Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Blackstone's Bride by Kate Moore

The notorious Lord Blackstone has returned from his sojourn abroad. Rumor has it, he brought with him a harem and continues to be unapologetic about the scandalous portrait that led to his broken engagement and cemented his reputation as a dissolute rake.

But Blackstone's trip abroad was not a vacation -- it involved a ransom (not his) and him being held captive for a year and a day -- and now Blackstone was returning home to financial ruin: his family estate rented out to a merchant, his mother and sister removed to Bath due to their reduced circumstances -- but a chance meeting on board the ship with a man known only as Goldsworthy leads to Blackstone's new employment and an arrangement which will last for another year and a day.

Together with Captain Clare and Viscount Hazelwood, they are the three chosen by Goldworthy as spies, each one assigned to a different area of London. Blackstone navigates the waters of London society, waltzing with the ladies of the ton while gathering information from those considered "of interest" to the Crown. He is generally happy with the arrangement -- but he is not happy about his new assignment. Frank Hammersley, a well-known banker has disappeared before delivering vital information regarding the Kingdom of Moldova. Frank happens to be Blackstone's closest friends and the older brother of Blackstone's former fiancée, Violet.

It has been five years but Blackstone has never forgotten the pain of betrayal when Violet and all of London believed he and his Spanish mistress were the subject of that scandalous painting. But Blackstone's duty is to protect Violet and to try to find Frank. It proves to be a challenging assignment for Blackstone when his past collides with the present -- and old feelings surface.

To change this rock into a jewel, you must change its true name.
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

Lyle Massing, Baron Blackstone has now become one of my favorite romance novel heroes. Misjudged and misunderstood, he remains loyal to the people he loves. There are a lot of mysteries surrounding Blackstone: how did he lose his fortune? Why the portrait? It is very telling that, other than the prologue, his given name isn't mentioned by a character until later in the story, during an intimate moment between the hero and heroine (p. 225). And those are the only times his name is ever mentioned.

Names are very important -- it symbolizes existence and being. (See The Book of Genesis) Throughout the novel, we know him only as Blackstone and it is the name everyone calls him (even Violet). He has always been defined by his title and the reputation that comes attached with that title. Instead of crying injustice, Blackstone accepts it -- trusting that there would be people who could see beyond it.

It is a terrible burden for Blackstone, who did not have a good relationship with his father, the former Baron Blackstone -- but Lyle embraces the duties of his title and the legacy his father has left him wholeheartedly. The sacrifices he has made are all revealed in the later part of the book -- but, even without reading that far, one an already glean Blackstone's noble character through his actions and decisions. Despite his bitter history with the Hammersleys, he helps them to the best of his abilities and tries valiantly (but fails) to be professional in his dealings with Violet.

"You are not in charge of me."

"I am in charge of the government's investigation."

"You expect me to do nothing?"

"I expect you to act as if you believe your brother as been delayed and to pay sharp attention to the prince's party. One of them knows something. What was Frank's plan for the prince's entertainment tomorrow?"

"Blackstone, do not presume the rights of a true fiance."

"Only the rights of a government agent." His gaze unyielding. In any test of wills between them, he would be a tough opponent.
- p. 55

Kate Moore delves into spies and international intrigue in this story and she does it very well. She builds an atmosphere that is tense where one must be careful of whom they trust. How Blackstone dealt with the situation parallels how readers should view him as well. He sees beyond the obvious. Blackstone proves that a lot can be learned from something as innocuous as a shopping trip. (Read pp. 69-70)

Moore's writing is very beautiful -- rich in emotion and detail. She invites the readers to really pay attention to the details. It is very nuanced -- one word provides a world of meaning.

What he wanted, had begun to want from the moment he saw Violet on the stairs, was to make love to her again in all the places he'd made love to her before in her father's ridiculous mansion.
- p. 119

"Again" -- in that one word, the whole history between the hero and heroine is revealed (and what a past they shared!) I enjoyed the dynamic between the hero and heroine -- the pull between desire and hurt -- the sense of betrayal and the complete belief Blackstone had in their friendship -- and his determination to make amends.

He remembered how fearless she'd been as a lover. Apparently, he'd not only killed that quality in her, he'd made her think herself so wicked that a lifetime of saving seamstresses and orphans would never make up for loving him. Foe a moment he thought they'd both remembered what that time had been like, but she didn't want to remember, and he would be wise to follow her lead. He could give her back her brother -- that's what he could do for her. He could not be the man to restore her to fearless love.
- p. 120-121

Frank was an amazing character as well -- and this is the genius of Moore's writing. The missing is never missed and is more than just ornament -- but an active agent in the story. He reminded me of Kit from To Seduce an Angel and how he disappeared -- but he was always there waiting to be found.

Blackstone's Bride is a story to be savored. (Can you tell I'm a fan? ^_^) When I finished this story, I immediately went to Kate Moore's website, hoping to find information n her next book. I really, really hope it will be soon. :-)

To find out more about Kate Moore and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.



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