Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

An absolutely astoundingly well-written romance novel. With some quite emotional bits. Not much bump and grind though. But that didn't matter so much. What there is is a lot of stress and tension. Because the story is set in the times of the French Revolution. And the reader often feels like bad karma is on the verge of steam-rolling over all the protagonists. So much so that as always in such cases I needed some reasurance that there would be a HEA for the main couple. So I skipped to the final chapter, particularly once William was imprisoned. You know what. I couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on in the final chapter when I first read it out of sequence. It doesn't really help that the main couple modify their names. So William morphs to Guillaume and Marguerite becomes Maggie. But in the final chapter she assumes the name Martine, and Suzette.

Be aware that this is a resolutely (cod) literary novel. Complete with full descriptions of the characters of a couple of donkeys. And frequent views into the head of the female lead. Which often come across as inane witterings. And the love scenes feature corny purple prose. Sometimes the plot momentum just comes to a grinding halt whilst the heroine gives herself up to her imaginery world. The opening chapter where she has a conversation with a rabbit is completely characteristic of who she is. Actually I did buy into the characters and considered Marguerite as the person who moves the plot along.

The villain, Victor is totally horrible. Really. He should have had his head chopped off. Presumably he didn't because the main couple had to be so wonderfully wonderful.In fact. Absolutely no-one dies. Baddie or goodie. And sometimes a reader could feel the hard work that went into making it so. So why put in a thirteen year old former hooker?

A couple of things made me squee. Too many of the secondary characters are minors who have had difficult lives. In particular there seems to be a thirteen year old former hooker (probably coerced). Although she is portrayed as thoroughly heroic I just thought her back-story was just too much of an ick-factor for me to appreciate her presence in the story. And I didn't like that she gave up her four-year old sister into the hands of strangers, even though they were the completely decent main couple who swore to love the child as their own. Just all too sad.

I didn't really understand Madame who was supposed to be French secret police. And quite menacing toward Justine with her stupid gifts of food and clothes. Who did she report to? Why did her boss not get at all involved in the plot. I also had no idea why William's father had treated him so badly when he was a chid. Even at the end of the novel I had no idea why finding Marguerite's father (and his list) would stop the assassinations. But that part of the plot certainly seemed very clever.

So. What is so good about the novel. Because it is very very good. The sense of impending doom. The fact that the hero places himself in danger to safe-guard the heroine. Some scenes are totally derivative of the Scarlet Pimpernel. As is the writing style. But that is a positive comment. Both the main couple will always plot and plan to lead innocent civilians away from an unjust certain death ie the guillotine...even at risk to their own lives. Bless them both. And yes. I believed Marguerite was capable of setting up and maintaining an organisation called La Fleche (The arrow)...after all..she had lots of money. Just observe how loyal people were to her. Going back to the first chapter. The fact that Marguerite was very very hungry and still let the trapped rabbit go free told me everything I wanted to know about her character...and that I would love it. But that's just me.

And of course I absolutely loved the relationship between Marguerite and William. Which was never abusive or domineering or disrespectful. But always mutually supportive. I especially loved it when William told Marguerite that he owed her every breath he breathed. (After she saved him from the guillotine.) Although his own idea of a forger adding powerful names onto Robspierre's list was probably as instrumental in saving his life as Marguerite's efforts.

btw I have read the Spymasters Lady where William made his first appearance. And long since forgotten it.

Absolutely fantastic. But probably not suitable for those with a short attention span.

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