Moonlit, by Emma Jensen

>> Thursday, March 01, 2007

Moonlit is my first Emma Jensen book. It's apparently related to at least one earlier book, but it stands alone just fine.

book coverAward-winning author Emma Jensen returns with the heartfelt tale of a man shattered by life-and the woman destined to heal his broken spirit . . .

Bearing the scars of a violent past, Viscount Trevor St. Wulfstan relishes his sinful reputation as much as he enjoys his dangerous clandestine missions for the British army. His fortune depleted, Trevor cannot afford to take a lover, let alone compete with the rest of the town for the affections of one remarkable lady's. Yet he is powerless to resist the passion she stirs in his soul.

They call her Mrs. Nolan. A notorious courtesan from Ireland, she has been sought out by the men of London, eager to sample her skills. But all Nell Nolan wants is a quick entrée into society to collect an old debt, and then she will be done with her sordid charade. Until she meets St. Wulfstan-so completely, so dangerously unlike any man she has ever known outside her dreams. A single glance at Trevor's ravaged face, and an unforgettable night spent in his arms, seals her fate. For once, long ago, Nell had wished upon the moon. . . .
I read this one after a bunch of those books I mentioned in my review of The Pirate Lord, those books with choppy writing that made me get bogged down. In comparison, reading Moonlit was much better. The story was interesting and the book flowed! It's a very flawed book, yes, but Jensen's voice raises it to a B-.

There's a mysterious new courtesan in London, and Trevor Robard, Viscount St. Wulfstan, is surprised at how attracted he is to her. He really shouldn't pursue her; after all, he doesn't have much hope of winning her, with his scarred face, bad reputation in society, rotten manners and empty pockets. But still he does, and Mrs. Nolan accepts to spend a night with him in exchange for him taking her to Lord Routland's ball.

Nell Nolan isn't really a courtesan, but a respectable widow. Everyone thought she was the Duke of Clonegal's mistress, but in reality, she was just his companion while he was ill. Her plan is to use those rumours in order to find someone who can get her into Routland's ball, so she can right a past wrong. After that, the plan is simply to take the legacy the Duke left her and go back to her native Ireland. But what develops between her and Trevor is more than she expected, and she can't help but change those plans.

I enjoyed the first parts of the book very much. I liked seeing the supposedly remote Trevor fall hard for the enigmatic Mrs. Nolan and really have to work at something he kept telling himself he wouldn't even try. I got a kick out of seeing him want much more from her than he expected. I also liked the glimpses of Trevor's work as an assassin for the Crown, and the psychological toll this had on him. I was very intrigued.

Nell was a very interesting character, too, with her quiet, dignified strength, whatever the situation and however she's being treated. She was even more intriguing than Trevor, because even knowing her real circumstances and why she was doing those things, she still retained an air of mystery and I wanted to know just what she was hiding.

But after a while, it turned out that the quietness of Nell's strength wasn't always a good thing, because she was paired with a character who, IMO, would have benefited immensely from someone who screamed at him and defied his personal boundaries.

As it is, I thought these two had some very definite communication problems, and by the end of the book, I wasn't confident they were solved. Trevor spends the entire book refusing to discuss anything private with Nell, keeping his distance in such a way that it almost felt as if he were putting her "in her place". He tells her nothing, not about things that I'd have understood him keeping private at first, but also nothing about things he could have perfectly well told her, and this made him seem cold and cruel.

I lost a bit of respect for Nell with the way she just accepted this. I understood her attitude better later on, when I realized that she wasn't pushing because she was keeping huge secrets herself, secrets she wouldn't want to be pushed about, but by then the damage was done. And Nell's silence is only about her past; she's open enough about her feelings for Trevor and her personality, and I felt bad for her that this wasn't reciprocated.

In addition to this, I had some issues with the way there's a complete turnaround in the conflict there at the end, switching the focus from what was up until then a very character-driven romance to a silly, very predictable suspense subplot.

I was also disappointed by the way there isn't much here about Trevor having to deal with the consequences of having done his assassin job for so long. I was very interested in this (there's a scene in the early parts of the book in which he assassinates someone and then throws up in an alley), and I would have much prefered exploring it, rather than the late-emerging subplot I mentioned above.

What I was glad Jensen ignored was Trevor's lack of money. The fact Trevor is pretty impoverished and would need a boatload of money to put his estate to rights didn't actually figure heavily in the plot, as I'd feared it might, from the blurb. I thought there would be a big deal made out of how he'd like nothing better than to marry Nell but needed to marry an heiress instead, which is a plot device I have a distinct distaste for, but it was all pretty much ignored, to my delight.

So this wasn't a complete success, obviously, but I still liked it enough that I might try something else by Jensen, especially because the plot and the conflict felt at least fresh, not just any old Regency-set historical.


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