Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: The Perils of Pleasure

The Perils of Pleasure
Julie Anne Long

First off: don't be fooled by the title OR the cover of this book. They seem to be stock romance novel title and cover, and they seem to have relatively little if anything at all to do with the book itself. (Not the author's fault, of course.) Good thing I read the description, or I might have passed it over entirely.

The premise is: Colin Eversea has been framed for a murder he didn't commit, but as he is about to be hanged he is saved by a "clever - and beautiful - mercenary" (per the back cover copy) named Madeline Greenway who was hired to rescue him, but who then becomes a target in her own right. The two of them have to join forces and clear his name while figuring out who tried to kill her and why, and who set him up in the first place. And of course they fall in love along the way.

Plot. It was a bit convoluted (as others have complained) but I feel like I was able to follow it pretty well. (I liked the very first Mission: Impossible movie, too. Before Tom Cruise got weird.) Most of the resolutions made sense, though one of the big reveals - perhaps THE big reveal - was a bit underwhelming. I felt it needed more closure, but maybe she was leaving room for subplots in future books.

Writing style. Well, my first impression was that I liked Long's voice. She adds snappy one-liners and quirky, witty observations that were fun to read. Some parts read as a bit over-written, though (prologue included), and I did wonder why all the working-class characters in the book seemed to speak with Scots accents, rather than Cockney. And the head-hopping...I guess I've just trained myself to think in very strict third limited and so the head-hopping, which felt clumsy to me at first but may very well be legitimate third-omni, threw me a bit until I just got used to it and let it slide.

Characters. I did come to like Colin, perhaps because we spend so much time in his head, but elements of his character didn't jive with me. As others have pointed out, his professed love for Louisa didn't ring true (though he does realize his delusion at the end of the book, which ameliorated my annoyance somewhat). And he seems an honorable sort, despite constant - and I do mean constant - references to his reputation as a rake. Again, his own confessions and personal realizations make that easier to stomach, but still, it feels like the author felt the romance hero should be a rake (for the sexual experience, maybe?), when she really wanted him to be honorable, and we were just told he was a rake over and over to make us believe it.

I wanted Madeline to be a little more badass and sure of herself than she was. C'mon...beautiful, clever mercenary? She is very...competent, but even that wasn't consistent, as she didn't realize she had bad gunpowder at first but we're supposed to expect she's a crack shot and knows firearms in general for the rest of the book. Don't those kind of things go together? And we were kept from knowing her past for a long time, I guess to make her more intriguing but really just making her a more distant character. When her past life and how she became a mercenary (a slightly misleading term for her, btw) is finally reveal, it too was a little underwhelming. I did come to feel more for her as a person - the thought of losing my husband and/or young son strikes fear deep, deep into my heart - but I remained unconvinced. I guess some parts of her didn't live up to the idea of her I formed from the back cover copy.

But I did believe in how Madeline and Colin's relationship developed - even if it was on a condensed timeline under stressful circumstances - and I was glad when they got together in the end. (But still, more loose strings: what about the farm in America she scrimped and saved to pay off?)

Overall I consider the book an enjoyable escapist (hardy har) read. I will certainly look for and purchase books by this author in the future, but she hasn't yet impressed me enough to make my "permanent keepers" shelf.

Recommended? Sure.

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