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Angel in a Red Dress by Judith Ivory - A Review

March 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 176

Angel in a Red Dress was previously published in 1988 under the title 'Starlit Surrender' with the author, Judith Ivory, writing as Judy Cuevas. The new title doesn't appear to be easily related to the story. The heroine, Christina, is the angel, but nowhere in the story is she described wearing red. There is a quote given at the start of Part One of the book - 'Except for the corn poppy, the pimpernel is the only scarlet flower in all of England'. So perhaps the red part comes in when the hero, Adrien, conjures her up in his favourite opium- induced fantasy, when he takes the opium (which is derived from the bright red poppy plant) for pain relief. She's also an angel in her battle to save him when everyone else thinks he's dead.

Christina Bower is the beautiful only child of a respected barrister on the King's Bench. During her very first season in London, she has a very brief meeting with the notorious libertine Adrien Hunt, seventh Earl of Kewischester. She finds him totally intriguing but even her title-eager father considers Adrien an unsuitable match for his daughter. Her father encourages a union between Christina and Richard Pinn, eldest son of a baron, only to have Pinn divorce her three years later for apparently being sterile.

Needing to escape to somewhere quiet until the divorce is finalised, the now 23 year old Christina accompanies her cousin Evie to an earl's estate outside of London. Christina hadn't realised that the absentee earl was 35 year old Adrien. Adrien is an arrogant half-French British peer whose affairs are legendary. Evie even tells Christina that there isn't a woman within 50 miles of the earl's estate who doesn't know the earl intimately, herself included. He's rich, intelligent, handsome and lethally charming. The attraction between Adrien and Christina is immediate and palpable.

Christina's not immune to Adrien's charms, yet knows she really should run from him, because giving in to her feelings would be tantamount to inviting heartbreak, as he'd never consider her as a wife and she couldn't tolerate becoming his mistress. It may well be glorious to be with him, but in the end he'd break her heart, because he'd eventually need to marry and produce a legal heir.

The story is set in England and France at the time of the French Revolution and the second half of it is packed with action and adventure as Adrien (in Scarlet Pimpernel mode) tries to rescue imprisoned French aristocrats from the guillotine. Christina unwittingly finds herself in the middle of Adrien's surreptitious operations. The main focus of the story is on Adrien and Christina and their complicated relationship.

On the surface, this book has it all: romance, intrigue, mystery, and action.

But the hero, while on the one hand has his attractive qualities, in my opinion they get a bit outweighed by his imperfect ones. I realise that this was set in the 18th Century and that he was an Earl. However, I felt his actions were too selfish. Though on reflection, perhaps he didn't know any other way to go about getting what he wanted, not having encountered such persistent opposition before, or the growing desperation to keep a grasp on what he came to realise he wanted most - Christina.

He is certainly no 'fake rake' - he has five illegitimate children from some of his previous affairs, which Christina understandably finds disturbing, even while she's impressed that he actively and genuinely cares for them. Plus he doesn't immediately forsake his rakish ways and other mistresses upon first meeting and pursuing Christina.

When Christina initially refuses to become his mistress, he does give her some space and respects her decision. However, after she's succumbs, then months later decides she doesn't want to continue in that role, he simply cannot comprehend why she wouldn't be satisfied in remaining his mistress for the foreseeable future. He forces her to accept his physical advances, using his sexual prowess to create sexual desire in her, even though she fights him, he either forces himself on her anyway, or, worn out from struggling, she finally gives in, saying for example, "go ahead and rape me". Adrien hated going through her resistance scenario every time, but he still wouldn't take no for an answer.

While it's made clear to the reader that on one level she wants to do it with him, on another level, she's fighting against it in a struggle to maintain her dignity and integrity to herself. She can't escape because he's made it physically impossible for her to leave him, so she's doing the only thing she can, trying to be true to herself. His selfishness doesn't allow him to respect her wishes.

For the reader, this repeated abuse puts a downer on the romance side of the story. Another issue I had in the romance department was the lack of other interaction shown between the two main characters. There wasn't enough of the story given to showing the positive sides of their developing relationship.

Adrien has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the realisation of how much he's come to love Christina. When he finally comes to grips with this, circumstances separate the characters and the reader is looking forward to the outpouring and declaration of love, but it all gets rushed and never actually happens, which makes the reader feel cheated. The hero never apologises for the hurtful and insulting things he's said about and done to her, and he never actually verbalises that he loves her. It's an unsatisfying ending that's wrapped up way too quickly. The tyrannical hero never redeems himself in the end of the book. The story lacked the emotional intensity that's expected to be there in a romance novel.

Source: EzineArticles
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