Thunder and Roses
Author: Mary Jo Putney
Genre: Historical romance
Reason for Reading: You know, I'm not really sure why I originally got this book, except that the title is kind of cool. When I read the plot synopsis and the prologue, though, my interest was piqued.
Synopsis: Nicholas Davies, the latest earl of Aberdare, is the only one who can do anything to improve the lives of the villagers in Penreith, in Wales. Clare Morgan, a Methodist schoolteacher, knows this and seeks Nicholas's help. He strikes a devil's bargain with her--he'll aid the village if she lives with him for three months and let him claim a kiss every day, thus ruining her reputation. Furious at his audacity, Clare accepts his challenge, and gradually finds herself struggling with her growing fascination for Nicholas.
My Thoughts: A lot of Regency-set historical romances have similar plot premises. There's invariably a rogueish rake of a hero and a supposedly intelligent heroine who likes to help others and be a martyr. And there seems to be a trend in the books I've been reading where the rake has a group of friends who are all confirmed bachellors with ridiculous nicknames.
Fortunately for me, Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angels series was one of the first with the whole rakes club thing, and a wonderful gift for storytelling and highly relatable characters makes it so that I believe in these people and can see them as something other than archetypes.
I really loved the main characters. Nicholas is a strong, forceful man, but he isn't an arrogant jerk and he is that rare breed of romance hero that has a sense of humor. He mistrusts people, because lots of bad things have happened, but I bought his emotional struggles and he wasn't really an idiot about them. Clare is also anb interesting character. I loved that she struggled with her faith, and didn't just give lip service to the whole "Oh, I really want him to kiss me, but it simply isn't right" hand-wringing that often happens in this sort of story. I really felt Clare's angst about whether or not she should let Nicholas seduce her was justified.
As for the secondary characters, well, it's obvious that Nicholas's friends are sequel-bait, but Putney did a good job of giving each of the three men his own distinct personality. I really want to see what she does with them in the rest of the series, especially with the intense, war-scarred Michael and the shrewd Lucien, who plays the dilitante well but has hidden depths.
My quibbles are fairly minor. The suspense subplot was kind of cheesy, and the villain practically wore a sign on his back reading "I am the villain! Ph34r me!" There were also a couple of moments near the end where, to bring off a climax, Clare went haring off into danger. But aside from that, I really did enjoy this book and would definitely recommend it.