The Romantic, by Madeline Hunter

>> Friday, December 10, 2004

The Romantic, by Madeline Hunter, was my early birthday present from my friend María Inés, who knew I was dying to read it. I planned to save it for when I was less busy and could just read it all in one sitting, but I couldn't resist.

A passionate new historical romance in Madeline Hunter's nationally bestselling "Seducer" series. This one features a fifth member of the London Dueling Society, the reserved, enigmatic lawyer to the Laclere family: Julian Hampton.

All his life, it seemed, Julian had been in love with Penelope, now Countess of Glasbury. And when he learned the horrors she had endured at the hands of her vicious husband, Julian was instrumental in arranging for her escape to Italy. But he has never forgotten the love of his childhood, the woman he had rescued first as a "damsel in distress" when she was a girl, and then for real once she had blossomed into woman.

When Penelope returns secretly to London, Julian is the one she turns to, even though her trust in him puts both their reputations, and ultimately their lives, in peril.
I loved this book. It features some of my favourite elements in romance and a to-die-for hero! My grade is an A-.

Julian is what makes this book so good. He is what I would imagine if I had to describe my "perfect" hero. I adore the plot of a hero who's been in love with the heroine for years and years, never thinking he's going to be able to do anything about his love, always hiding his feelings, and yet never becoming bitter about it. He's honourable, serious and very, very romantic.

Yes, he's a romantic. Too often, romance novels seem to espouse the view that what every woman wants is an alpha barbarian who hits her over the head and drags her to bed. The poetry-writing suitor is almost always portrayed as a weakling, no competition for our macho hero. Well, Julian is a poetry writer, and I don't think I've ever read anything as romantic as his letters to Pen, that he wrote since he first fell in love with her all those years ago. I just wish we could have read more of them ::sigh:: It works because his brand of romance is not the corny, teddy-bear and Hallmark card, just because he's expected to because it's Valentine Day type. He does everything he does because his soul is romantic, because it comes naturally to him, and he has an inner dignity that simply prevents him from looking even the slightest bit ridiculous.

I liked Penelope, very much, but I must admit she paled next to Julian. Outwardly, she seemed a bit like a damsel in distress, which is not my favourite type of heroine, but she definitely wasn't that. A bad decission had stuck her in a horrible situation, with a husband who was a real monster, but though she needed help to get out of it, it was she who had to summon the courage to take the initial steps, knowing that she would be the one who would have to bear the consequences of this. I thought it was a nice touch that, in the end, she had to help Julian, just as he'd helped her.

I appreciated the fact that she had had some affairs, after a fashion, since she'd left her husband. Well, the way they turned out to be "incomplete", felt like a bit of a cop-out, though she did have good reasons for it, but, what the hell, I should have expected it.

I loved Julian and Pen together, most especially seeing Julian finally starting something with the woman he's loved for so long... the way he just knew her feelings for him weren't the same as his for her, so he was so obviously going to get hurt, and yet he couldn't resist her anyway. Reading about his feelings kept setting my stomach clenching and my fingers tingling. I also liked the gradual way in which Penelope started realizing just how strongly Julian felt about her, and just how strongly she felt about him.

The suspense was integral to the story and it was perfect to drive it forward. The villain, Pen's husband, was truly scary, but he was also believable. I liked that though there really was a sense of danger, Pen didn't spend a large part of the book being helpless in Glasbury's power. That's a perfectly valid plot, of course, but it's one that gives me the creeps and doesn't make for a very pleasant reading experience for me.

I also liked the way that, though the book could stand alone, the characters from the previous entries in the series had important parts here. It never felt like Hunter was just including them gratuitously.

This was one highly anticipated book that definitely lived up to its expectations!

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