At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran
March 27, 2012
Reviewed by Mandi
“A villain’s love is not a comfortable thing,” he said. “But I promise, I will endeavor to make it a pleasure to you.”
And so goes our hero…a very villainous one at that. What makes it even better, is the heroine’s response to the above quote.
“Wipe your face, jackanapes. Or would you prefer that I slap it off?”
To her disbelief, he laughed softly. “You may try.”
This comes after the halfway point in the book, which I think is fabulous because the author makes this couple work so, so hard for their HEA. But let’s back up and set up this well done historical romance.
Set in 1715, this book takes place a very tumultuous time in England. The crown has passed to George I, skipping over James Stuart due to his Catholic faith. The shift in politics is extreme, and many who secretly support James Stuart start political and religious upheaval. Lady Nora Towe is in a tricky position. She is a widow with only her brother David left as family. While she is close with her brother, she knows he is involved in treasonous activities and she is caught in the middle. Trying to keep her estate safe and prosperous, but also feeling the duty to help her brother any way she can. David has become sloppy with his movements, and the crown has got wind that he has left James Stuart’s side and may be headed back toward his family home within a matter of days. So they send Adrian Ferrers and a group of men to wait at the house until he arrives, to ambush him and drag him back to London. Not only is Nora basically kept in jail at her house under Adrian’s orders, but she is now faced with the man that broke her heart many years ago.
As young adults, Adrian and Nora fell in love, but it was not an easy relationship. And when he ended up forced to leave, Nora thought he had left her forever. Under duress, she married another man, only to have Adrian struggling as hard as possible to get back to her. Due to miscommunication, she thought he left her forever, and he thought she moved on quite quickly.
Now six years later, he is back in her house and they both harbor ill feelings towards each other. Telling her he is going to arrest her brother and giving her orders to not leave her house does not help matters. All of those feelings of love and lust get dredged up but confused with this new, cold, harsh Adrian.
At Your Pleasure has a heroine who loves her brother and feels a duty to be loyal to him, even though she knows he may be acting treasonous. But there is no black and white here. The religious upheaval is so immense and emotions and whispers of an uprising are intense. Adrian himself was a Catholic, but to save himself, and to survive he took loyalty to the new king, now his close advisor. He still walks on thin ground, knowing he has many enemies just waiting for him to make a wrong move. The tension in this book envelopes many things. Not only is David, Nora, and Adrian playing with fire with their religious and political dealings, but there is also the tension between them due to their personal lives.
Adrian and Nora once had great love for each other, but due to events, they were forced apart. There is good reason for it, and a very good reason for Nora to feel such despair, but I don’t want to share that with you due to spoiling. But once Adrian hears of this news he didn’t know about, there is a shift in their relationship. Adrian goes from having such harsh feelings towards to Nora, to something else. But their relationship never becomes one of sunshine and rainbows, and that is what I love so much about this book. There are so many grey areas,that although love is eventually declared, their lives are not perfect. Things are still muddled. There is a definite HEA, one I believed in completely, but it still matched the more dire tone of the book.
The writing in this book is so engaging. I didn’t want to miss a sentence. I think the dialogue both spoken and internal is so well done and smart. Nora struggles so much with her devotion to her brother, and her rising devotion to Adrian. She is a woman caught in the middle of two strong men, and she is portrayed so well. Stubborn, smart, grieving, and sometimes downright pissed off. I love that when she was in London in court, she was not witty or beautiful. She was portrayed as boring and disliked. But she ignites passion in Adrian, and as their romance unfolds, their romance is very, very sensual in this book.
Adrian and Nora inspire such passion and emotion within each other. When Adrian decides he must have her as a wife, to keep her safe (they have yet to reconcile at this point), Nora has other ideas:
“You did not speak of my brother on the stair. You spoke of marriage, and I will not have it.”
“But you will,” he said very softly.
Goose bumps rose on her skin.
“Your brother will not touch you,” he continued, his words still low, as though he sought to lull her into believing them. “As a Ferrers, you cannot be touched. You will be safe, and so, this place you love: I swear it to you.”
Her scoff seemed to explode, echoing around them. “Such charitable motives!”
And she drove her knife into his arm.
At Your Pleasure has a marvelous villain hero, which turns into an extremely sensuous romance, with suspense and action throughout. One of my favorite reads in 2012 so far.