Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-5790-0
Historical Romance, 2013
After being thrown over by the woman he loves for his own brother (read all about it here), Maximillian Burke feels something inside him snap. All his life he has been the dutiful model son. The Earl of Dravenwood is reliable, sturdy, capable, proper, and gallant… and what does he get in the end? Tossed aside for his less responsible brother because that man is more charming than Max could let himself be.
When the story opens, Max doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Wait, he does know, at least for the short term: he will retreat from the pitying glances and gossips of Society – tossed aside on his own wedding day, the poor thing – to some fringe property, Cadgwyck Manor, in what seems like the wettest and most forlorn corner of Cornwall.
Instead of a livable abode, he finds a run-down estate that most of the locals refuse to even step foot in because it is said that the place is haunted by the Lady in White. A previous owner died, while one more ran screaming into the local inn claiming that demons or something are chasing him. Now that Max is the new owner of the place, he’s stuck with only a skeleton staff that somehow comes along with the property. His staff is incompetent, to put it mildly – the food is barely edible, the footman is a kid who clearly resents him, and the butler is a dotty old man. Fortunately, the housekeeper Anne Spencer seems capable enough to run the show. But Max can’t help feeling that something is amiss… or maybe it’s just the Lady in White giving him goosebumps?
In many ways, The Temptation of Your Touch is a gentle homage to Gothic romances with plenty of humor and emotional drama, and it’s actually eerie how the whole story fits perfectly to the words of the Talking Heads’s song This Must Be the Place. That song just plays on its own accord in my head as I keep reading this book, and in a way, this makes perfect sense in a crazy manner because Max never expects to find a home and a family like the one he found in Cadgwyck Manor. I really like this fellow because, despite the fact that he spends most of the time here brooding over three women, the author manages to make him a rather attractive hero.
This is especially true in the late third or so of the book, when this guy spares nothing in demonstrating the extent of his affections to Anne. You can tell me how unrealistic it can be for an Earl to marry his housekeeper without encountering much consternation and disapproval, and I won’t disagree, but there is something very… appealing… about his arrogant determination to have anyone who doesn’t like it to take a hike for all he care. He’s the earl, and they don’t like it, let’s see whether he gives a damn.
Poor Anne is a heroine that seems to be created to solely dance to Max’s sad songs. Sure, she has her own reasons to be in Cadgwyck Manor, and things aren’t what they seem in that place, but for the most part, her own story arc stays in limbo as she reacts to Max’s various moods. She is a pastiche of many familiar elements that embody the heroine that nags the hero even as deep inside she’s all hot and randy over the very things she claims to frown upon. If you have read any romance novel by Sabrina Jeffries, then yes, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Anne is just like those heroines. However, she really brings out the best in Max – the melodramatic and romantic kind of best – so she’s alright where I am concerned.
The atmosphere in this book is gorgeous. The descriptions of Cadgwyck Manor, day or night, and its surrounding areas are such that I often feel as if I was right there in that place. Max chasing after a ghostly laughter in the dark – scenes like those are very well written too, making me feel like I’m watching these scenes unravel before my eyes. The gorgeous evocative romanticism of the story, coupled to Max’s attractive emo personality, makes it a most memorable vicarious adventure.
At the end of the day, there isn’t anything new or amazing here, as most of the plot elements are easily guessed at due to the fact that they have been featured so many times before in many romance stories. Still, Ms Medeiros manages to put everything together to create a fairy tale-like romance with haunting elements that, well, haunt me along with a richly emotional late third that makes me feel choked up. Even the sentimental ending and the way everything is wrapped up so neatly fail to raise the ire in cynical old me – I’m just so happy that they are happy, sigh.
The Temptation of Your Touch just plays on all my weaknesses, hitting all the right spots, and it’s even harder to resist when I am sighing over Max’s emotional moments while Talking Heads are at the back of my head singing about loving each other until the heart stops. It’s not that I want to resist succumbing to the charms of this story anyway, since the author makes it so entertaining, amusing, and frequently heartwarming to just go with the flow.