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27 June 2006

Captives of the Night (1994)

By Loretta Chase

From the back cover: "Nine years earlier, lovely Leila Beaumont's criminal father died mysteriously. And now her cruel, profligate husband has been murdered - with innocent Leila suspected of the crime. Determined to uncover the truth, no matter how unpleasant, the beautiful portrait painter turns to the enigmatic Comte d'Esmond for help - a mesmerizingly handsome stranger who carefully hides an identity that would shock her... and a past that inextricably intertwines with her own. And though danger unites them, it is desire that chains their hearts - as d'Esmond's virility and bold, sensuous touch enflame Leila's blood... and draw her into the most irresistible intrigue of all: passionate love."

This book was recently re-released with an equally disturbing cover. Chase simply cannot catch a break when it comes to covers; they never equal her writing.

It took forever for me to get interested in this book, primarily because the hero and heroine were such flat stereotypes of romance characters... for the first third of the book. And rightfully so: they were each playing a part that was expected of them in society, so they were dull and repetitive. Oh, she's a feisty artist, quite shrewish. Oh, he's a dashing rake with a sexy gaze that can melt bones. Yada, yada... heard it.

However, once they started to get to know each other, they because wickedly funny. He is, quite possibly, the only Albanian hero ever written in romance novels. As a result, they teased each other, played fast with the sexy talk, and generally made me laugh. I found the middle third, or so, of this novel vastly entertaining and highly satisfying, in terms of romance, sensuality, and plot.

The plot itself was a convoluted mystery that must have taken weeks and weeks to plan. Aside from the archetypal romance elements, this could have been marketing as a mystery novel. Clever hero and heroine work together to press sources, find clues, and generally torment each other with passionate banter and near-miss sex scenes. And hardly any subject seemed off-limits, including a number of discussions regarding homosexual encounters.

However, I did have two minor quibbles, both of which I forgave because Chase handled the prose and the pacing so well. First: the guilty, wanton heroine. I am so very lusty, I must be a whorish sinner! Drat, but that sort of thinking annoys me. She fended that big stud off about six times before finally relenting, and any one of those times she backed out would have been the best sex ever had by any real human. Do I believe that she held out? Nopenopenope.

Second: the dark and tortured man has a deep, painful secret - a woman who scared him terribly in the past. The only redeeming feature to this was that Chase did not dwell on his scarred soul, only that he regretted the embarrassment and discontent his past brought into his present. He was not still pining for her. Neither did Chase insist on bringing the old love back into the present, assuring jealous misunderstandings everywhere. Nope. She never made an appearance, which made me happy.

I have all of Chase's work on my to-be-read list because she has not yet disappointed me in the least. In fact, her writing has almost single-handedly brought me back to the genre with some optimism and delight. A fun, complex, sexy read.

Blogger themarina said...

OOOO. This sounds like something I might enjoy! As for the new cover....makes it all seem soooo mysterious...


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