the best way to go. He's sensual, charming and understanding. He strives to do the right thing by his brother and Audrianna, even if that means his feelings are not acknowledged. Sebastian is for them the calm in the storm, even though he has is own raging storm inside.
It took me a while to warm to Audrianna. In the beginning of the book she made decisions that were not smart, like taking a gun that she didn't know how to use to meet up with a complete stranger at an inn. I felt that she lacked self awareness and at times life awareness. She put herself in situations that any woman of her time would steer clear of, or at least find a less clueless way of going about them. About halfway through, she seemed to smarten up a little and I began liking her more.
Overall, the book was really good. I enjoyed the story as a whole. It was well plotted and paced. The set up for future books in the series was discretely so it did not overwhelm the story. The little tidbits revealed about the women of the Rarest Blooms house, and the men who make up Sebastian's circle were intriguing enough for me to look forward to all their stories. Grade B.
Visit Madeline Hunter here. Read an excerpt for Ravishing in Red here. Be sure to check out her book trailers, they are really good.