Wednesday, June 18, 2014

ARC Review: Deeply in You by Sharon Page

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon, release date: June 24, 2014
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

One of the challenges of writing an erotic romance is to make sure there is substance as well as sex -- and the author must find a happy middle ground between the two. Sharon Page frames her latest erotic romance around blackmail: two blackmail stories. Helena Winsome's brother is being threatened with financial ruin if she cannot find the evidence to prove that the Duke of Greybrooke spied for the French, and the Duke of Greybrooke is being blackmailed by a mysterious man over Caroline, Lady Blackbriar, a very close childhood friend and the long-suffering, abused wife of Lord Blackbriar.

It is a thrilling story, but the author takes shortcuts, perhaps in her rush to tell the whole story (kinky sex and all) and the development of her characters and her characters's relationships suffer because of this:

Helena is in an interesting predicament: she is the sister of a newspaperman and she works as a governess. She keeps these two halves of her self separate, because she knows no one of consequence would hire her if they knew of this connection, always fearing what little tidbit she might share to the press. She has done very well for herself and has already endeared herself to her new charges, the children of Lady Winterhaven, sister of the Duke of Greybrooke. She initially struck me as a clever woman, who had plotted her way into this position.

She had offered to bring Edward since it was Nurse's afternoon off, and he made her look even more innocent. What spy would bring a baby along?
- loc 52

Helena felt very real to me, in her attraction to the Duke and her own self-awareness that he is unattainable: she is a governess and he is a duke. But all her good sense flies out the window the minute the Duke pays attention to her, and Helena transforms into an almost different person: from an independent woman, she becomes the Duke's mistress and thoroughly becomes dependent on him for everything. Granted, it's all in the guise of investigating him, but her efforts at this are very half-hearted and she didn't really do much "spying" when she finally infiltrates the duke's house --

The Duke of Greybrooke is a very decadent character: the first time we meet him, he is on his way out of his mistress's house, with his mistress shouting out the window and throwing the contents of a chamberpot out at him. There's a lot of drama in his life and a lot of depravity -- and Page reminds us that there is more to him than meets the eye. Grey was a victim of abuse as a child and has a personal quest to protect the women in his life. I wish the author had elaborated more on his backstory because it seemed like such an integral part of his character and his reasons for indulging in BDSM -- instead, it felt like parts of this particular narrative were a side note or a statement made in passing.

When I requested this book, there was a warning about the light BDSM element and I was prepared to be titillated by it (another expectation I have about erotic romances) -- it felt a bit flat and disconnected. From what I gleaned, Grey doesn't like to be touched (because of the abuse he suffered as a child) and that is the reason why he likes to indulge in tying up his lovers. I wish more was done with this aspect of Grey's character.

I was also a bit thrown off by Helena's foreshadowing/suspicions about Lady Winterhaven, the duke's sister. I thought they were heavily dropped hints at Lady Winterhaven's involvement in what Helena was investigating.

"Marriage would be the making of him, Miss Winsome. But he's too scared to face that. He's like every gentleman I know -- deathly afraid of change. We females survive on shifting sands every day. men have no idea how to cope."

"Shifting sands?" Why would a countess feel she spent her life in instability? Was her ladyship speaking of treason -- that would mean a lifetime of fear, wouldn't it?
- loc 1223

* * *

"I am confident I will get my brother married off," Lady Winterhaven was saying. "But it will have to be a plan worthy of Wellington."

At the reference to war plans, Helena went pale. Lady Winterhaven said the words as a joke. Was that a clue she knew nothing about treason?
- loc 1235 - loc 1248

Between the two blackmail plots, I preferred the one with Grey and Caro, Lady Blackbriar. She's pregnant, but it's another man's child and someone knows about it and is capitalising on that knowledge. Grey is doing his best to protect Caro. The blackmailer is incredibly ruthless and always seems to be one step ahead of Grey. I have two complaints about this is: first is how Caro, herself, was behaving: she knows that someone is blackmailing her and she knows she is in danger -- but she still insists on meeting with her lover (Chapter 13), and, second, where/who is Caro's lover? He is never named and all we know of him is that he is married. Even after this blackmail story is resolved, we still don't know who he is.

The problem that Helena was dealing with, regarding her brother and the man called Mr. Whitehall needs a bit more clarification: how can you accuse the Duke of Greybrooke of treason when it seems to be clear to everyone that Grey would never betray his country? Why insist there is proof of this? What is the motivation behind the accusation?

Despite my questions, this novel was engaging and I did like how the author introduced the other "Wicked Dukes" and I loved this particular realisation from Helena:
Lady X wrote about scandals and love affairs. Helena had thought she was doing good because she exposed scoundrels. Now she wondered: Had she hurt anyone? Had she left disaster in her wake?
- loc 2951

Deeply in You is the first book in Sharon Page's The Wicked Dukes series. To find out more about Sharon Page and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I received this ARC copy from Netgalley. Thank you to Kensington and to Sharon Page for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.



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