At first that my local library couldn't acquire any copies of Lucinda Brant's books frustrated me. Spending any of my limited book budget on a new author isn't my preferred plan. Toss in a $0.99 e-book sale, with a 5 star review by Emery Lee and the risk dissolves into being pleased with another book for Keeper Case.
This book is a perfect example of why, in my early teens, I fell in love with historical romances written by British and Australian authors. Lush, exotic settings, courtly manners, the interactions echoing dance of coming together, then apart, while maintaining focus. The whole book is a delicious, restrained minuet with every person in the cast weaving in and out through the dance steps.
The characters are vibrant, vivacious, passionate, intelligent, yet subtle, imbued with that je-ne-sais-quois of memorable people. Descriptions of moments, rooms, attire all seemlessly blend into a moving portrait of a moment in time. The loving detail never overshadows the story, providing the setting for the jewels made of each scene, snippet of conversation. Link by link embellishing the tale until it glows.
As a heroine Antonia is wonderful balance of outrageous, innoccent but wordly, and delightfully smart. She's focused on what she wants, not waivering from her goals, no hysterics, or any of the ridiculous self inflicted conflicts or misunderstandings that plague lesser tales. Very believeably human, young and without being anochronistic. Her full range of intelligence, playfullness, teasing, and self confidence are still present when she's distraught and devestated, plotting to save herself from the villian and live life the way she wants to.
Hero Roxton is the virile, swoonworthy Duc, whose unwillingness to suffer fools or be in denial about all his qualities, both attractive and not, makes him believeable. No tortured soul, Roxton. His times of introspection, which not all are alcohol driven, provide a glimpse into his humanity and result in a new fortitude to achieve his goals. He recognizes he's changing without fighting it tooth and nail. If only the Bronte sister's had written such worthy Heroes.
I loved that the reader is only given glimpses of the intimacy between Antonia and Roxton. Instead of detailed descriptions passionate nights and days, there are vignettes from various character's memories, bolstering the intensity, magic, time-out-of-time interludes. Emphasizing this couple's nuturing of their love, protectiveness of each other, and how happily they give themselves over to their joy when they are in private. When vilians or petty, spiteful characters work to create rifts, even without absolute proof the hero and heroine believe each other, assume the best of each other; apology acccepted, eyes turned toward thei future.
Cannot wait to read more by Lucinda Brant.