Portrait Of My Heart, by Patricia Cabot

>> Wednesday, August 08, 2007

TITLE: Portrait Of My Heart
AUTHOR: Patricia Cabot (aka Meg Cabot)

PAGES: 359
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's

SETTING: 1870s England
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: Follows Where Roses Grow Wild

REASON FOR READING: The very good review at AAR, as well as the fact that I've liked books written by this author under the Meg Cabot name.

They parted in disgrace....But desire would bring them back together.Years ago, in one explosive instant, childhood rivalry turned into wild passion for Jeremy, handsome young Duke of Rawlings, and Maggie Herbert, the object of his affections. Unfortunately, the ensuing scandal found them banished to separate corners of the world.Now fate has joined Jeremy and Maggie again-- for a long-overdue dance of desire as uncompromising as the lovers themselves. Jeremy, a decorated soldier, is determined to claim Maggie at last. And Maggie, engaged to be married to another man, finds her secret fantasies of Jeremy spinning out of control. All that stands between them and the steamy passion the years can no longer chain is the past-- and a present steeped in jealousy, intrigue, and danger....
THE PLOT: Jeremy Rawlings, the Duke of Rawlings and Maggie Herbert were childhood rivals. When they meet again after not seeing each other for five years, they are astounded at how incredibly attractive they find each other.

Maggie is 17 and trying to convince her father to allow her to attend art school in Paris, while at 21, Jeremy has just been sent down from University for scandalous behaviour. Like the conceited, spoilt twit he is, Jeremy immediately makes a clumsy pass at Maggie and can't believe it when she rejects him. At that point they're discovered by Jeremy's uncle, and then the shit really hits the fan.

Nope, the uncle doesn't demand that he marry her (in spite of Jeremy's hope that he will). He says Jeremy's not good enough for a woman like Maggie, and that he should make something of himself before proposing to her. He proposes anyway, but Maggie just won't take him seriously, so he decides to join the cavalry and head over to India, where he can make his mark. He's still determined to marry Maggie, though, and asks her to either wait for him or send him a definitive "no".

It's a further 5 years before Jeremy returns home, the hero of many battles. He's just heard that his Maggie, now an up-and-coming portrait painter, has become engaged, and he's determined to get both his girl and some revenge for her betrayal.

MY THOUGHTS: There's a really, really good moment there at the beginning of the book and in the end, I wish it hadn't been there. Why? Because I continued reading long after I should have tossed this book, just for the hope that the goodness might come back. It didn't.

When we first meet Jeremy, he's a horrible, dishonourable bastard. He not only blithely decides to seduce Maggie practically on a whim, but brags that he's actually succeeded in seducing any number of society girls and is very pleased with himself about it. What he wants, he takes, and never considers the consequences for the girls involved. And then there's how he's not at all troubled by the fact that he's just killed a man in a duel. I didn't think him a charming ne'er-do-well, as I get the feeling the author wanted me to see him. I despised him.

Then there's a shining moment when his uncle finds him trying to seduce Maggie and gives him a stiff talking-to. We catch a glimpse of his vulnerability here, and I liked him a bit better for actually wanting to be made to marry Maggie. I thought ok, very definitely redeemable. Maybe with a bit of growing up...

But when we see him again, five years later, it's clear that he hasn't grown up at all. He's still the same selfish bastard who doesn't consider anything but what he wants.

The first impression of this now older Jeremy was disastrous, and Cabot never managed to change my mind about him. The idiot returns to England having decided to get revenge on Maggie for not waiting for him, and rather, giving herself to someone else. But one page earlier, we've been told about how he'd proceeded to sleep with any female he could get as soon as he left Maggie. He had to try to forget her, right? The hypocritical bastard! You didn't wait, when you were the one pushing hard for an immediate marriage, and yet she should be chastely waiting at home for you? Argh. Am I supposed to find sluttiness sexy in men? Because I don't.

And all throughout the book, he proceeds to behave like the thoughtless, selfish jerk he is. So he wants to be able to sneak into Maggie's room and not risk discovery by her maid? Oh, he'll just drug the maid, and if she feels like hell and spends the entire next morning throwing up (as he knows it's very possible she will), too bad. What Jeremy wants, Jeremy gets.

I never felt for a moment that he loved Maggie. He lusts after her and has made up his mind that he'll have her, but I find it hard to believe that his feelings amount to much more than that. He doesn't know her at all. He doesn't know who she is and what she wants. The gesture with her family, which was so precisely what Maggie needed? He never would have thought of it on his own, because he had absolutely no idea of what Maggie wanted, really. It had to be suggested by her friend.

I didn't hate Maggie quite as much as Jeremy, but I didn't have much respect for her, either. She was completely blind to Jeremy's faults and just couldn't say no to him, ever. That's just tedious. Also, she was not at all convincing as an artist. There was no passion for art in her, none that I could perceive. She painted, but she could easily have been an actress or any other shocking activity, for all she FELT like an artist.

There's some kind of external plot about someone trying to kill Jeremy, as well as some misunderstandings about Jeremy having been awarded the Star of Jaipur after a particularly heroic deed. The maharajah wanted to bestow his niece on him, but Jeremy refused, and he was given the diamond called the Star of Jaipur instead. However, everyone in England thinks it was the princess he accepted, and hi-jinks ensue when the princess herself follows him to England and makes mischief. I guess this was supposed to be funny. Whatever.

Eh, well, at least Maggie's fiancé is not demonized. He's quite a nice man and I do see why she would have married him. This and Cabot's charming writing style were all the book had going for it.



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