Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: Silk & Scorn by Cassandra Dean

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In the second installment in Cassandra Dean's Silk series, we peek into the lives and letters of Sarah and Arthur, whose mothers are very good friends and have grand hopes of seeing their children married. Unfortunately, Sarah and Arthur don't like each other: not as children's and certainly not as adults. The enmity runs so deeply between the two that, when Sarah discovers their mothers plans of seeing them wed, she makes the drastic (and rash) decision of marrying someone else.

That last letter that Sarah sends Arthur after she informed him of her marriage really resonated with me:

"You still don't know anything."

And she's right. Arthur didn't know anything and neither do we. When we read about Sarah's decision to marry, we think it's impetuous and a bit selfish, but it is actually her ultimate act of sacrifice to preserve Arthur's happiness and hers. Arthur has lived free of worrying about marriage and was able to focus on building a successful career because Sarah did what she did and married someone else. But, now Sarah is a widow who is being hounded by her late husband's family to relinquish her rightful claim to her late husband's estate and she needs Arthur's help. Arthur still doesn't understand and treats Sarah's worries lightly and I felt Sarah's frustrations because I felt them too. I think this has been Arthur's problem ever since they were small: he seemed to have a blind spot where Sarah was concerned and wasn't able to see her and appreciate her.

Dislike, sudden and intense, flooded him. Why hadn't he investigated her before accepting her appointment? It would have been the work of minutes, and he wouldn't now have to sit here in her presence.

She hadn't changed, appearing exactly as she had the last time he'd seen her, and that must have been at least ten years prior.
- loc 137

What I like about this series of shorts by Cassandra Dean is the exploration on relationships, and it's amazing how many variations there are -- but, as this is a romance, the end is inevitable and it is love. The journey that Arthur and Sarah take is compelling -- how do you change the heart that has felt the same way for one's entire life? Considering the length of this story, I thought Dean wrote a convincing change of heart for Arthur. ^_^

Slowly, she covered his hand with hers. The air between them thickened, as if a hundred thousand expectations rode the space.

She didn't know if it were she or him who swayed first, but their lips brushed. Soft, gentle, his lips clung to hers, and she could not remember ever feeling such sweetness in her life.

They parted. Opening her eyes, she found a hesitant gaze regarding her. She couldn't describe how she felt. She felt warm and comforted and happy and hopeful. She felt ... possibility.
- loc 497

Beyond the love story, Dean also touches on gender inequality and the question of a woman's ability during the Victorian period. This is actually the reason why Sarah's father in-law is contesting her right to inherit her husband's estate because he doesn't see Sarah is being capable of handling such a responsibility.

"She's foolish, always has been. A ninny hammer like her should not be in control of her own address book, much less wealth and property."

Keep calm. "A woman should not be allowed to control wealth. She is silly and flighty and will lose it all before the year is out," he said, though it took all his will to utter such repellant words. Bloody hell, had the man met Sarah She would maintain whatever funds she had and probably increase them by a comfortable percent each year.

"Exactly." Wetherall glared at Sarah. "Did you really think you could steal from me, girl? First my son, and then his money?"
- loc 640 - 654

I wasn't entirely satisfied with how this was resolved, because Arthur outwardly agreed to Mr. Wetherall's perception of Sarah -- and, when he was eventually confronted by Sarah about it, his only justification was that he wanted to win the case.

Ignoring her, he said, "Did you wish this matter resolved?"

"That doesn't --"

"Did you wish the matter resolved?"

Silence fell. "Yes," she finally said.

"I agreed with him to get him on-side. I agreed with him to resolve the matter." And he hadn't agreed, he merely hadn't disagreed, but he refused to split hairs on such a baseless accusation.
- loc 698

There's a big part of me that wished for Arthur to defend Sarah (and maybe punched Wetherall) -- but, given that this series is about the law, Arthur took the best legal option available to him.

Silk & Scorn is the second instalment in Cassandra Dean's Silk Series. To find out more about Cassandra Dean and her books, click below:


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