The Widow, by Anne Stuart

>> Friday, September 23, 2005

The Widow is one of those Anne Stuart books I hadn't heard great things about.

Aristide Pompasse is dead. But the evil in the great artist's soul still haunts the vineyards and lurks in the corners of his Tuscan villa. Known as much for his fabulous portraits as his penchant for young mistresses, Pompasse had not let anyone go until Charlie, his young wife, had managed to escape.

Now Charlie is back, to lay old ghosts to rest, to find the answers to who she was, to make peace with her past and her future. And there is no room in that peaceful future for a dangerous man like Connor Maguire.

Maguire knows what he wants. He is about to break the biggest story of his life — Pompasse's murder — and damn anyone who gets in his way. So why can't he keep his eyes and his hands off the old man's widow?

In the old house, where murder is a whisper away, and desire a dance in the moonlight, nothing is quite as it seems...
Well, it wasn't her best, but it was mostly enjoyable. A B-.

Nothing too original to see here. Maguire is an Anne Stuart type of hero that I've read a hundred times before. He's a guy whose idealism has been almost completely beaten out of him.

After years and years as a war correspondent, he's quit and gone to work for a tabloid. So, as the story starts, he very firmly believes he's a complete bastard and that he has no qualms about cheating and lying and using people to get his story for that slimy tabloid... or at least, he thinks he doesn't. He finds himself falling for Charlie in spite of himself and having to actively fight his impulses to do the right thing, because, surprisingly enough (for him, not for the reader), he still has some of that idealism left.

I really enjoyed the way Maguire was so attracted to Charlotte in spite of not wanting to. He's fascinated by her, can't stop himself from following her around and trying to get through her defenses by getting her riled up. He tells himself it's for the story, and that he's going to do this and do that and will hurt her, but he ends up behaving like her knight in shining armor.

As for Charlotte, she was basically ok. She's got the typical martyr tendencies of a Stuart heroine (the whole he's a great artist so he doesn't need to be a decent human being thing, for instance), but actually, she didn't behave like a martyr during the book at all. She was perfectly ready to tell people (Maguire, her fiancé Henry) to fuck off when they deserved to hear it.

The mystery was pretty interesting throughout most of the book, but the resolution was a miss for me. Way too over the top, more horror movie than romantic suspense.

What I did love was the setting. Not just the villa in Tuscany (with that wonderful-sounding ruined church), I especially enjoyed the parts that are set in Florence. It's a short scene, but Maguire's old, run-down appartment had great charm. Contemporaries should really use European settings more. I thought that when I read L. Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep and I still think it now.


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