Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Desire Wears Diamonds by Renee Bernard


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

The Jaded are all men of knowledge or of wealth, except for Michael Rutherford, who, as the son of a gameskeeper, has the humblest background of the group.

As a young man, Michael had grand aspirations of working his way up the ranks but his superiors have placed Michael firmly in a box. He served as hitman/assassin/thug for the East India Company in Bengal -- and it didn't take long before Michael started believing that that was all he was good for. Rutherford's a villain. (loc 209)

Grace grew up with a restrictive father and an equally controlling brother. She grew up believing she wasn't going to be worthy of being anybody's wife because she was a plain nobody. Grace accepted her lot in life -- and made the best of it -- quietly managing her brother's house and fading into the background when necessary. But, under the pseudonym A.R. Crimson, Grace created worlds of adventure, danger and of intrepid explorers -- saving the money she earned so that, one day, she might have enough to escape her brother's tyranny and make her own way in the world.

Grace is literally and figuratively what Michael needed. Grace, God's divine mercy, is the only thing that can counteract the blood of those he has killed and the guilt that weighs heavily on Michael. He longs to see proof, any sort of sign or reassurance that the work he has done has been for the greater good. And Grace, so aptly named, is a woman unlike any Michael has ever known. She is unfazed by his height and size and seems to delight in the strangest things. Her very presence brings comfort to Michael.

Every nerve ending was stretched taut and he had the fleeting idea that this was what Lazarus might have felt. Kissing her was like being reborn, but also brought about the discovery that he'd been dead for a long time, shut away from the world.
- loc 2491

Michael is the willing ear and kind heart that Grace has always needed. Michael is the first person in Grace's life to ever defend her and stand up for her -- and his supportiveness of Grace encourages her to step out of the shadows, out of the corner where her father and her brother have put her.

But Grace stands between Michael and the Jackal -- and Michael's first vow and first responsibility is to protect the Jaded. Caught between love and duty, Michael must make the difficult choice that will either mean his salvation or his damnation.

Admittedly, the romance between Grace and Michael isn't as angst-ridden as Darius and Isabel's or as fraught with fireworks as Rowan and Gayle's -- their story is a bit more simple (and a bit convenient) and very quiet, much like Michael's character. The main point of their love story is how their relationship can withstand the onslaught and pressure of an outside force (the Jackal and the Jaded). (Read: the confrontation between Michael and the Jaded about Grace in Chapter 22)

As much as I love series beginnings, I love the series endings more -- here's why: last books in a series are the best indication of an author's vision and goal for a set of characters. Considering that it takes years to complete a series, the challenge for the author is to maintain consistency and to ensure that her characters develop and grow with each book.

The author also has to make sure that each book stands on equal ground with the other books in the series, but the last book bears a special responsibility: it must, within its chapters, resolve everything that was left unresolved in the previous books and, yet, tell its own story.

Renee Bernard succeeds in doing so with Desire Wears Diamonds. If one graphs the 6 books in the series, I'd imagine the resulting shape to be a bell curve -- the high point (for me) is Ecstasy Wears Emeralds (my favorite in the series). In the first 5 books, the Jackal lurked around the edges of each story, coming out to take a swipe at the jewels that the Jaded have brought home from Bengal -- but his identity is never known. In Michael's story, the Jackal finally surfaces and all the questions that have dogged the Jaded since their escape from India are finally put to rest:

Who is the Jackal?
What does he want with the jewels?
How does he know the Jaded?

The Jackal is a silent menace that shadowed the Jaded throughout the series and it is finally the moment of confrontation -- Michael and the Jackal match skill and strategy to try to outmaneuver each other. Power shifts with every encounter and, when Grace gets involved, the inevitable questions is: whose side is she on?

Our hero is in a horrible bind: Grace and the Jaded need his protection -- but he can only give it to one of them. At one point, I wasn't certain I trusted Michael to do the right thing -- and this is, perhaps, part of Renee Bernard's intention: to keep us guessing, to keep us at the edge of our seats, to keep us as frustrated as the rest of the Jaded -- building up the tension until the climactic resolution.

The Jaded Gentleman series:
Book 1: Revenge Wears Rubies
Book 2: Seduction Wears Sapphires
Book 3: Ecstasy Wears Emeralds
Book 4: Passion Wears Pearls
Book 5: Obsession Wears Opals
Book 6: Desire Wears Diamonds

Note: Renee Bernard includes Poseidon's Curse or The Fatal Storm, a penny dreadful "written" by A.R. Crimson (Grace).

To find out more about Renee Bernard and her books, click below:
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6 comments:

  1. I’m fascinated by beautiful gemstones and am married to a man who is a total rockhound. These titles really make me smile and I’m so looking forward to reading the series.

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