Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Lady of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

Ronan Henry Dearborn, Marquess of Caldwell has looks, a lofty title and nothing more. He inherited a crumbling estate, an aunt in France in need of financial assistance, and debts in staggering amounts. His last-ditch plan to raise funds resulted in disaster -- and even greater debts.

His one salvation is his friendship with Lady Caroline, the younger sister of his dearest friend, Alex Starling.

She's loved him since he first surprised her and nearly caused her to fall off the ladder in the library -- and has continued to love him for six years, through his darkest moment. Now, Caroline has finally made her come out and she has set her cap on Ronan.

Caroline sees it as the logical progression of their relationship, but Ronan sees it as impossible. Why? There's the age gap, the state of his finances versus her sizable dowry, and the differences in their life experiences. Ronan is determined to prove to Caroline that he's wrong for her -- and Caroline wants to show him otherwise.

Love Conquers All. Lady Caroline believes this maxim wholeheartedly but she's having a hard time convincing Ronan of its truth. Ronan has had a difficult life, a life so full of calamitous instances that has led him to believe that he is unworthy/undeserving of any sort of happiness or reward.

Ronan has had a sad upbringing -- and Delilah Marvelle touches on issues of abuse and neglect in a very poignant and sympathetic manner. But Ronan has an enduring spirit -- and part of it was nurtured because of his friendship with Caroline. He thought he was saving her from her loneliness and isolation and never thought that she was also saving him from his own problems.

I loved Caroline from the first moment. She's an unconventional heroine: plain speaking and forthright. (And she has an unusual hobby: she catalogs dirty words and hopes to make a dictionary. (loc 165) Even at 13, she had an incredible sense of confidence and intelligence and, during her conversations with Ronan, she was a wonderful mix of precocious and innocence.

When she finally came of age, she gained self-possession and maturity. But, despite everything that had happened to her (her parents' estrangement, her father's death, etc), she never lost her vibrance and optimism.

And I loved how she pursued Ronan. She was clear about her intentions but was never pushy. And she did it with a sense of humor. ^_^

"I'm getting married in June," she added.

His gaze jerked to hers. "To who?" It was almost a demand, not a question.

It gave her hope. She brought her hands together, trying to keep herself and her voice calm. "To you, of course. You didn't think my affections for you have changed since we last saw each other? In fact, I consider myself more passionate now than I was then. Which means, you don't stand a chance. By June, you'll be mine. I guarantee it."

His expression stilled and grew serious.
- loc 764 - 774

The first half of the book flowed very nicely. The banter between Caroline and Ronan and between Caroline and her sisters was good-humored, witty and revealed aspects of each character's personality. Then Chapter 9 happens, a story takes a dark turn. I understand that a powerful catalyst would be needed to move Ronan's character and to test Caroline's devotion (which, up to this point, could still be construed as infatuation) -- and Delilah Marvelle succeeds in doing so (although, I will say, I did cringe when it did happen. Read: Chapters 9 and 10)

Things fall apart for our hero and heroine and it takes the second half of the book for them to sort through the debris and to figure out what it is that exists between them. The process is painful for Ronan and Caroline, especially for Ronan, who is forced to confront the painful memories of his past and the accept them.

"You did nothing wrong. You were a boy who bore a wicked lash that should have never touche your skin or your mind. But now you are a man. You must tight the wrong done against you for shame destroys the soul. ..."
- Madame de Maitenon to Ronan, loc 3057

The tone of the second half is a bit uneven, with moments of brevity mixed into quite serious, soul-searching moments -- and the part Theodosia, Ronan's lover, played was a bit confusing -- but, on the whole, this was a delightful read and I'm glad that Delilah Marvelle decided to revisit The School of Gallantry and to tell the stories of the students of that school. Lady of Pleasure showcases Marvelle's unique voice and vision in romance novels. This is another daring story with bold and vivid characters.

Lady of Pleasure is the third book in Delilah Marvelle's The School of Gallantry series. The next book, Night of Pleasure, will be released Fall 2013. To find out more about Delilah Marvelle and her books, visit her website. She is also on Facebook and on Goodreads.

Disclosure: I requested for a review copy of this book from the author. Thank you to Delilah Marvelle for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.


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