Reviewed by May
“what are you thinking about, Mr. Merrick?”
You. Demon-spawned you. “Nothing.”
She tried to peer over the span of their desks to see what he was doing. He pulled the papers into the space of his arms, hunching over them.
She laughed lightly. “Working on secret documents? Ones that threaten the very fabric of George’s standard?”
She put her chin on her palm, examining him with an absurd overabundance of humor, eyes bright, an almost lazy fondness in their depths. “Are you working on secret designs for new lady’s undergarments?”
“I’m sure they would be very thorough and well thought out.”
Andreas Merrick is the tortured hero of this tale – a man scarred inside and out, and from whose point of view most of this story is seen from. He has had an incredibly difficult life, but he’s on top now. As the king of London’s seedy underbelly he runs gaming hells, seems to know everything about everyone, and makes savvy business investments that have made him rich and powerful. Of course all of his moves are aimed at eventually taking down someone from his past – and he doesn’t care who gets in his way.
Standing directly in his path one night, in between assassination attempts, is the beautiful Miss Phoebe Pace. Her father’s carriage company is in trouble and she’s come to Marrick believing him the one honest and honorable man who can help her. No matter his growling, yelling, and insisting she go away – she’s not scared or leaving. In fact, she’s moving right in!
When had he lost control? He wanted to identify the moment, then go back in time and squish it from existence. People didn’t tease him. And certainly the feelings that pushed up, the stuttering, odd feelings in his stomach whenever she said something to him, looking directly in his eyes with a smile about her lips, were certainly unwelcome.
I loved these characters. This big, bad, makes grown men pee in their pants guy has a meddling respectable female in his path and she’s not scared of him at all. In fact, she keeps delivering him baked goods and doodles of puppies and butterflies wishing him a good day.
And here Miss Beeding Sunshine sat, looking as if just this morning she’d been attended by fairies, baked with elves, and had tea with a unicorn.
Seeing so much from Andreas Merrick’s point of view, seeing how people are always out to kill him, how he goes without food some days because he can’t get stuff he is sure isn’t poisoned, and how there is nothing good or light in his life – it was heartbreaking. It was also incredible. I loved being inside his head, having no idea what Phoebe was up to or what her end-game was.
Watching Phoebe break through his defenses and horrify him with her sunny brightness was such a fun reading experience. I frequently smiled and was loving every page. Like an elephant fearing a mouse, it was comical in it’s absurdity. Of course there were also many tender and emotional moments, like when she walks in the room to see him standing without a shirt on and his back covered in scars, some overlapping even – from whips, knives, bullets – the man has not had an easy life.
She touched his shoulders and pulled her fingers lightly over a few braided scars at the back. It was entirely inappropriate- beyond inappropriate and entering into condemnable really- and yet she couldn’t help herself. It was a form of possession that made her touch one of them with her lips.
His muscles were steel beneath her touch as he quickly looked away.
Part of her wanted nothing more than to turn him toward her. To touch, and kiss, and soothe him. To make him totally surrender to whatever lay between them. The other part of her knew he wasn’t ready. And she wasn’t going to push.
“Good evening, Mr. Merrick”
His profile showed a mixture of expressions as he stared straight ahead, away from her, but he nodded sharply, the rest of his body still clenched tight.
Her hands shook as she undressed quietly back in her own room. She could not deny it – she was becoming irreparably entangled. And what he would ultimately do with the net, she did not know.
The quotes speak for themselves- this book, at least most of it, was amazing. You see, we had all of this tension, emotion, pain, and secrets going on here. Everyone is walking a razor’s edge and I truly had no idea where the plot would end up, though I could see Andreas and Phoebe being together without too much problem or society and I was glad that the ton wasn’t going to be trotted out as an excuse for them to be kept apart. No, it was Andreas who kept himself at a distance. Heck- our reluctant couple did not even kiss on the lips until nearly at the end of the book!
We had tension outside the couple in the form of people trying to kill Andreas, and Phoebe’s family secrets. While I expected some of those plot threads to work themselves out, I never expected that everything would turn out in the best, most perfect, too good to believe ways. Yes, this is where things go horribly wrong for me as a reader. For starters these two consummate their love, but it’s very vague and I had to re-read to make sure. A more vivid love scene showing Andreas let go, let himself love this woman who captivates him so was really needed. Actually, I could forgive this except instead of showing us continued depth and emotion, giving us the emotional climax in another way, instead we’re treated to a sudden switch.
It is as if the story puts on a pair of rose-colored glasses that also blur everything. Scenes are no longer sharp, dialogue looses it’s edge, and we are given information and scenes that do not add to the story. Rainbows are everywhere and everyone smiles! hooray life is perfect! (ugh) It’s all topped with a last page that was heinous in it’s rosy epilogue-like wrap up.
It reminded me of going to a fantastic restaurant only to find hair in your food, or to order an amazing dessert to find it’s actually sugar-free and tofu-based. You get my point. I still love the earlier part of this book to pieces, but instead of becoming the single best historical I’ve read in a long time (and I have read some GREAT ones in 2011!) it became a huge disappointment.
If you decide to read it, read it for the beginning and know that an emotional payoff, a literary climax, a great book satisfying sigh when you turn that last page will not be coming your way. The generosity of my grade today is based on the first part (2/3 or so) of the book, and a testament to how amazing that portion was.