Monday, April 19, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady

This is just my opinion, my personal take on any given book, use as a reference. I will not be overly gushing. I will also endeavor not to give too much of the plot away.
I will not hand out 4 star ratings for every book, or try not to.*

Harlequin Historical 288 pages

Dec 1 2009 by Diane Gaston


The battlefields of Badajoz are nothing compared to the cutting tongues of polite society, but Jack Vernon has never been very "polite." A canvas is this brooding artist's preferred company--having once been the outlet for the horror he witnessed at war, it's now his fortune.

Painting the portrait of stunningly beautiful Ariana Blane is his biggest commission yet. Learning every curve of her body ignites feelings he thought were destroyed in battle. But he's not the only man who has Ariana in his sights....

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While I do adore historicals about wayward, rakish dukes, and innocent, blushing ladies of the ton, this was an entirely refreshing read on so many levels.

As the title suggests, it is a story about ordinary people, Ensign Jack Vernon, just back from the war in Spain, and Ariana Blaine, stage actress.

A nice tie-in with my recent subject matter at my blog at Borders, Jack is haunted by what he has seen in the war in Spain, either in his nightly dreams or even haunting his daylight hours, carrying inner scars that are hard for anyone to fathom, including himself.

It is now 1814, Napoleon is in prison, Jake is home, eking out a living as an artist. He is at an art showing, where a few of his works are on display, when he is overwhelmed by the memories of the war, hearing cannon fire in his head, when a lovely young lady sidles up to him and engages him in conversation. This is one of the most enchanting meetings of a hero and heroine I have read in some time. Ariana, of course, is breathtaking, Jack imagines she stepped off one of the canvases. She begins to admire a portrait of a young lady, unaware it is Jack that painted it. (it's his sister) Already the characters are vivid and rich and had me drawn in. Of course, they part, without exchanging names.

6 months later, Jack escorts his mother and sister to a stage play of Romeo and Juliet, and he sees the beauty from the gallery. He cannot tear is gaze from her. After the play, Jack tries to go backstage to maybe speak to her, when he is stopped by Lord Tranville, a man Jack loathes. And his own widowed mother is this man's mistress. And has been on and off for many years. It sticks in Jack's craw that this smarmy, egotistical aristocrat is backstage.
Jack also cannot stand his son, Edwin. Unfortunately, Jack, his mother and sister would have been on the streets after Jack's father died when he was a child, it was only the patronage of Lord Tranville that kept a roof over their heads. Hence, the affair.

It seems this Lord is also interested in the young, beautiful actress Ariana, complications abound.
Tranville is smitten with Ariana, and commissions a portrait of her for a playbill and guessed it...Jack.
Jack jumps to the conclusion that Ariana is Tranville's mistress, which doubly disgusts him as Tranville is still sharing his mother's bed.

Diane has created many secondary characters here that are tightly interwoven with Jack and Ariana, making their growing attraction more complicated. A secondary romance between Jack's sister and her friend Micheal was heart warming.

But the mothers in this story, sheesh! Both Jack and Ariana's mothers are totally selfish beings. Jack's mother especially, who put her creature comforts and lust for Lord Tranville above her children. Made for a fascinating character, if not all that likable.

Tranville and his son Edwin make for delicious villains, they are sly and slick, arranging and plotting to get what they want.

But what is at the heart of the read is Jack and Ariana. Their love story is touching, outgoing and charming, Ariana refuses to let Jack retreat into himself, she encourages his passion, not only in bed, but in his painting. With her love, he slowly begins to overcome his fears.

I know some complain that Post-traumatic distress is dealt with a little too cleanly in romance novels (The same complaints were made about Anna Campbell's 'Captive of Sin') but I embraced the HEA, and the rousing adventure at the end, culminating at the battle of Waterloo! Yes, Jack was back in uniform!

This was a delightful, entertaining read, no fancy-dressed balls, no Duke's, and I loved it.

3 and 3/4 stars out of 4 for the book

KOVER KUDOS: Oh my, there is just something about a man in uniform, and the male model looks as Jack is described, love the 'hands cupping the face' pose. And the colours. Did I mention the male model *drool*

3 and 1/2 out of 4 for the cover


Diane Gaston said...

Thank you, Karyn, for that lovely review!

Anonymous said...

Now, this sounds like an interesting book, about an ordinary soldier and an actress, not exactly accepted by society at the time, I will keep a look out for this, great review!


Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Oooo, Diane, I am so thrilled you stopped by, it really was a wonderful read, cheers!

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Jaundyce, it was very different, like I said, while I love the dukes and such, it was very refreshing to read about 'ordinary' folk. Hope I see more like this.

You would enjoy this~

Deb said...

Karyn, this is the third time I've tried posting, so hope this one goes through.

Your review was great. I've never read Diane's books, so look forward to picking this one up. Geesh, between you and the TRD ladies, my TBB and TBR piles are becoming mountains! :)

Deb said...

Oops, the TRD should be TRD. Edit button, edit button, where art thou?

~Drew said...

Excuse me Deb, to lazy to log in under my romance profile, LOL!

I really think you would enjoy this, like I said, it was a breath of fresh air. I love the way Diane writes.

And oh boy, do I hear you about the TBR pile. It is teetering precariously in my bedroom, so many books, so little time!