Tag Archives: spousal abuse

Too Wicked to Kiss (Scoundrels and Secrets, Book 1) by Erica Ridley

Miss Evangeline Pemberton has a gift or perhaps it’s better to describe it as a curse. The daughter of a gypsy, she has inherited the ability to see “visions”, whether from the past, present, or future, just by touching another. Her mother, forced to marry in the face of disgrace, has died at the hands of her sadistic husband, forcing Evangeline to run away or face the cruelty of a stepfather that feels he owns her and her power. Unfortunately the woman she has turned to in desperation is also quite despicable and she finds herself at a house party in a creepy mansion owned by Gavin Lioncroft, a known killer, with the task of helping compromise her friend Susan, Lady Stanton’s daughter, into matrimony to that very owner of Blackberry Manor. Little does Evangeline expect to develop feeling for the handsome, gruff man who has a tendency to react with his fists, nor does Gavin know how to combat the instant attraction they feel towards one another.

Also at the gathering is Lioncroft’s sister, Rose, with her husband, Lord Hetherton, and their children, as well as Rose’s brother-in-law, Benedict Rutherford and his wife Francine, plus their cousin Edmund. An elderly, doddering gentleman, Mr Teasdale has also been invited (targeted) as a prospective husband for Rose’s eldest daughter Nancy. Hetherton turns out to be a real piece of work so when he turns up dead nobody, except perhaps his children, seem upset. His insulting behavior gives everyone a motive, but the prime candidate is the host who publicly threatened to kill his brother-in-law after witnessing the results of his spousal abuse. Somehow Evangeline’s gift has been revealed, although she claims her insight is because she hears messages from God, and she sets out to discover the truth, hopefully proving Gavin’s innocence. Mayhem ensues. While everyone wants to leave ASAP, it is Jane’s thirteenth birthday and she has been promised a party so they all stay to celebrate resulting in the best day of her life (despite her recent father’s murder), giving Evangeline time to discover the identity of the true murderer.

While this started out as an enticing read Too Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley turned out to be long winded with internal repetitive narratives which distracted from the whole. Disguised as a Gothic story, instead of being mysterious, much of this Regency Romance is nonsensical. While there were some potentially interesting characters, none of the secondary cast of players was fully developed. The reason Miss Susan Stanton (one of the better defined individuals) was banned from society and thus reduced to entrapping a husband, was lame and the reader is at a loss for the irrational behaviors of her mother. Edmund was constantly drunk which was perhaps a reason for his inappropriate crudeness which would never have been tolerated at a house party, and the other guests were just as one sided in their descriptions. The children, however, were a delight, and injected some light heartedness into a dark theme. I also couldn’t understand why the Lioncrofts blackballed their brother after their parents death since it was all obviously an accident. Under all the handwringing there was a decent plot, but you had to search to find it. This is Book 1 of the Scoundrels and Secrets series.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on my blog, Gotta Read.

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The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Celie’s life has been full of abuse since she was a small child. When her mother becomes too ill to satisfy her husband’s needs he turns to his preteen daughter, fathering then getting rid of her two newborns, and eventually farming her out to be the wife of another man so she can take care of HIS house and children. Once again, Celie becomes a receptacle, this time for her husband. Despite the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, she works hard and quietly accepts her fate, obediently doing what she is told. Her one moment of rebellion involves her sister Nettie whom she harbors from the leacherous attentions of their father. Nettie is sent on her way when she refuses the advances of Mister, Celie’s husband, but vows to write (unless she is dead). When after years of waiting and no letter is received, Celine assumes the worst, another blow in her lackluster life. Yet there are women who refuse to be dominated by men. Shug Avery, Mister’s mistress, becomes an ally of Celie, teaching her the joys of intimacy. Then there is Sophia, step son Harpo’s wife, who refuses to be bullied by any man, physically reciprocating the violence. This, of course, gets ugly when Sophia accosts the mayor after “sassing” his wife for assuming she would jump at the chance to be a maid for a white family.

As we follow the life of Celie we slowly watch as she finds her voice with the help of Shug, Sophia, and even Squeak (Harpo’s mistress). With her newfound independence many truths are revealed, changing her outlook on life. The story is told in “letters” at first beginning Dear God, then switching to Dear Nettie when Celie looses her faith in the Almighty.

Now what I’ve neglected to mention about the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker is that Celie is black, living in rural Georgia during the depression, so not only does this story deal with misogyny, but also the racism still prevalent in the south sixty to seventy years after the Enancipation Proclamation.

There are so many facets to this story, I can see why it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction. It’s raw language and unabashed references to sexuality has also earned it a consistent place on the banned book list.

While the depressing aspects of Celie’s life should leave us in a morbid funk, this is a story about the strength of family and friends, full of the promise that people’s attitudes and behaviors can change in a positive manner providing hope for a brighter future. It helps that I listened to the tape narrated by Alice Walker who brilliantly brought the characters to life. Little wonder The Color Purple provided a plot perfect for the stage and screen.

A must read. Five stars.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Calamity! Yes, it’s one calamity after another in the small seaside resort area in Pirriwee, Australia when Madeline sprains her ankle on her way to kindergarten orientation with her precocious daughter Chloe. New resident Jane with her son Ziggy assists the injured woman as they both drop their children off to meet the prospective teacher. Madeline and Jane end up on the beach at the Blues Blue coffee shop where Celeste, the mother of twins, joins them to help the injured party celebrate her birthday. The gift of champagne and flutes are perfect, despite the early hour, because Madeline is now f-o-r-t-y. The party atmosphere continues as they go to pick up their darlings until little Amabelle accuses Ziggy of choking her. Despite the tot’s denial, the parents end up sorting themselves into team Renata (Amabelle’s mum) vs Team Madeline. Amidst the conflict and resulting bedlam, the families deal with the normal chaos of raising children. While behind the scenes each couple has secrets which are slowly revealed, it is the flamboyant, gutsy Madeline who meets life head on, guiding her friends through their individual crisis. She even tries to be “civil” to her ex husband and new wife who also have a daughter attending the same kindergarten program, (although on PMS days, her behavior might not be “quite polite” towards those who have slighted her or her friends).

As the story progresses, bad behaviors escalate until the climax on Trivia Night, a costumed fundraising competition, where an altercation and death occurs. The event is alluded to via short vignettes placed at the beginning or end of a chapter, with various participants giving their take on exactly what happened through the questioning by Investigating Officer Quinlan. The reader is left trying to sort fact from fiction and figure out exactly who the victim might be.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is an amusing, witty romp dealing with societal pressures, spousal abuse, infidelity, love and loss, bullying, blended families, teen angst, working mothers, and fragile egos. Who knew a story about a class of kindergarteners could be so much fun!

Five stars for a “can’t stop reading” book. (For a real treat listen to the CD expertly read by Caroline Lee who makes each character your personal friend or enemy). We will have to wait and see if the upcoming version on HBO retains the flavor of the original novel when the locale is moved from Australia to California.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lord Series, Book 5)

Lord Hadley Fullerton and his next door neighbor Lady Evangeline Stuart are in love, even though the future will require a conservative lifestyle. Hadley, as the second son to the Duke of Claymore has a limited income based on his fledgling vineyard, while Evageline, despite her beauty, comes from a fatherless family who has lost its income due to her mother’s gambling habits, so lacks a proper dowry to attract the wealthy husband her mom envisions. She doesn’t care that they can’t afford a season since her true love is the handsome Hadley. By the time they agree to elope, they’ve already explored their passion through every act but penetration. The evening they exchange promises, Evangeline convinces Hadley to give in to their passions and consummate their relationship. Thinking they are to wed, he allows himself to be seduced by his one true love.

Five years later, Hadley is a bitter man. He avoids close relationships with women after being spurned by Evageline who absconded to Scotland with a rich titled gentleman. He even agreed to wed his brother’s best friend’s sister, a mousy plain spinster, because it would be a marriage without emotion. Yet as his thirtieth birthday and the impending nuptials near, he starts to have second thoughts. Then Evangeline, the now wealthy widow, reappears and acts as if she did nothing wrong. Her presence enrages Hadley, even while he finds himself still attracted to his former fiancĂ©. Evangeline has a different take on the whole situation, and she, too, is angry because Hadley let her go so easily and did not come and rescue her from an unwanted fate.

While the two lovebirds sort out their feelings, giving in to their mutual passions despite their differences, a series of complications arise. The mystery woman who is trying to ruin the lives of the six Libertine Scholars, strikes once again. This time the reader gets some answers, but there are still too many questions remaining to get complete closure. Kidnappings, murder, and mayhem overwhelm the close friends as one of their number disappears and they must admit that the only way to find him alive is to trust their enemy.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans ends unfinished leaving the reader wanting more. There are surprises intermixed with exciting developments and lots of loose ends plus the fear that the next book in the Disgraced Lord series, A Night of Forever, will also end in tragedy. This Regency Romance is definitely a four star book.

A thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Kiss of Lies by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lords Series, Book One)

Sarah Cooper breathed a sigh of relief when Christian Trent, the Earl of Markham, hired her as a governess for his ward, Lily, the orphaned daughter of his former business partner, Mr. Pearson. Sarah, really Lady Serena Castleton, needed to hide her true identity and get as far away from North America as possible to escape prosecution for murdering her abusive husband. The Earl had his own demons, after being scarred in a fire while fighting the French and then being impressed on a ship to Canada after a duke’s daughter accused him of rape. His disfigured face and the false charges lead him to Calgary, Canada, but now it is time to return to London and clear his name.

On The Doreen, Lord Markham’s ship, Christian finds himself attracted to the governess and plans to make her his mistress. Serena has had a secret infatuation for the Earl since before her come out when she would watch him from the stairway at her father’s, the Duke of Hastings, social events. Even though he is disfigured, Serena still considers him a handsome, virile man. When she hears his nightmarish screams, she goes to comfort him while he sleeps. This just spurs him to further his plans of seduction. However, Serena’s only experiences in sex were with her sadistic husband who not only treated her as a slave, but beat her. She and the Earl both have battle scars, physically and emotionally. Slowly Christian wins Serena’s trust and shows her how wonderful lovemaking can be. Despite her determination to maintain her distance, Serena finally agrees to be his lover, but only until they reach England. Lord Markham, not wanting to give her up, proposes marriage, but Serena doesn’t want him tainted by her criminal acts, so she refuses. Of course, once the truth is revealed, although hurt by her lack of trust, the Duke vows to protect his love. She returns the favor and protects him from his accusers.

A Kiss of Lies by Bronwen Evans is Book One in the Disgraced Lords Series where the Libertine Scholars are introduced. Christian is not alone in his struggles, and his friends assist him in clearing his name. Of course, they immediately recognize Lady Serena who was a debutante when the Earl was fighting in France. When they hear her dilemma they vow to speak out in her behalf, especially those who had witnessed the vile behavior of her former husband Peter Dennett. Evans explores the role of men and their domination over women, with the laws which ignored the human rights of even an abused wife.

While the author has an interesting premise, the delivery doesn’t meet the promised potential. Yes, there are some interesting plot twists, but the reader has to wade through too much repetition of the main characters angst. Their continuous professions of love and lamentations about their private issues gets annoying. Even their lovemaking is overdone to the point where it loses its effectiveness. Cut the repetition in order to pay more attention to the plot details and keep the readers’ interest. Some witty dialogue would also be a good addition. True love is a worthy subject, but not when it gets too sappy. Maudlin, love sick characters lack a sense of excitement. I was also put off by how selfish the main characters could be and how nasty Christian was, in various situations, to the love of his life. Serena was already brow beaten by one husband, she didn’t need to make excuses for the behaviors of another perspective spouse. Expanding and creating a more compelling plot with less introspection along with the addition of some clever interchanges would really spice up the story. A little more attention to the details of the Regency Period would also endear the author to fans of that era.

I’m willing to allow some leeway since this book sets up the premise for the rest of the series, introducing us to some of the featured characters. Since Christian’s friends have peaked my interest and the over riding mystery plot has potential, I’m looking forward to Sebastian’s story in A Promise of More.

2 1/2 Stars