Awaken the Senses, by Nalini Singh

>> Thursday, May 31, 2007

TITLE: Awaken the Senses
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh

PAGES: 192
PUBLISHER: Silhouette Desire

SETTING: Contemporary California
TYPE: Category Romance
SERIES: Book #5 in the Dynasties: The Ashtons continuity series. You can see the other titles in the series in this ebay listing (only place where I could find them!)

REASON FOR READING: I ordered Nalini Singh's entire category backlist after reading the fantastic Slave to Sensation.

Charlotte Ashton had never belonged anywhere - until she met worldly Alexandre Dupree. The winemaker was consulting at her family's vineyard, and soon shy Charlotte was completely under his spell. He seemed to know all her secret desires, all her dreams - as if he'd been put on earth just for her pleasure.

Alexandre seduced Charlotte in all the ways she had fantasized about. He'd read her secret journal and discovered the real Charlotte - the sensual lover, the generous woman, the vulnerable virgin. Was his crime so unforgivable when all he'd wanted was her love? Yet now to maintain her trust, he would have to continue to lie....
THE PLOT: Frenchman Alexandre Dupree has been hired by the Ashton family to consult at their vineyard. He's just there to do his job and intends to have nothing to do with this particularly disfunctional family. Until, that is, he meets shy Charlotte, daughter of the family patriarch's late brother.

Charlotte is part of the Ashton family, but she's always felt apart from the others, partly from personality, partly because of her Native American heritage (from her mother's side). She lives on the Ashton estate but keeps to herself, taking care of her greenhouses and creating flower arrangements.

Charlotte is initially intimidated by suave Alexandre, but he's determined to pursue her. And when he finds her journal and reads her erotic fantasies, he might just know exactly how to go about it.

MY THOUGHTS: It's strange how different Nalini Singh's category books are to her Psy/Changeling titles. Both are well-written and with at least streaks of originality, but they seem to have completely different sensibilities, with the category ones being comparatively quite old-fashioned.

This one in particular was nice, and maybe less old-fashioned than the rest, even though the heroine is the virginal, innocent type and the hero has some illegitimacy issues (that seems to be the common thread in all the category titles).

Both Charlotte and Alexandre were interesting people. Charlotte's relationship with her family was intriguing, especially the hints we get of her relationship with her brother. And I liked her all the better for having the self-protective instincts to want nothing to do with that horrible Spencer.

As for Alexandre, he seemed very sweet under that "seductive Frenchman" fa├žade. His mother was his father's long-time mistress, and Alex's reaction to this wasn't the stereotypical "all women are sluts" one, but to want something more solid and established for himself, which he finds in Charlotte.

Unfortunately, for all that the hero and heroine were interesting enough on their own, they were pretty ho-hum together. I just didn't feel the chemistry or the heat. I thought the letters in Charlotte's journal, or at least, what we saw of them, were nowhere as erotic as Alexandre seemed to find them, and the love scenes were all right, but didn't completely engage me.

And then there was the whole issue of this story being part of a continuity series. For the most part, Charlotte and Alexandre's romance seemed to be apart from the whole overarching story of the Ashton family, and my impression is that this was probably a good thing. From what I saw of it here, and from the blurbs of the other books in the series, it seems to be the trashy soap opera type, which is very definitely not my thing.

But here's the thing, as much as we're outside it here, some developments do happen, which creates certain problems. First, Charlotte discovers something huge about her mother, and this plot thread is left unresolved, which was very unsatisfying. I'm guessing it will be dealt with in her brother's book. Second, near the end of the book, there's a murder and stuff which have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot here, so I was left reading 20 pages which didn't interest me in the least.

MY GRADE: A C+. It would have been a B- without the last few pages.


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