Untie My Heart, by Judith Ivory

>> Friday, February 04, 2005

I love Judith Ivory's books so much that I've been saving them for a rainy day. However, packing up for my vacation I took a good look at my TBR shelves and noticed I had 5 of her books saved, so I decided I could afford to treat myself and read a couple of them. The first was Untie My Heart (excerpt).

In Victorian England, a powerful viscount and a Yorkshire vicar's widow seem a most unlikely match. But, from the first, the situation between Stuart Aysgarth and Emma Hotchkiss has been anything but typical. While the viscount has recently inherited his unlamented father's vast property and responsibility, the wealth to maintain it is beyond his reach. Stuart is locked in a legal struggle with his father's greedy brother, who almost succeeded in claiming the title and property as his own before Stuart could return from his self-imposed exile abroad…and who has stolen many of the estate's more portable valuables, including two that are particularly precious to the rightful heir. Meanwhile, Emma's background includes much more than writing her husband's sermons and tending his sheep.

When the viscount refuses to pay for the valuable lamb his coach horse killed, the lovely widow quickly slips back into habits from her disreputable past to swindle the devastatingly handsome, infuriating peer out of what she sees as her due. Trust doesn't come easily to either of them…but when Stuart proposes they work together to dupe his uncle out of his ill-gotten gains, he makes an offer Emma cannot refuse. The confidence game they set in motion is a tricky balancing act, with vengeance as well as wealth as its goals...and an immensely imaginative range of intimacies between these unlikely conspirators as an unexpected and irresistible reward.
Oh, this was such a joy to read! I wallowed in it, trying to read as slowly as I could to make it last. My grade is an A-.

Part of what makes me like Ivory so much is simply the language she uses. I pretty much enjoy that independently of the actual story, but I usually love those, too, and I did this time. She has a very distinctive voice, even if she adapts it perfectly to the story she's telling. It was one way in The Proposition and another in Beast, but it was still recognizable as very much hers. This time I'd describe it as luxurious. I wanted to snuggle in Stuart's coat, to sit in his library, to ride in his carriage...

The story was lovely, with an interesting plot and fascinating characters. Stuart is one of Ivory's best creations. An arrogant nobleman whose vulnerabilities still show, and I loved how amazed he was by Emma, how he found her irresistible. But what I found most attractive about him was his self-awareness, how he was very conscious of exactly who he was and how he was so ready to discover new facets of himself. Also, in a way, I thought he was endearing. I adored his reactions to the famous chair scene... "I seem to have accidentally shagged her". Indeed! I though his delight and wonder at what they had managed to do together was amazing.

Emma was the perfect counterpart to Stuart. I liked that though she was trying to live a certain life, she acknowledged the way this other way of life tugged at her. I also liked that she was no missish idiot, but accepted her sexuality. And I loved that she was very smart and that her plans were intelligent and well thought-out, and that Stuart recognized this.

This was one of the most romantic books I've read, not a cloying, too-sweet type of romance, but something that was intelligent and sensually romantic. My favourite kind!


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