Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-345-49669-0
Historical Romance, 2008
I know what to expect when I read a historical romance by Gaelen Foley: plenty of dramatic scenes, a hero who must have Terminator genes, and a heroine who can take care of herself – at least, well enough until the hero shows up for the grand rescue. Her Every Pleasure has all these elements and therefore one can say that this is a pretty typical example of a book by this author. Unfortunately, the story starts out with a series of implausible actions by our main characters, throwing me off-balance, and it never recovers from that problematic first quarter or so of the story.
Princess Sophia of the kingdom of Kavros is the last living heir of the throne. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as walking up to the throne and planting her behind on it. Her family has been exiled from Kavros ever since the kingdom was thrown into civil war. Kavros is located in a very strategic spot in the Mediterranean sea, perfect for trade and naval control of the waters, and therefore every one of its neighbors from Turkey to England covet that island. Sophia hopes to work with the English to regain her throne because we all know that 19th-century England is very big on helping other countries stay independent and free from colonization. Unlike those French, of course, because we all know that the French are to be blamed for everything and anything.
When the story opens, Sophia finds her entourage caught in an ambush while attempting to rendezvous with her contacts. Separated from her people, she runs off to the planned contact point, hoping that her people will survive and meet up with her later. The contact point happens to be our hero Gabriel Knight’s barn. Gabriel comes across a sleeping Sophia in the morning and since this is a romance novel, he understandably assumes that she is a whore sent by his brother to help Gabriel cope with his hermit-like existence. Even when she tries to stab him once she’s awake, he will persist in thinking that she’s a whore. When he learns that she isn’t willing to leave his place (she has, remember, to stay there so that her people can catch up with her), he offers her a position at his household as a maid.
Okay, I can buy that. However, later on Gabriel will come across Sophia rummaging through his things and will become incensed because he thinks that she’s a thief like the Gypsy that she lets him believe that she is. Anger turns to lust quickly enough to make a Greek tycoon from a Harlequin Presents turn green with envy and Sophia has to fight him off and flee. When Gabriel realizes that she has not stolen anything, he decides that he has been so wrong in accusing her to be a spy. After all, it’s not like she could be checking out his things to determine which one she should pilfer or anything, no? And as for Sophia, one moment she is terrified of him but one page later she is happily laughing with him and accepting his offer to have a private dinner with him. Yes, with a man who had easily disarmed her earlier in the story and who could have easily deflowered her as well.
And on and on these two characters will go in ways that don’t make sense to me. It gets to a point where I begin to believe that Gabriel’s near-death experiences in India must have hurt his head really badly. As for Sophia, okay, so she knows how to wave a knife like some crazy woman, but she’s not exactly the smartest girl around. She can take care of herself considerably, I’ll give her that, so to be fair, Sophia may be silly but she’s not silly and useless.
The rest of the story has plenty of action scenes and drama involving betrayals, hot sex, some parallels to terrorists of today, and grand rescue scenes. As I’ve said earlier, this one could have been a typical story I’ve come to expect from the author. And since I usually enjoy her brand of campy action romance, I would have enjoyed this book so much better if the characters haven’t behaved in such a bewildering manner for so long in the earlier parts of the story.