The Promise By Brenda Joyce
HQN Books; (September 28, 2010)
After a record breaking sail from China, Alexi de Warenne’s moment of triumph quickly vanishes. At his welcoming party, his bewitching childhood friend Elysse O’Neill begins flirting with a shipmate, clearly punishing Alexi for his time at sea. But when Alexi finds Elysse desperately struggling in the man’s arms, tragedy ensues. Within days, Alexi weds her to save her honor—and leaves her to forge a new life.
Elysse de Warenne rules the ton with her wit and grace, but the whispers of “abandoned bride” follow her ruthlessly. Elysse will never reveal the truth: that she hasn’t see her husband in six years—and they didn’t even consummate their marriage! When Alexi unexpectedly returns to England, Elysse will do whatever it takes to win his heart and claim her place at his side.
What I find utter fascinating with the De Warenne Dynasty books of Brenda Joyce is that she is writing them out of order, following her muse, as she puts it. How different and refreshing. In her previous book, An Impossible Attraction, (March 2010) Elysse and Alexi are happily married, how did they get to their happy ending?
This book answers that question. Childhood friends, their attachment runs deep, so deep Elysse and Alexi spend all their time denying it, rather hotly, in their passionate disagreements. When Alexi returns from a successful run to China, Elysse is a rather accomplished flirt at 20, already refusing 5 marriage proposals. Her flirtations are turned toward Alexi's friend and guest, a handsome American, William Montgomery, a pilot on his ship. Even though William and he had saved each others lives in the wilds of Canada, Alexi knows the man can be aggressive in his seduction of women. So when William turns his attentions toward Elysse, Alexi is whipped into a jealous froth.
It all culminates with William forcing his attentions on a inebriated Elysse, Alexi steps in, the men fight. Tragedy ensues indeed. William is dead. And Alexi is overcome with guilt, his friend, his shipmate. The de Warenne's close ranks, disposing of the body. Gossip rears its ugly head, Elysse is ruined. Alexi does the only thing honor dictates. He marries her, then promptly leaves her practically at the altar.
I was immediately swept up into the tragic guilt these two young people feel, and the denied feelings of attraction. The Promise, which is the underlying theme of this book, was Alexi's heartfelt, childhood promise to always protect Elysse. And both are so shockingly young, Alexi 21, Elysse 20, that when Elysse arrives to be wed, all romantic dreams are washed away at the sight of Alexi's hard set face, showing distaste, and determination. And anger. It was at that moment Elysse admits to herself she loves Alexi very much, It is to no avail. Her marriage is a sham.
6 long years pass. Only one letter passed between the couple, both have moved on with their lives, Alexi the dashing Captain/Adventurer/Trader, Elysse the hostess with the mostess of the London scene.
The reunion is awkward, rumors of his many lovers in ports throughout the East had reached her ears, breaking her heart even more. He hears she has had a string of lovers, of course, she hasn't. I had hoped, after 6 years, this couple would have matured a little. Just a little. I overlooked a lot of sniping between them in the first 1/3 of the book because of their young age. But after 6 years, they just pick up where they left off. Arguing, sneering, misunderstandings. Both are petulant, spoiled. It grew tedious. Quickly.
Alexi's way of showing his feelings is stomping about the place, roaring, knocking over desks in passionate rages. It struck me, these two are a couple of the shallowest heroes and heroines I have come across lately. Both crave attention, Elysse is more than aware of her great beauty, and revels standing about in drawing rooms having men worship at her feet. Still the shameless flirt, which drives Alexi into rages. Alexi likes nothing more than brag of his many exploits at sea to a group of worshiping men and women who hang on his every word. These two are pathetic, over prideful, and ultimately, its sad.
It was a real struggle for me to get through the rest of this book, I rolled my eyes so many times over the childish behavior I think I strained some muscles in the sockets. Elysse went from snarly shrew to tearful brokenhearted innocent with amazing deftness, she was either slapping Alexi's face or tossing whiskey in it. Ye Gods. Only managed to make her more unsympathetic and vain. And all Alexi's swashbuckling charm was lost under the thunderous cloud of seething anger and sexual frustration. I was near screaming, 'Take her to bed, already!!'
Even the other family members called them both on their behavior. Yet, they blundered on. Limping toward the conclusion, the last third of the book is Elysse realizing she loves and wants Alexi and is going to fight for him. Alexi has left for China, and Elysse is determined to follow him. Little does she know, Alexi has made a quick turn around, and is already back in London!
I will admit I did get swept up into the adventure of Elysse's abduction, I wished it was longer, all that wretched arguing in the middle of the story could have been cut WAY back. This book was more of a roller coaster ride for me than the stock market.
Alexi swiftly steps into his hero shoes and the rescue is underway. So it took a life and death situation to make these 2 selfish people realize they loved each other. It was draining. Just draining.
So, did I like this book? Well, I finished it, I feel it did not live up to 'the promise' of the beginning, the middle of the book really lowered my rating. And I have enjoyed other books by Brenda Joyce in the De Warenne Saga. I liked the previous release in March 2010. I didn't entirely dislike this. If you can get past the constant carping of the 2 main characters, perhaps you will enjoy this more than I.
2 out of 4 stars for the book
KOVER KUDOS: Very nice, sums up the book well, even down to the ship in the corner. Perhaps if she were tossing a drink in his angry face, it would be more accurate
3 out of 4 stars for the cover