PUBLISHING INFO: Signet, 1979
REISSUED: Topaz, 1994/Signet, 2006 with expanded content
SETTING: England, 1800s
HEROINE: Katherine Brandon
HERO: Julian St. Clair
BODICE RIPPER? No
RAPE? Yes, by husband
FROM PUBLISHER: Clearly young Lady Katharine Brandon was a beauty, with her rich auburn hair, striking green eyes, flawless face and form. But a beauty was one thing Katharine clearly had no interest in being.
She dressed in a young man's breeches, practiced dueling with pistol and rapier, gambled with cards, defied her father's commands and evaded all suitors.
Imagine Katharine's surprise when the fabulously wealthy, notoriously pleasure-loving , Julien St. Clair, Earl of March, demanded her as his wife. Imagine her dismay when her father asked and received his pricefor yielding her to this man. But no one in all of English society could ever imagine what could happen when a lord who would not be denied and a woman who refused to be mastered turned marriage into a game in which it took far more than love to conquer all ....
SPOILER SUMMARY: Julian is taken with Katherine, whom he calls Kate, from the first time he meets her, having a mock duel with her brother, Harry. She's his neighbor. They develope a friendship with each other. Her home is rundown and she dresses in outdated clothing and Julian decides to offer her marriage. He talks with her father first and despises the man instantly. He visits Katherine at home and proposes to her in front of her father. She turns him down. She's lived with a physically abusive father her whole life and doesn't want much to do with a man. Right after Julian leaves, her father beats her severly and she can't walk. Julian gets wind of it and threatens to kill her father if he ever lays a hand on Katherine again.
Katherine does marry Julian but she's very unhappy about it and they have a marriage in name only. This is where the bodice ripper part come into play. Julian comes up with this terrible plan to abduct his own wife, to teach her about passion. Katherine is out riding in the park one day and Julian, on his horse and wearing a mask and using a fake German accent, snatches her off her horse and takes her to a cabin. He blindfolds her right away and rapes her. He then drugs her, takes her to their home and tells everyone that he found her passed on in the park where she's apparently fallen off her horse.
Katherine, not knowing that her own husband raped her, can't tell him what really happened to her. She ends up getting pregnant and comes up with a plan of her own. To fool Julian into thinking the baby is his, she decides to begin a sexual relationship with him so that she can later pretend that he's the father of the child.
Eventually Julian tells her what happened and their relationship sours even more. She has a miscarriage when she falls off her horse and things worsen. They work things out eventually and Julian helps her remember that she was raped in the woods by several men when she was little. They have their happily ever after.
MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the best books ever written and I'm proud to have a personally autographed copy. I first read this in 1995 when I purchased it at a grocery store. It had been reissued in 1994 as an expanded version. I've read both and can't tell the difference even though there's an almost 100 page difference. The abduction plot is exactly the same.
I'd only been reading romance for no more than 2 1/2 years when I read this and its left one hell of an impression on me. I have the original Signet Regency, that's a little under 300 pages. I got rid of my original 1994 paperback when I decided to replace it with a new hardcover. I think this is a pretty unique story, and a true gem, that outshines all the garbage that's being published today.
Todays readers, those who don't like the older stuff, wouldn't enjoy this at all. Even though what Julien did was horrible I can't dislike him for it.
Catherine's complete booklist can be found here.