Sourcebooks Casablanca (3 Dec 2013), Paperback: 384 pages, Paranormal Romance
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Again set in Victorian England (this time with cameos from the Queen herself), book three in the series follows the story of Millicent Pantere, a were-panther who dwells in the underground of society and has no desire to enter the high life of the upper classes. She is under orders from the Duke of Ghoulston to acquire one of Merlin’s relics, believed to harbour a vast quantity of magic. The Duke has groomed Millicent to be a lady, training her in the arts of social etiquette and giving her an exact plan to stick to.
She is introduced as a country lady, to explain her social short-comings, and finds herself placed into the company of Lady Chatterley. The Lady has gathered together a group of eligible maidens present at the ball, and presents them with a moonstone bracelet – otherwise known as one of Merlin’s relics. According to Lady Chatterley, it harbours the spirit of a knight who is an expert in the arts of seduction and challenges anyone not to give into him after just one night.
Handing the bracelet around the group, it will supposedly tighten onto the arm of its chosen female and, surprise, surprise, it choose Millicent. She is shocked, expecting her were nature to have deterred the magic of the relic, but it makes her job of acquiring the relic that much easier. However, upon returning to Ghoulston’s manor Lady Chatterley is proved right when a handsome medieval knight materialises before Millicent’s very eyes. He is Sir Gareth Solimere, one of Sir Arthur’s knights who is destined to spend eternity inside the relic, only materialising at night, unless he can find his true love to break the curse.
He has spent the last few hundred years seducing the women who wear the bracelet in the hopes of finding his true love, and is soon shocked to find that Millicent won’t be that easy to convince. She has too much riding on her discovery of the relic, as Ghoulston is keeping her best friend, Nell, a prisoner in return for Millicent’s cooperation. However, with his gentlemanly nature Gareth is not prepared to let Ghoulston be in control of her, and suggests that they work together to free Nell from his evil clutches. However, both are soon to learn that their actions are not without their consequences, and that the spell might not be broken after all…
On the surface, for a paranormal romance this book had an interesting premise, as it’s not every day that a handsome man will materialise in front of you every evening demanding your attention. Unfortunately, aside from this it didn’t seem to hold my attention very well, as there was a lot going on but it didn’t seem to build up to much. It was very systematic and predictable, especially where the romance and the ending were concerned.
As for characters, again they seemed to fall into very stereotypical roles. Millicent was the angst-ridden heroine, plagued by a host of misfortune in her past which left her with Nell as the only one she could rely on. As a result of her upbringing, she is slow to trust anyone and doesn’t let anyone get close to her heart. This makes her reluctant to open up to Gareth, despite her obvious like of him, and makes you question how long it will be until she finally does give herself up to him.
Gareth fulfilled the role of the male hero in somewhat spectacular fashion, always quick to brandish his sword and jump into the fight. He is exceptionally talented with a weapon, proving a valuable asset throughout the novel, but also a bit of a show off at first. I didn’t like how self-assured he seemed of acquiring Millicent’s love, or even of bedding her, as it seemed at odds with his more gentle side of taking care of her and Nell. Another thing I disliked about Gareth was the timing of the sex scenes, as some felt completely of place and unnecessary to the enjoyment of the plot. I liked the moments in which he demonstrates his caring for Millicent, but of course she misinterprets them, a typical trope that causes some tension between the pair.
It was these somewhat clichéd moments that made the plot easy to predict, although there was one event which I hadn’t anticipated. I don’t want to spoil this point, but I will say that my shock at this was ruined by the conclusion of the book. It was very much an ending of convenience that has been constructed purely for the purpose of a happy ending. This is great if you want to pick up a simple romance story, but if you want a bit more depth to the love and story surrounding it, then this isn’t the book for you.
I found it hard to connect with the characters of this book, particularly as there seemed to be much angst throughout the plot. There were also a lot of elements added purely for plot convenience, and which I thought the book would have worked well without. On the whole, the romance was new and intriguing, but I thought the timing of sex scenes could have been better.