Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: Sweet Madness by Heather Snow



Gabriel Devereaux returned from war alive, but not living. His experience during the war left an indelible mark on Gabriel, particularly his mind -- and he struggles to remember that final moment on the battlefield where he was found unconscious and struggles with the elusive pieces haunting him since then. He and his family believe that he suffers from madness and Gabriel has voluntary locked himself away at Vickering Place, where he hopes to recover, but Vickering Place has not helped Gabriel and he descends deeper and deeper into darkness -- his only salvation is Penelope, his cousin's widow.

Penelope is beautiful and bright -- not in the intellectual sense like her cousin, Liliana (read: Sweet Enemy), but in the sense that a light emanates from her: she possesses a spark of vividness and vibranc. Pen was a successful debutante and landed an advantageous marriage -- but when Michael died six months after their marriage, Pen's light dims a little bit -- for there was nothing natural or accidental about Michael's death. What the world didn't know was that popular, fun-loving, artistic Michael suffered from mania and he dragged Penelope with him through the incredible highs and the terrible lows -- and it ended in his tragic suicide.

Pen has devoted the last two years of her life assisting her cousin Liliana, helping soldiers recover from their traumatic experience in battle. Now Pen is tasked of helping Gabriel recover.

Confronting demons: Penelope is put in a difficult situation: she has already recovered from the devastation of Gabriel's death and has moved on (or has she?) -- is she strong enough to step back into that world and confront Gabriel, Michael's cousin, and the madness that seems to run in their family?

This is plus point 1 for Penelope, and what makes her truly heroic. Despite her reservations, her desire to help overcomes all and she willingly goes to Gabriel to help him. Penelope wasn't borne to live the life of an expert on madness. She was happy and content to be a debutante and concern herself with the world of her fellow debutantes ... But circumstances forced Penelope to adapt to survive -- and she discovered a talent for helping soldiers experiencing PTSD.

From the first chapter, there was already a spark between Gabriel and Penelope, especially by Gabriel. I really felt for Gabriel, who finally found a woman who awakened hope in him -- but it wasn't meant to be, as the woman was his cousin's new wife. I could imagine the agony, that terrible feeling of losing something so essential, so vital -- to be so close to it but never touch or experience it.

Gabriel blinked rapidly at her sudden change in countenance. He couldn't help but draw in a sharp, deep breath, quite dazzled by it. How could a simple smile, dispel the remaining tension in his limbs? But it had, and more than that, it filled his chest with something ... warm. Something pleasant. Something he was afraid to name.
- p. 5

But Gabriel soldiered on, and bravely faced the madness that was slowly taking over his life. Gabriel went through hell as a soldier and he's going through hell trying to cure himself. What he has withstood could break any man -- but Gabriel remains undefeated and resolved to reclaim his place as head of his family.

I love Gabriel and Pen together. I love reading novels where the hero falls in love with the heroine first -- the courtship is always fascinating, depending on which direction the author decides to take it: is it a brazen seduction or a proper wooing? In Gabriel and Pen's case, it was neither: there is no best first impression to be made, no false faces or sugary words, no flowers or gifts, no dances and dinners -- their relationship begins in the darkest, most unimaginable place but this allows our hero and heroine to be their truest selves, stripped of all the artifice of society. That love can blossom in such a place is a miracle -- and the testament that love can save the world. ;-)

Sweet: All of the titles in Snow's series juxtaposes the word sweet with enemy, deception and madness -- it is a paradox to put such words beside each other but what the author does is present in such a precise way the dichotomy of life and love. The pleasure/pain of every moment. The gain/loss that comes with every victory or defeat. Madness is the theme of this story and the question to ask, of course, would be: "How could madness be sweet?"

He shouldn't be here. It was both heaven and hell to have her in his arms. But he couldn't bring himself to leave, either. So he closed his eyes and just held her, as he'd imagined doing so many nights before. The darkness surrounding them only opened his senses further. His skin tingled where her sleep-warmed body molded itself into his. Her sugary citrus scent mixed with the fresh smell of rainwater that had dried in her hair, making him wish he could breathe her in for eternity.
- pp. 120-121

It's amazing that Heather Snow challenged herself by creating a story that deals with it so honestly -- I really enjoyed the process where Penelope and Gabriel confront the ghosts that haunt his past (and also the ghosts that haunt Pen's past.) This was a challenging story to tell, with a challenging hero and a near-impossible love story and Snow's efforts pay off in spades: in Sweet Madness, the author encapsulates poignance at its most poignant, sweetness at its most sweet -- every emotion heightened, every pain sharpened -- because the urgency is greater.

I really appreciate the vision of Heather Snow's series and this is her best story so far -- and tracking her trajectory, I expect more brilliance from this very talented voice in historical romance.

Sweet Madness is the third book in Heather Snow's Veiled Seduction series. To find out more about Heather Snow and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook and on Goodreads.

To read my reviews of the rest of the series, click below:
Sweet Enemy
Sweet Deception

5 comments:

  1. Heather Snow has truly written some fabulous novels and her great talent is being more and more recognized. Congratulations to Heather on the awards she has received as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Connie!

    Thank you for dropping by and for your wonderful comment about one of my favorite authors. ^_^

    I'm really excited to read more of her books but she doesn't have any announcements yet on upcoming releases.

    Curious: do you have a favorite in her series? I think Sweet Madness is mine. ^_^

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