Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Night of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

When I started reading this book, I had planned to read just a few chapters, then put the book down to go to sleep. A few hours later, I was still reading and I ended up finishing Night of Pleasure in one sitting. Very few books have kept me past my bedtime ...

And this is one of them. Here's why:

1. A hero who falls (head over heels) in love with the heroine first: Even before he knew her name or her circumstances, Derek saw Clementine walking into their house and was instantly smitten. Then he started talking to her, and fell even more in love with her. So solemn. So clever. So biting in her retorts.

2. A unique arrangement: Then it is discovered that theirs is a pre-arranged marriage, but they would have to wait seven years for the heroine to come of age. And, in those years, the hero has never looked at another woman and has saved himself and his heart for her.

3. An interesting complication: But the heroine does not feel the same way about the hero and plans to abandon him at the altar.

4. A most unusual courtship: And so dear Delilah Marvelle unveils the engrossing story of two people figuring out a relationship when they already engaged to each other and, in between, you get yearning, passion, pain, and heartbreak.

This is an amazingly emotional story from dear Miss Marvelle, and my favourite, so far, in her School of Gallantry series.

Derek Holcomb thought the world was his oyster. When he marries Clementine, he would get an astounding amount money and the most fascinating girl in one single act -- and he didn't even have to lift a finger to achieve it (save to sign the marriage contracts) -- because she was his from the very beginning. Imagine his surprise when Clementine comes back to London after seven years and tells him she won't marry him.

After witnessing her parents' unhappy marriage and her mother's declining health from several failed pregnancies, Clementine has developed an aversion to the married state and is determined to avoid it. She has made plans to travel to Persia with her friend, Prince Nasser, but only after she ensures that Derek receives the marriage settlement. She had intended to leave without telling him, but, upon seeing him again, she realises she owes him the truth. What she didn't realize was how deeply she would be affected as well.

I was holding my breath the whole time I was reading this and really felt for Derek as he listened to Clementine's plans of jilting him at the altar. It really was a visceral experience for both the hero and for the readers and I could feel my own heart twisting as Clementine explained her plan and as Derek poured out his heart to her. Though he would still get the money, what Derek really, really wanted was the girl.

How does one court a woman you are already set to marry? It is uncharted territory for Derek, who had charmed all the girls (except Clementine) as a younger man, and, as an older man, never thought he needed the skill because he was already promised to Clementine. Derek was a refreshing hero, full of very honest and intense emotions -- and who was so proud of the love he felt for Clementine that he wasn't embarrassed or afraid to share it with anyone who would ask. I love that it came to a point that he even saved his virginity for Clementine (only to surrender it to a courtesan a few weeks prior to his marriage, just so he could make sure he does it right with Clementine) and you could feel, through the pages, how his heart was crushed by Clementine's pronouncements. Our hero is a proud man and a peer of the realm -- but, when it comes to Clementine, he did not hesitate to plead and bargain with her.

Hot vs Cold: I can't help but remember Olaf the Snowman's song in Frozen: "The hot and the cold are both so intense. Put’em together -- it just makes sense!" Derek and Clementine seem to be on extreme ends of the emotional spectrum, and, when one of them pushes (most likely Derek), the other retreats. Derek's challenge is to draw Clementine out of her shell, but this is not to say that Derek was already perfect when he came into the courtship. He needed to learn how to be in a relationship with Clementine and it was only then that I also realised that there is a difference. The confrontation between Derek and Clementine at the School of Gallantry was both revelatory and raw. Madame de Maitenon proved her skill and experience by counselling the two of them, and provided them with a roadmap on how to deal with each other. (This story runs parallel to Mistress of Pleasure, and it was nice to see Maybelle and Edmund from a different perspective.)

I could also understand and relate to Clementine's reluctance: her childhood wasn't as happy or as idyllic as Derek's and she witnessed very intense clashes between her father and mother. When her mother died, his father's reaction to her death and his current life weren't any better: he turned to the bottle. There is a small part of Clementine, though, that was drawn to Derek's vitality and joyfulness and she longed to touch it. But, like the moth and the flame, one knows what happens when one gets too close to the fire -- and Clementine holds herself back.

She'd always had very muddled feelings about their relationship. She still did. A part of her wanted to stay. She wanted to give herself a chance to explore what she was capable of as a wife, but a much larger part of her had seen what strong passions could do to a marriage. She refused to ruin him or her.
- loc 1115

* * *

If Derek was the flame, then she most certainly was the moth. But unlike all moths, she had no wings left to burn, for she had long removed them and locked them safely away into a box not ever [sic] she was permitted to touch. Selfish though it was to go to him and cradle him and then leave him, she knew this was her one and only chance of ever truly knowing what, if anything, could have been possible between them.
- loc 1631 to 1635

The book's title refers to the one night that Derek asks from Clementine: one night together before she leaves him forever. Yes, it was pleasurable for both of them, but, more importantly, it was our hero and heroine laid bare (literally and figuratively). It was such a heartfelt and intense moment and it amazed me how well our dear author wrote the scene. Breathtaking, exhilarating, tumultuous -- it is a scene that touches so many emotions. (Another scene to look out for is on the wedding day itself -- will Clementine follow through with her plan?)

If you've noticed, I keep adding "dear" in reference to the author. I've loved all of Delilah Marvelle's books and I've loved and admired the author for her uncommon approach to telling a love story -- but I love and admire her even more because of this book. Night of Pleasure is definitely another addition to my keeper shelf.

Night of Pleasure was released last March 15, 2014. Congratulations to dear Miss Marvelle! To find out more about her and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author through Kati @ Romance Wrangler. Yes, this is an honest review.



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