Vanquished Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1 2006
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After an ill-fated night of gambling, struggling photographer Hadrian St. Claire is deep in debt and danger when a man comes into his shop with a unique commission: one scandalous photograph of a young suffragist leader that will bring her and the bill in Parliament granting women the right to vote crashing down. One photograph, which will earn him 5,000, enough to pay off his debt and advance his dreams. The catch? The target is Caledonia Rivers, the charming woman he encountered in the park, the woman who has already begun working her way into his heart. Against an incredibly textured backdrop of Edwardian politics and social change, Tarr pens a vibrant tale of love's ability to heal scars of the past. And not unlike the era itself, the genteel veneer of Hadrian and Callie's awareness of each other gives way to highly sensual passion churning beneath. Fans of intelligent, sexy historical romance in the style of Jo Beverley will take to Vanquished. Nina Davis
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Caledonia "Callie" Rivers is a leader in the forefront of the suffragist movement at a time when Parliament is about to debate yet another suffrage bill. She is determined that this time it will pass and is working hard to ensure that outcome when she quite literally bumps into a tall gentleman in Parliament Square where she is to speak to supporters. He is Hadrian St Claire and, in addition to being tall, handsome and quite forward, he is, much to Callie's discomfort, a photographer. Given the unfriendly treatment the movement has received from the press - they're described as either promiscuous free-love types or mannish - she is wary of him to say the least. Not only that but she has an aversion to having her picture taken at all given her low self-image, a result of a rather nasty former suitor. But she does find him attractive and wishes that perhaps she could take him up on his invitation to tea. Too bad duty calls . . .
Hadrian St Claire had never really given serious thought to women's rights, he simply finds their incessant picketing, marching and speechifying annoying in the extreme. He is shocked to realize that the rather attractive woman he practically mowed down in the park is, in fact, suffragette leader Caledonia Rivers. He is surprised at his attraction as she is not his usual type, but attracted he is nonetheless. On his way back to his photography studio he is set upon by two thugs coming to collect a gambling debt Hadrian acquired in a night of weakness and drinking. Though he cannot pay, he buys himself additional time to settle his debt, though he has no idea at the moment how. Later that day, Josiah Dandrige, MP from Horsham, enters his studio and offers him a commission: take compromising photographs of a certain person and he will be rewarded in a way that will not only pay off his debts, but set him up for the future. Unfortunately that person is none other than Caledonia Rivers! Hadrian cannot afford to say "no", but can he say "yes" to destroying the lovely woman he has just met?
And so Hadrian has himself quite the moral dilemna. Save himself or protect Callie? Though he accepts the commission, he is determined to find some other way out. Meanwhile, he and Callie begin to fall for one another. Hadrian is a fascinating character in the tradition of Kleypas' Derek Craven. His childhood in London's seamy east end was unhappy and ugly and Ms Tarr details an incident that is not for the faint of heart. His background is what makes Hadrian who he is and it is also the source of his greatest shame. He has worked very hard to overcome it - to make himself into a gentleman, at least of a sort. Callie has her own issues resulting from rather uncaring parents, a disasterous come-out and a cruel former suitor and as such has resigned herself to spinsterhood and her cause. At least she had until she meets Hadrian. Can there be a happy ending for these two?
This is a quite sensual read and the author goes where most "mainstream" romances rarely go, but that erotics regularly do (one encounter). There are also some fun secondary characters, most particularly Callie's delightful Aunt Lottie. Hadrian's two friends, Gavin and Rourke will also have books of their own as this is the first in a new trilogy (of course). Can't wait to see if Rourke can win over the haughty Lady Katherine Lindsey! And for those who read TEMPTING, you'll get the chance to catch-up with Simon and Christine, Lord and Lady Stonevale some 20+ years later! My only complaint is a few editing issues (on more than a handful of occasions Hadrian is referred to as "Mr Rivers") but given the state of editing these days should we be surprised? All in all a lush, well researched and recommended read.
My main problem, however, was that this book apparently never had a copyeditor. Error after error started to drive me crazy. There were comma errors everywhere, and paragraphing errors, and lots of weird substitutions. A few examples: "callused" for "callous", "penultimate" for "ultimate" (it *so* does not mean the same thing!), "here, here" for "hear, hear", "Michael Angelo" the famous artist...and many, many more. Hansom cabs in the book have seats facing front and back (they didn't in reality), Oscar Wilde's trial for homosexuality is referred to five years before it happened, and the characters stroll from Covent Garden to Bow in a few minutes (when nowadays it takes about a half hour to get there on the tube -- Covent Garden is *so* not in the East End, or anywhere near it! This is really very basic stuff, just a single glance at a map would show that.)
In the end, I did enjoy the book somewhat...but I can only take so many errors before my brain fries.
Moments after meeting the stunning Ms. Rivers, an elderly gentleman arrives to Hadrian's Photography studio with a request to commission a portrait. He will pay quite highly, and is willing to provide Hadrian a way out of his debts if he agrees to photograph a young woman in a scandalous way so that she may be publicly denounced as a fraud, and will be one hundred percent vanquished. Wondering what would cause a man to so deeply hate a woman to demand such a thing, Hadrian against his better principals agrees only out of desperation. His head is soon to be swinging from the garrote if he doesn't pay his debts and sees this cruel opportunity as his way out of a hanging. Never did he envision his prey to be the very lovely lady he nearly knocked over in the park that very morning.
Developing a plot to accomplish his mission, Hadrian schemes his way into Callie's life. Smooth talking and suave, he wins her agreement to sit for a portrait, by forging a letter of request from her mentor and leader of the Suffragette group who feels Callie's portrait would help serve their cause. As Callie visits Hadrian daily, posing for her photograph, Hadrian soon doubts his stamina to hold true to the bargain, and realizes he is falling in love. The plot then thickens when Callie and Hadrian soon reveal their past secrets and wounded prides, and the game of cat and mouse romance begins as their lives become endangered and threatened when their common enemy swoops in to expose both of their dark secrets that could destroy their newfound love.
Excellent character development, rich detailed historic background, talented writing, a surprising plot twist to shake up the predictability, titillating sex scenes, and a love story you can't help but find sweet and tender, all make Vanquished a winner. Enjoying this historical romance novel by Hope Tarr will have me reading the rest of her books for sure.
I found the Victorian backdrop solid, and the writing strong. The historical details seemed to supplement the story very well. I liked that Hadrian wasn't a duke, earl, viscount or baron. He hails from a poverty-stricken childhood, a prostitute's son, and tries pay off debts as a humble photographer. Regrettably, there's too many things to dislike about Hadrian's character too. Some romance novelists manage to realize believable heroes in love. These believable heroes' loves for their heroines is heartfelt, yet subtle. A bit gruff, yet empowering and very giving. By contrast, in the frequent times Hadrian thinks about his heroine Callie, his love for Callie can only be described by a very suffocating nature. I applaud Callie's sensuality, but c'mon, you have an insecure near-virgin armoring herself with make-believe spectacles, ugly hats and bundles of clothing transition to wanting [...]? I didn't quite see it. I suppose all of Callie's insecurities and lewd desires somehow predicated her public expose in the book's finale, I'm not exactly sure. Some sort of disturbing redemption and fortification of her confidence. Even made it seem like Callie's character journey REQUIRED the public expose.
The ending falls back on some sort of psychological redemption actually warranting Callie's public expose as a device to fortify her self-respect and confidence.
The ending seemed to imply Hadrian St. Claire's compromising pictures ultimately caused the defeat of the bill which would grant women the vote (because despite Dandridge blackmailing Hadrian, Hadrian is at the center of it). After meetings with Lord Stonevale and the PM and Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury, it seemed Callie was on the verge of pushing the women's vote bill through Parliament. Yet true to the book's purpose, Hadrian vanquishes the bill and her efforts. It's Hadrian who develops the compromising photograph in the first place, it's Hadrian who leaves the developed photograph unattended for the villain to steal, it's Hadrian who fails to retrieve it, it's Hadrian who gets stupidly beat up.
Not only is Hadrian useless, but the thing with the photograph proves he's dumb. After taking the compromising photograph of Callie, he goes insofar as to develop the photograph and leave his shop unattended when he knows Dandridge hired someone to tail him! When he knows that Dandridge desperately desires a photograph ruining Callie! Hadrian-- nice show, sport, just brilliant.
Like I said before, the ending turns into more of a psychological thing whereby the compromising photographs actually served to bolster our insecure heroine's confidence somehow, and she's finally at peace with herself. So having her assets on full display to the world actually helps her emotionally? I know she ignores the ribald jeers during her speech at the very end, but c'mon that kind of thing doesn't go away. After she marries Hadrian, both would bear the brunt of a lot of obscene remarks. Especially considering how public Callie's life as a suffragist leader has been.
VANQUISHED belabors on characters' appearances a bit too much for my tastes. With Hadrian and Callie, it's more about shallow appearances, and Callie's (constant) insecurities obfuscates any potential for chemistry or passion or love. The dwelling on appearances isn't as repetitive as other novels but it also never manages to rise above the common appearance hangover romance novels have with a heroine's insecurities and hero's Adonis good looks. It gets to be a bit too much at the charity ball and then later, in Hadrian's flat. Callie relentlessly drones on and on about her insecurities, too big in the bosom and bottom, too tall, can't dance, etc., etc., etc. Despite Hadrian (constantly) assuring her and lavishing her with compliments about her lovely face, soft skin, curvy figure, etc., Callie persists on latching on to her insecurities. Hope Tarr even uses Callie's insecurity to manipulate Hadrian into taking the compromising photograph towards the end, something he's reluctant to do. When Hadrian comments on her breast after their first time, she again retreats into her shell of insecurities. Enough already, you have the tall, dark, and handsome perfect-guy with a huge, turgid phallus lusting after you and pleasuring you!
I thought Hadrian doesn't do enough for a male character, and doesn't act. I don't mind him being a prostitute's son and hailing from the low, poor classes (in fact, I applaud Hope Tarr for that), but he doesn't do anything. He fails to act when he suspects that Josiah Dandridge has something more personal against Callie. He doesn't do anything when he suspects he's being trailed. Instead of moping around feeling something strong for Callie and anguishing over the devil's bargain he's struck to ruin Callie, anyone who obviously cares for the girl would try to figure out the connection between Callie and Dandridge actively. They would try to discover who's trailing him and subvert him. They would do something, anything, instead of moping around for Callie and waiting for her to come around so you can take her photographs. Hadrian has a barrister friend and if he's too prideful to ask for a loan from the barrister, he could at least enlist his barrister friend's aid earlier in investigating Dandridge and his possible personal vendetta against Callie beyond the obvious. Maybe Hadrian could get his friend Rourke to help with the person trailing him. Something anything, stop moping around and pining! We get it, you feel something strong for Callie unlike any of the other women you've bedded. Now get on with it!
The lovesick notions in this novel are too drowning instead of empowering or heartfelt (at least from a male point-of-view). The ending inundates its readers with endless words of love which didn't seem to ring true as a result. I sure wasn't convinced.