Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Pride and Passion by Charlotte Featherstone

Pride & Passion by Charlotte Featherstone
Series: The Brethren Guardians, Book 2
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Historical Romance Pride and Passion Cover
ISBN: 978-0373776177
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Lady Lucy Ashton has given into the spiritualism craze that has swept through Victorian London. But Lucy is no bored society lady dabbling in the occult; she wishes to make contact with her lover, Thomas, who perished in a fire. What Lucy does not wish is to believe the arrogant Duke of Sussex’s claim that Thomas is very much alive – and a killer in league with a man who goes by the name Orpheus. Sussex and his fellow Brethren Guardians are determined to protect mysterious Templar treasures and are working to bring down Orpheus and anyone associated with him, including Thomas. If that wasn’t enough to make Sussex Lucy’s enemy, the fact that her father is determined to marry her off to the priggish duke would do it. Lucy wants passion in her life and Sussex can never give her that… Or can he?

Pride & Passion is a bit of a problematic book to review. There are a number of things I love about it, such as the sensuality, charm, and overall appeal of Sussex, interesting secondary characters, and the all-too-brief glimpses of Templar treasure intrigue and the occult craze in Victorian England. That being said, my reading experience was tainted by the fact that the negative points of Pride & Passion overwhelmed the positive ones.

Let us start with the good: Adrian, the duke of Sussex. He’s a delicious hero with a scandalous secret. I loved the depth of caring he showed to Lucy and his sister, Elizabeth, and I couldn’t help but hope he found happiness with Lucy (even though I didn’t understand why he was in love with her). The only thing I didn’t understand was his propensity for seducing Lucy in odd places. I don’t think this was as much a character flaw as a blatant attempt by the author to further the story through sex scenes that happened at inopportune times in locations you’d think Adrian would be smart enough not to try to have sex at. As for Adrian’s sister, she too was a charming character and I’m looking forward to her book, Temptation & Twilight. Lizzy is clever, delightful, and doesn’t let her blindness keep her from living as independent a life as possible for a handicapped Victorian era lady. Lizzy is quite clearly in love with Adrian’s fellow Brethren Guardian, the Marquis of Alynwick and a fair amount of Pride & Passion builds up to their future romance in Temptation & Twilight. Normally, this might be something that bothers me (I prefer my romances to focus on the central couple), but since I liked Lizzy a lot more than Lucy, I didn’t mind the focus on her.

Now to address the unfortunate elements of Pride & Passion: the heroine, the plotlines, and the mysteries. Pride & Passion is flavored with Pride and Prejudice references, but Lucy is no Elizabeth Bennet. Quite frankly, Lucy is insufferable for a good portion of the book. Ms. Featherstone tries to explain the reasoning behind Lucy’s behavior, but to be honest, the logic didn’t hold much weight. To put it plainly, Lucy is a self-centered brat and often a poor judge of character. She’s blind to Adrian’s virtues and focuses on his faults, some of which are imagined. She does idiotic things and by the time her character comes around and develops a modicum of common sense, it’s far too late in the story for me to like her.

The storylines of Pride & Passion are numerous and underdeveloped. Perhaps the Brethren Guardian series is best read as one large three-part book rather than three separate books. Though I didn’t feel that I missed anything by not reading the first book, Seduction & Scandal, the fact that there were so many plotlines that were only partially developed was disturbing. If I had read Pride & Passion as a bridge book in the series this may have bothered me less. As a standalone, I was annoyed that Ms. Featherstone dragged out the beginning (which focused primarily on character introductions, Lucy’s whining, and the romance), then shoved a bunch of action-packed subplots into the very last – very mishmash – chapter.

Not to make this review overly-itemized, but the final issue I had with Pride & Passion had to do with the “mysteries.” Namely, they weren’t so mysterious. Ms. Featherstone alludes to Adrian’s secret throughout the book and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out very early on what happened and why, but that isn’t what bothered me. The fact that the “big reveal” was dragged out for over three-quarters of the book is what got on my nerves. Second, there’s Orpheus. I suppose the quasi-reveal Ms. Featherstone gives at the end of Pride & Passion concerning Orpheus’s identity is supposed to be a surprise. It isn’t. I don’t expect hard-to-deduct mysteries in my historical romances – if I wanted a mystery I’d read a mystery novel – but when an author builds the story up to give a great “twist” at the end, then I should not be able to figure out what is going to happen near the beginning of the book.

While the negative outweighed the positive for me, I don’t think Pride & Passion is a bad book. It’s dragged down by an annoying heroine, predictable twists, and poor pacing, but Ms. Featherstone did create some wonderful characters that I did like, Adrian topping the list. I don’t think I’ll be reading Seduction & Scandal, as Isabella and Black didn’t intrigue me enough to read their story, but I’m definitely going to read Temptation & Twilight - I can’t wait to see what Ms. Featherstone has in store for Alynwick and Elizabeth!


Angela said...

I can still only think of one book that totally shocked me with the twist at the end - even out of all the mysteries I've read.

It's not a romance, but it is one of my favorites.

To get back on topic - I'm not sure I could handle a book that has as many issues as this one, even with the great couple of characters to make up for it.

I'll wait to see what you have to say about Elizabeth's book to decide if I'm going to read it.