The Charmer, by Madeline Hunter

>> Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Charmer (excerpt), by Madeline Hunter is book # 3 in the author's latest series, of which I've now read all but the 4th book, The Sinner (I couldn't resist the temptation and read the fifth book, The Romantic, as soon as I got it).

Their first meeting is not promising. Sent by the king to bring the Sophia Raughley home, Adrian Burchard finds her in another man's arms, at an orgy that includes the young artists who form her entourage. He soon discovers, however, that this errant daughter of the nobility hides secrets and wounds beneath her mask of frivolity, and possesses a vulnerable sensuality that draws him like no other woman has.

Sophia resents this man who high-handedly interferes with her life--a life in which she hides from the past. Worse, he seems to offer an intimacy that she dare not accept--until the night when he skillfully seduces her, peeling away the defenses to her heart as artfully as he does the layers of her clothing. As Sophia falls under the spell of his erotic charms, and Adrian finds himself unable to resist her passionate response, they embark on a dangerous affair. An affair that will either destroy them both, or prove the one thing that can save them when mysteries from the past reach out to entangle the present.
It's interesting, my reaction to the first three books in this series was very similar. As in The Seducer and The Saint, I was initially turned off by the hero's high-handed, overbearing attitude, but soon warmed up to the story, when he started falling for the heroine and her power over him became clear. And, as in those books, my grade for it is a B+.

I started liking Sophia once she decided to stop running away from her problems. Yes, it was terribly unfair that she was forced to move to England and take on these responsabilities she didn't want, but well, that was just a consequence of how her title worked. It's ok that she railed against fate for a while, but after a time, it became a bit tedious that she kept trying to escape, leaving everything unsolved.

Still, not long after I began to become irritated, Sophia saw reason and took her fate in her own hands. And, not only that, she did a wonderful job with it, doing something that really appealed to my modern, liberal sensibilities ;-)

The romance was really good, too. Adrian was a nice character, once Sophia developed a little background and stood up to him.

One of the best things about the book is that Hunter very definitely does not write wall-paper historicals, and the setting comes alive and plays an important role in the action. I was especially intrigued by the politics, and in fact was reminded a bit of Tracy Grant's Rightfully His, which I loved. Sophie being a duchess in her own right was fascinating enough, and I loved the political behind-the-scenes intrigues and the exploration of the issues like reapportionment and what exactly a pocket borough means.

The Sinner is arriving next June (keeping my fingers crossed, here!), and I'm looking forward to it.

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