Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seduction & Scandal by Charlotte Featherstone



I loved Charlotte Featherstone's Addicted and Sinful. They were incredibly memorable reads with wonderful characters.

I was pleased when she released a mass-market paperback and I immediately pre-ordered my copy.

I have started and stopped reading this book since I got it in June -- I finally buckled down (and found quiet time) and finished it before 2011 ended.

When I read historical romances, the colors that come to mind are bright -- pinks, yellows, gold, etc --

But Charlotte Featherstone paints a very grayscale world --

Seduction & Scandal has a very gothic feel to it -- with characters that seem haunted by both their past and their present.

Isabella is the niece of the Marquess of Stonebrook, who rescued her from her simple (read: near-impoverished) life in Yorkshire and whisked her off to London.  Together with her cousin, Lucy, they are enjoying the Season and the attention of the gentlemen of the Ton.

Isabella is determined to be happy and to erase all traces of her former life (and of her mother's scandal) -- but she is not happy and she is haunted by dreams of her past.  She writes about her dreams where she is the heroine and Death is the hero.

Jude Sheldon, the Earl of Black, is an elusive member of the Ton.  Few people know about his past and he is happy to keep his secrets.  He is a member of the Brethren, descendants of the Templars, who are entrusted to guard Templar treasures.

The theft of the treasures forces Jude to move about in society -- this allows him to get close to Isabella. Isabella is attracted to Jude, who seems to embody her story's character, Death.  She is caught between her desire for respectability (and a quiet life with Wendell) and the allure and excitement of the world of the Earl of Black.

There's a lot going on in this book:
1.  Isabella's unfortunate past <-- constantly referred to and thought of by Isabella and Lucy (and the Earl of Black)
2.  Jude's tragic past <-- much more fleshed out
3.  The Brethren and their treasures <-- paranormal element in Featherstone's romance
4.  A new incarnation of the Orpheus club <-- I assume they are former adversaries of the Brethren and have been revived by a mysterious group
5.  The love story between Isabella and Jude
6.  Lucy and her fascination with the occult
7.  Lucy and the Duke of Sussex
8.  Elizabeth, the Duke's sister and Alynwick

Granted this is the first book in the series and introduces the cast of characters, it encumbered the story --

Featherstone has a wonderful gift for creating atmosphere, but I felt this was overly Gothic and was, at times, overly dramatic.

I am currently reading the second book, Pride and Passion, and I'm hoping that Featherstone regains her focus in it.

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