Monday, February 08, 2010

Feature Review: "Provocative in Pearls," By Madeline Hunter

By Melanie Murray, RBTB Correspondent

Historical romance heroines come with a variety of faults: excessive naiveté, outrageous independence, lack of acceptable breeding. It isn’t every day you read about a heroine who is too practical.

Now, sometimes practicality can cause one to take a rash action. Like, say, arranging for it to look like you’ve died only hours after taking wedding vows. But what else can an untitled, not-yet-of-age woman do after she’s forced into a marriage she knows will fail?

That’s the central story in Madeline Hunter’s “Provocative in Pearls.” Hunter’s protagonists are two people who have allowed logic to lead them into a messy situation, and, lucky for us, only passion, emotion, and a few extorted kisses will lead them out of it. The result is a beguiling blend of sensuality and angst.

Verity Thompson grew up knowing her future. She’d marry a man who could take over her father’s ironworks and live happily in her hometown. But her father died suddenly, leaving Verity in the care of a greedy, abusive cousin who conspired to marry her off to a poor peer.

Taking matters into her own hands, Verity ran away on her wedding day, leaving behind evidence that she had drowned. She has been in hiding ever since, with plans to reenter the world after her twenty-first birthday to petition for an annulment and take back control of her father’s business from her cousin.

Grayson, Earl of Hawkeswell has been living in a terrible limbo since his bride disappeared. Not only have the funds promised upon his marriage been tied up in legalities, making it impossible for him to care for his family and tenants, but he has been a favorite topic of gossip. When he discovers Verity completely by chance, he is overjoyed that this terrible situation will finally be set to rights.

Except Verity is not willing to live as his wife, and she is no longer the meek girl he wed. She is strong, clever, articulate, and fiercely attached to her independence. Hawkeswell is equally adamant that they will stay together, and he’s shocked to realize that this is not just because of her wealth. The truth is that he is instantly and thoroughly attracted to her.

He aims to seduce her, demanding three kisses a day while they are married. Verity has never felt desire before, and she forgets herself in the face of Hawkeswell’s handsome face, maddening caresses, and domineering masculinity. Yet Verity firmly believes that a man such as this would never let her live the life she was meant to, while Hawkeswell is frustrated by his young wife’s refusal to give in to her feelings and submit to his authority.

Hunter weaves a tale where the characters’ sense of duty is in conflict with their passion, where their heads are at war with their hearts. Despite their feelings for each other, Verity and Hawkeswell truly want different things from their lives, and the resulting love story is all the more rich and moving because of this. You'll wonder how in the world these two people can overcome what’s standing in their way as a couple.

So, want to know if Verity and Hawkeswell will live happily ever after? To find out if they do, you’ll have to --

Buy the Book.

What are your favorite romances where the hero and heroine are married but not in love? And why do think it’s so darned romantic to read about a wife and husband who fall for each other?
Get Set for Valentine's Day with RBTB Team & Friends:

Tomorrow: Feel the Love; Feel the Food as "The Food Temptress" author Rekaya Gibson treats us to a funny/sexy tribute to the Romance of Food, one we all can relate to w/ a smile. Win a copy of Rekaya's read.
Wednesday: Zombie cuisine may not be as romantic as Rekaya's, but Amy Kennedy's got the deets on kinder/gentler zombie fare from "My Zombie Valentine."
Friday: If you read one romance to get you in the Love-Day mood, Becke Davis tells you why Kristan Higgins' "The Next Best Thing" is the one to choose. Win a copy of the book!


Becke Davis said...

Melanie - I want to drop everything and read this book RIGHT NOW! Great blog -- it filled me with a sense of urgency, as well as a desire to read the book. I love Madeline Hunter's writing, so I know it's going to be wonderful.

This is the second book in the series, right? I have the first book -- started it, but haven't finished it yet. Do I need to read that first? I'm tempted to read them out of order now. (Which I do all the time, as you know.)

I've read a lot of books where the hero and heroine are married but not in love when the story begins. Another of my favorite storylines!

Hope you are having a good week!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! Thanks for another great feature, Melanie. And may I say in as ladylike a tone as possible, that if we lived near one another, I'm pretty sure we'd end up in fisticuffs on a regular basis over which of us is the bigger fan of a) historicals; b)carriage scenes and 3. Madeline Hunter. I know you think you enjoy her, darling, but can you really have read "By Possession" as many times as I have, or had as many big, scarred knight-returning-home-from-slavery-to-the-Sarecens fantasies? Of course, it would be rude of me as blog hostess to point that out. So I won't.

Melanie, you've told me that in this novel, Huter kind of ups everything to the nth degree, that you felt limited by word count to do the book justice. Can you describe your thoughts a little more?

Melanie Murray said...

Becke! Yes, this is the second book in Hunter's new quartet of books, The Rarest Blooms. The series title refers to the home where four women with secret pasts have been living together and tending flowers. They're making a name for themselves among the elite of London as florists, but each of the women observe the Rule that nobody asks any questions of each other about where they came from or who they are.

Ravishing in Red is the first book, and you don't have to read them in order but it wouldn't hurt. It's just as wonderful as PIP, if you ask me, but then again, I'm a bit of a fan of La Hunter. The hero in that one is a second son - something I love!

Melanie Murray said...

I should say, too, that the next two books in the quartet are called "Sinful in Satin" and "Dangerous in Diamonds," and are due out in October and next April.

Kara said...

I love reading books about husband and wives not being in love and then falling for each other. Marie Force has one...Line of Scrimmage...where they are about to divorce but the husband wants to try to reconcile one last time. Really, really a great book.

But I think the reason why it is so romantic is because we live in a society where it is so darn easy to give up and get a divorce. Reading about HEA with a couple that is already me hope...LOL!!!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

kara, what an excellent point! Marriange is, at least in my opinion, really flippin hard. it ain't nat'ral in some ways. again, imo. Male Perspective Guy/Dave and I have been married 17 years. And I still think back often(once the red haze has cleared) to M Scott Peck's "road Less Traveled" when he talks about the point when you fall out of infatuation with the person you've 'fallen in love' with. Then, you have to decide whether to work to really maintain and 'grow' love and commitment.

Like you say, it's really easy to split up. It's also really easy to 'join up.' there's something to be said for making sure you're compatible before making the commitment, then doing the necessary work, especially when you make the choice to bring kids into the equation.

Gosh, there I go bein all romantic again.

amy kennedy said...

Aah, Melanie -- I'll never get any of the books I 'should' be reading read at this point. Becke, I agree completely, I want to buy this book now.

Kara does make a great point -- and Michelle, marriage isn't just hard, it's flippin hard.

I love books where the married couple is not in love -- Sherry Thomas's book Private Arrangements come to mind.

Madeline Hunter said...

Thank you for the wonderful review, Michelle! I am so glad that you enjoyed this book. It came to me as I was playing "what if" in my head. What if a woman was coerced or tricked into marriage back then, and learned on her wedding day what had happened?

What if instead of accepting the situation with resignation and probably bitterness, she refused to let them get away with it?

One thing that was interesting in writing it-- I, for the first time, asked my DH for some help. I wanted the motivations to be plausible, and would bend his ear at dinners. It was the first time I used him as a sounding board to this extent!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

The credit for the feature goes to Melanie Murray, Madeline, but it's easy to mix up our names! She says she's your biggest fan, but we're not above a smack down to prove it's me.

Although I know Melanie also hosted you at BN's Romantic Reads and everyone, you still can check out Madeline's and Melanie's "Ravishing in Red" thread here:

"Ravishing in Red is one of the February FEatures at Melanie's Romantic Reads boards at BN. So you can read it and talk about it all month. Ravishing in Red is the first novel in this series and, while you don't have to read it before Provocative in Pearls, you DO have to read it! :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Madeline, it's amazing you've only used your husband in this way once! I wonder whether he enjoyed it, and could see his influence in the finished product...

Thanks so much for stopping in!

Gannon Carr said...

Melanie, wonderful review! I have both Ravishing in Red and Provocative in Pearls on my TBB list. Like Becke, I feel like dropping everything I'm doing and grabbing this book ASAP! :)

One of my favorite books (an oldie, but a goodie), where the hero and heroine are married, but love comes later is SOMETHING WONDERFUL by Judith McNaught. My copy is well worn, having been read many times. Alexandra's and Jordan's story always leaves me sighing.

Melanie Murray said...

Michelle, it's only fair I warn you that I fight dirty, and so I'd be a scrappy opponent for you in the "World's Biggest Historical Lover" brawl. But maybe we should agree to just share our love of carriage scenes and Madeline Hunter? Maybe you've got me on the "By Possession" thing, but I'm pretty sure you don't have pretend conversations with Lord Easterbrook. Not that I'd ever admit to that in a court of law.

I have so much to say about this book, I don't know where to begin! Yes I do. I loved it, because of how rich the storytelling is but also because of how well written the characters are. One of the greatest thing about Madeline's books, and this one in particular, is how true to the time period they are. She somehow comes up with a heroine here who is "modern" in the sense that she has definite ideas about how she wants to live her life and has the guts to try to do just that. But she's trapped in her time period, subject to her husband's "rule" as it were. It just creates a wonderful conflict. And Hawkeswell is also so much of his time that he's almost - ALMOST - maddening. He really sees his wife as a thing in some ways...and the journey he takes to appreciating that she is a person with definite wants and wishes and feelings, well, it's just breathtaking.

I've a lot more to say...

Melanie Murray said...

Kara: that is so true! Maybe the appeal of this convention is that it's so opposite of what happens in today's world, where people marry in a rush of love and passion and then end the marriage when the ardor goes...Great point!

Melanie Murray said...

Amy, good call on the Sherry Thomas. I was trying to answer my own question and there are literally too many books to name! Though I will say briefly that I love Eloisa James' "This Duchess of Mine." What's great about that book is that, if you'd read along the Duchess series, you'd seen Jemma and Elijah (am I getting those names right?) dance around each other for four whole books!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Melanie, that's the beauty of it. From the first hunter, she's never left the 'trapped in the time period' rule. She never fudges it. Never creates her own 'well, i'll just change this one little thing so it makes me feel more comfy as a contemporary woman'new rule.

I think the women compromise w/in their relationships, but in the same way we all must. But i don't think they give up any more than they have to w/in their time periods and, because it's fantasy, their men learn and change in lots of ways. most of us can't even make that happen today w/men. If you can do that across the board, please write a book, folks.

Melanie Murray said...

Madeline, I too can't believe this was the first time you asked your husband for advice! Was he thrilled and honored?

I, again, will plug "Ravishing in Red" for all you who want not one but two great new books to read. Well worth the time, and a great take on the "forced marriage" plot.

Melanie Murray said...

Michelle, you hit the nail on the head. And in some ways the reading experience can be uncomfortable because of how limited a woman's options were back then. But Madeline never, never takes the easy way out. She portrays true-to-life characters who find a way to make it work. And at the end of the book, I loved Hawkeswell all the more for how he grew into a loving, truly selfless in some ways, husband.

Can I talk now about how there's a secondary character in both books that basically steals the show? I broached this at, but I am waiting on pins and needles for Castleford's book. He's a FOH - friend of the heroes - in the first two books but a completely dissolute scoundrel. He must be redeemed by love and I can't wait to see how Madeline does just that.

Madeline Hunter said...

My apologies, Melanie, for typing the wrong name. I was so excited to have my internet working for a while (it is spotty due to the big snow storm) that I grabbed the chance to get something down.

I loved writing Hawkeswell. From the first scene after he finds her, and considers the situation outrageous and, at first, incomprehensible (he is an earl, after all--who wouldn't want to marry HIM, right?) I loved him.

Sissa said...

I actually haven't gotten to read that many romances like that. I'm currently in "the Dutchess" series by Eloisa James which very much deal with that subject. So far i think this type of romance is almost as good as when the hero and heroine is not married. I love it because they're really free to do anything they want, but are so used to each other that they're almost as shy or uneasy as non-married couples. ^^

Madeline Hunter said...

Here is the thing about DH--he has a very good and realistic understanding of people. How they react, how they think. I really should have used him before, LOL. I think he was honored, especially when I told him his advice had been dead on right,and probably saved me from getting off track in a few places.

Melanie Murray said...

Madeline, and I mean this, you can call me whatever you like.

Hawkeswell is so arrogant in his expectation that Verity will just bend to his will because he's an Earl. That aspect of his personality was such a treat to read because it seemed so authentic.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

omg, Castleford? Was ever there a more devinely debauched man? he reminds me a bit of the hero of californication, only brilliant and classy. He's a moral compass, yet, well, wonderfully debauched. am i repeating myself?

Myrin said...

Wonderful review, Melanie! You always make your readers feel like they have to go out and read the respective book asap!

I have PIP pre-odered and RIR here on my desk (love the titles, btw) but unfortunately I'm not in a reading mood atm. Hope this will change at least after my graduation, but right now, I'd rather paint than read. But I'll happily go on putting in my two cents. :)

I've read a dozen books where the h/h are married yet not in love, but I immediately had to think of Simply Love by la Balogh, one of the most beautfiful books ever written, if you ask me. It's so wonderful to watch Sydnam and Ann fall in love.

Hm, I actually never thought about why this particular theme is so romantic. Hmm. *putting on my thinker's cap* Hmm. Maybe because it shows that a situation you thought horrible atm can turn out very wonderful indeed? Have to think about that...

Mitzi H. said...

Loved the review. I'm also a huge fan of Madeline Hunter's books. Can't wait to get my hands on PIP.

Melanie Murray said...

LisaK, that comment just made my day. Thank you so much!

I'm jealous that you have another hobby besides reading! I don't have time for anything else!

Ah, Simply Love. What a treasure of a book...Thank you so much for mentioning it.

Mitzi, we can form a "Fans of Hunter" club. I think you'll like PIP.

Deb said...

Hi, Madeline. Ooh, PIP sounds so good! I bought RIR on Saturday and have it on the very top of my TBR pile.

I like a story about a husband and wife in an arranged marriage falling in love. I do want a story wrapped up in a way, though, that solves a financial situation if the hero has to marry the heroine for money. (It is kind of like him saying, "Oh, yes, I love you, but I'm so glad you are a rich heiress.") LOL

I look forward to reading PIP!

Deb said...

I forgot to add...Excellent review, Melanie. Thank you for capturing my interest in PIP.

Abby Gaines said...

I love the sound of this book. I haven't read Madeline Hunter before, but I think I might just order this online right now...

Melanie Murray said...

Gah, I just wrote a very astute answer to your point about the hero getting the buck and the girl, Deb, and then it disappeared. Hawkeswell's journey to appreciating Verity for Verity and not her money is part of the beauty of the book, I think. I hope you like it, and I'm very glad that you're going to read it.

And Abby: I recommend Hunter a lot. It's kind of a habit of mine. I highly support you ordering her books as soon as you can.

Tiona said...

Oh, I just love the ones where they are 'forced' to be married. I guess because then you don't have to wait for that step to be taken, cause it already has! Not to mention they usually aren't hesitant to hit the sheets, hehe. Especially if it's a historical where that is expected and a girl can't do that unless she's married, hehe.

Michelle Santiago said...

my favorite romantic plot of all time is the whole h/h were already married but estrange and then they get a second chance at love. i don't know why i love this plot so much but it's the most romantic i think and can read a hundred variations (which i did, well close to a hundred) and not get tired of it. one of my favorite romance book with this plot is book of scandal by julia london.

i soo want to read provocative in pearls. thanks for the review michelle!! :)

Laurie G said...

I immediately thought of Julie Garwood's books Saving Grace, Prince Charming, and The Lion's Lady.

Margaret Moore with several of her books being medieval with the King decreeing the marriages Bride of Lochbar, lord of Dunkeathe, The Warlord's Bride, The Unwilling Bride, Hers to Command and Hers To Desire I love her books!!

Julianne MacLean's heiress looking to marry a title series: An Affair Most Wicked, To Marry The Duke and My Own Private Hero

Lorraine Heath's To Marry An Heiress, Never Marry a Cowboy

Joan Johnston had one like this too.

Whitney,My Love by Judith McNaught

Only Mine by Elizabeth Lowell

Sandra Brown had Sunset Embrace a western trail ride where the husband dies and she must marry fast.

Jodi Thomas:When a Texan Gambles and The Texan's Wager, Tall Dark and Texan and To Wed in Texas

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