Sunday, March 18, 2012

Suzanne Robinson -- Lady Hellfire

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ .   {4.50}
Action: ♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦. / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠.
Action: 3 / Emotion: 3.5 / Romance: 4 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 4.5 // Historical Flavor: 3.5 / Laughter: 5½ / Tears: 1

Suzanne Robinson has a wonderful way of grabbing the reader's attention and then keeping it engaged as she reveals the contrasting personalities of the hero and heroine of Lady Hellfire.   Colonel Alexis Phillipe Charles Michael Carlyle de Granville, Marquess of Richfield is introduced taking a death ride on his stallion, Theseus.   Cannot help but want to continue reading to learn what has happened in Alexis's past that leads to such self-destructive behavior.

One of the demons in Alexis's life is his mother, Lady Juliana de Granville.   Found it unique that Robinson implied that Lady Juliana is capable of love and compassion by surrounding her with cats, dogs and a marmoset that she doted upon -- because Lady Juliana forthrightly and blatantly hated her son.   Lady Juliana was the perfect example of why some women should never become mothers.   Alexis's death ride made sense if taking such a ride was the only way Alexis could escape the constant hatred spewing from the eyes and mouth of his mother.

Lady Juliana's animosity towards her son is offset by the man who helped raise him from the age of twelve.   Sixteen years ago the much too self-righteous, but nevertheless caring Fulke Sinclair left a successful political career to care for Juliana, Alexis, and the de Granville estates when his cousin, Alexis's father, Phillipe de Granville was killed in a riding accident.   A riding accident that haunts Alexis as his mother repeatedly accuses him of the murder of his father and sister.   Fulke constantly tries to negate Juliana's words by telling Alexis he was incapable of enacting the atrocity that brought about Phillipe's and Thalia's deaths.

Robinson did a great job of increasing the intrigue surrounding Alexis by introducing a barely-developed secondary character that constantly threw a light of doubt on Fulke.   There was a marked tension in the room any time Fulke's quiet, mealy-mouthed, ruffle-wearing, extremely ladylike wife, Hannah appeared.   It was easy to assume that Hannah was repressed because her rigid husband was constantly spouting about the evils of the flesh at the womanizing Alexis, so was totally surprised by the revelation of Hannah's perfidy late in the book.

Began to wonder if Fulke was supporting Alexis or helping to drive him to more destructive behavior.   First, Fulke invited the Maitland women to stay at Castle Richfield after the fire at Maitland House -- knowing that Alexis hated the Maitland's and their well-known penchant for using any means necessary to climb society's ladder.   (Liked the cleverly humorous way Alexis referred to the climbers as mountain goats.)   Next, Fulke allowed Prince Albert to command him to let the arrogant James Thomas Brudenell, Earl of Cardigan stay at Castle Richfield -- knowing that Alexis and his best friend, Val, hated the commander who was responsible for killing and maiming hundreds of their men at the battle of Balaclava.

Alexis's best friend and old Oxford school mate, Major Valentine "Val" Beaufort was a wonderful addition to the story.   The loyalty and camaraderie between Alexis and Val added a richness to the story.   Alexis spent a lot of time trying to help Val deal with the memories of his time beside his men as they rode into the Russian cannon fire at Balaclava.   The depth of Alexis's compassion for his fellow soldiers was revealed as he forced Val to go with him to the Dower House, where injured soldiers were being cared for by doctors and nurses financed by de Granville funds.   It was intriguing that while Alexis was wise enough to force Val to face his demons head on, he was not able to perform the same action himself.   Alexis exhibited his care for Val by assigning two men to watch over him to make sure the anger Val held for the Earl of Cardigan did not result in death.   Val was such an interesting angst-filled character, wished that Robinson had included his book in her backlist.

In marked contrast to Alexis, the straightforward Katherine "Kate" Ann Grey quickly lets readers know how the book got its title by uttering her favorite profanity (hellfire).   Kate is ensconced in Maitland House in Sussex (a neighboring estate to Castle Richfield) because her mother is determined that Kate become a lady and take her place in society.   Kate has no desire to become a lady and would rather return home to fight off overly-amorous prospectors in the back yard of Grey's Boardinghouse in San Francisco.

As Kate looked out the window while bemoaning her fate to have a mother who spent her entire life missing the balls, soirees and house parties of English Society, she felt the magic of the man who arrived in a beautiful carriage to visit her cousin, Ophelia Maitland.   (Ophelia's father was brother to Kate's mother.)   Alexis had come to Maitland House to propose to Ophelia because she seemed different from the other title-chasers who had been pursuing him relentlessly.   Before he could propose, Ophelia inadvertently revealed she loved the title more than the man.  

While Kate thought Ophelia was a warm, caring, intelligent person who deserved better than that snake, the Marquess, it was obvious that Ophelia was self-centered and cared little for Kate in return by the way she "helpfully" told Kate on the night of her first ball that her hair was too garish and her freckles too unacceptable and proceeded to remove any signs of beauty from Kate's appearance.   At the ball, Kate was wounded and hurt by the way Alexis stomped on her feelings when he told Ophelia he couldn't dance with her cousin because of an injury, only to see him on the dance floor later.

Kate returned to Maitland House with her mother fourteen months after that ball.   Kate hoped being in her beloved England would revive Sophia Grey's plummeting spirits upon the loss of her husband, Timothy.   Kate was now an accomplished businesswoman, having to handle the family's extensive financial portfolio because her mother was too much of a lady, fluttering her handkerchief about, to take care of her family's needs.

Although Robinson painted a picture of Sophia being the perfect English lady through Kate's memories of her mother while they were in America, it was difficult to warm up to Sophia.   It was difficult to image that such a self-sufficient, strong-willed, driven heroine such as Kate could come from such a frivolous, empty-headed creature like Sophia.   It was amazing that the Sophia, who so loved the life of an Englishwoman, would even consent to marry an American, but when Kate asked her mother how she knew she was in love with Papa, the answer was inspiring:

"I asked myself whether I could face the rest of my life without your papa.   What would I do if he went away, back to America, and I never saw him again?   I couldn't bear the thought."   (page 182)
It is obvious Kate got her strength, intelligence and support from her father.   Robinson, however, did not develop Timothy Grey's personality.   Even though his presence remained in the background, his influence on his daughter was evident.   There was a deep and abiding love between Kate and her father.   Kate was a "daddy's girl" and learned from his teachings and counsel.

Wished Robinson had time to share some stories about the three other people important to Kate.   Her two brothers, Robbie and Zachary remained forever just names on the pages.   Just as her friendship with Patience, a Fallen Woman, was briefly described as the reason her mother was able to convince her father to send Kate to England.   And the reason Kate was not the typically squeamish virgin and actively participated in the act of love.

One surprising addition to the cast of characters was Alexis's mistress, Carolina Beechwith.   Alexis was making confusing judgments regarding Carolina.   First, he thought Kate could learn lady-like behavior from Carolina.   (Is it lady-like to be a man's mistress?)   Then, he thought if he brought Carolina to his mother's house party, she would distract him from his attraction to Kate.   Instead, her presence just made everyone (including Alexis) uncomfortable.

Believing himself unworthy of being loved, Alexis used women to fill the emptiness inside his heart.   Alexis was very aware of his power over women, and when faced with a woman in his home who was not chasing after him, Alexis decided to use his considerable charm and exceptional good looks to pursue Kate until she, too, worshiped at his feet.   During this chase Robinson entertained readers with some sassy dialogue as Kate constantly rebuffed Alexis.   Alexis's pursuit eventually resulted in Kate falling for him because she started liking him afer she saw his compassionate actions and intelligence.   Robinson did a great job at putting the sizzle and heat in the love scenes between Alexis and Kate.

To re-cap, would recommend Suzanne Robinson's book, Lady Hellfire, as a fun, entertaining, intriguing Historical Romance because liked:

{1}   The hero.   Alexis was a gorgeous, hunky self-confident man who possessed that magnetic charisma that drew women like bears to honey.   In spite of having [1] a mother who actively displayed her hatred; [2] a guardian and mentor who believed carnal relations were to be eschewed; [3] a lapse in memory about father's and sister's death; and [4] haunting memories from the battle of Balaclava, Alexis {1} compassionately cared for his fellow soldiers; {2} remained loyal to his best friend; {3} honorably and responsibly attended to his duties; and {4} was vulnerable to love.

{2}   The heroine.   Kate, reared by a father who spoiled, trained and depended on her because her mother was all fluff (no substance), became a very strong-willed, self-confident, out-spoken, vibrant presence in a world that promoted inconsequential women.   Kate {1} was loyal to her cousin (respected her claim to Alexis); {2} became a competent, determined businesswoman; {3} did not bow to society's rules; and {4} did not worship at the feet of the hero.

{3}   The friend.   Val was as gorgeous and loyal as Alexis.   His angst-filled life made him the perfect candidate for his own book.   Val's character was not fully-developed -- Robinson left the reader wanting more.

{4}   The romantic tension between hero and heroine.   {1} Kate felt the magic of Alexis.   {2} When Kate thought Alexis a snake, he had to do something he hadn't done before -- had to pursue a woman uninterested in him.   {3} Alexis was a master of seduction.   {4} Kate actively participated in the steamy love scenes.

{5}   The suspense.   There were a lot of underlying tension in the book.   {1} Juliana's hatred of Alexis.   {2} Ophelia telling Kate of her determination to have Alexis and his title.   {3} Juliana exposing her lack of sanity.   {4} Fulke constantly lecturing Alexis about his women and declaring Kate inappropriate.   {5} The "veiled messages and crooked talk" whenever Hannah appeared.   {6} Too many accidents occurring.

{6}   The emotion.   Although Kate came across as a strong, self-confident women, she was still vulnerable when {1} Alexis snubbed her; {2} lost father to death; {3} felt different; {4} confronted mother about her lack of care.   Alexis's life is peppered with emotional difficulties: {1} Juliana; {2} Fulke; {3} Val; {4} father and sister's deaths; {5} wanted women to love him, not his title.

{7}   The sensuality and romance.   Kate immediately attracted to Alexis, but thought him a snake after he wounded her at her first ball.   Alexis then had to actively pursue Kate, resulting in witty dialogue and eventually, heated, spicy lovemaking.

This is second time to have read Lady Hellfire.   Would readily recommend this book to any Historical Romance reader.
--Vonda M. Reid (Thursday, March 15, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.)     [219]

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Lady Hellfire Quotations:
36That was death.   Someone was alive, and then they weren't, and there was nothing you could do to bring them back.   You were left with a hole in your existence.   You felt all broken inside, but you still had to go on living.   You had to get up in the morning, get dressed, eat, and work, even though you'd much rather follow papa so you could be with him instead of all alone and lost.
79She hated veiled messages and crooked talk.
123What frightened her the most was talking.   She had never learned frivolous conversation.   Banter was more mysterious to her than the workings of a steamship.   Other girls could bat their eyes at a man and mew asinine flatteries.   When Kate tired it, she felt so ridiculous her face turned red and her mouth wouldn't move.
181Being old and expensive didn't make things less tasteless.
182Love isn't something you can learn from books, and getting experience at it hurts.
183No one else agreed with her . . .
255. . . all of us women are taught from childhood to lock our real selves away in a little prison in our heads, because we learn what the world wants us to be like.   Most of us try so hard to be Ladies, to be what everyone says we should be.   But all the time there's this other self inside somewhere.   Locked up in chains, suffering, hurting from being told she isn't wanted.
259I'm sick to death of being criticized.   Do you know how much that hurts?   Do you even care?

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Characters Found In "Lady Hellfire"
Character / Location Description / Relationships
Alexis Phillipe Charles Michael Carlyle de Granville, Marquess of Richfield[Hero] (1) black hair (3) glorious black hair; physically beautiful (17) full name; brilliant green eyes; sees the Queen, owns half of England (28) wariness (30) dark; serious (39) injured in Crimean six months ago (40) all black fire and vibrancy (44) Colonel (58) tall; long-limbed body; square chin; air of dignity (73) generous, caring heart (102) intelligent; courageous; beautiful; kind; compassionate; loving friend; cared for suffering of others (166) dignified; authoritative (191) artist's model body; erotic walk (225)
Katherine "Kate" Ann Grey[Heroine] bright copper hair with darker cinnamon running through it (10) loved to read (14) almost 20 (16) freckles (27) Ann (38) brown-gold eyes (57) small thing (57) quick as hornet; unconsciously sensual (161) face a perfect oval; eye like a bewildered foal, then volcanic glass (178) brilliant; ingenious (249)
. . . . . .
Mr. "Weedy" Arbuthnot[One Appearance] talked to Kate at Maitland ball (29)
Carolina Beechwith[Secondary Character] Alexis' mistress // thick chestnut hair that shone in any light; lips naturally pink; squarish face; large round eyes almost night-sky blue (147) good taste in apparel (148)
Ezra Beechwith[No Appearance] old county man; wealthy enough to buy young wife; interests in London (136)
Lord Bunton[One Appearance] attended Maitland ball (29)
James Thomas Brudenell
Earl of Cardigan
[Actual Historical Character / Secondary Character] Alexis, Val part of his regiment (8) a fool of a commander; fiasco at Balaclava his fault (81) arrogant; unintelligent; fearless; spies on his officers; brave; good horseman (84) curling hair; elegant mustache (113) sky-blue eyes (115) elegantly trimmed mustache (149) slim; moved with quick grace (245)
Lady Fiona Churchille-Smythe[Rare Appearances] attended Juliana's house party // member of "great beauty" contingent; Kate didn't like; wanted Alexis (145)
Crosswaite[Rare Appearances] Maitland butler (54)
Honorable Cherry Dinkle[Rare Appearances] attended Juliana's house party // twin; vapid (144)
Honorable Georgina Dinkle[Rare Appearances] attended Juliana's house party // vapid (145) lemon verbena; skinny; fingers like legs of spider; flat body of a ten-year-old boy (153)
Honorable Merry Dinkle[Rare Appearances] attended Juliana's house party // twin; vapid (144)
Sir Eustace[No Appearance] wants Alexis to hire son to work at Heppleton
Mr. Mungo Fettiplace[No Appearance] draper Kate contacted regarding renovations to Maitland House(168)
Lady Juliana de Granville[Major Secondary Character] (3) Alexis's mother (3) 3 cats, marmoset; hated Alexis (4) doesn't like Americans (40) hardly ever slept (171) handsome; thoroughbred height; silver hair; royal dignity (283)
Phillipe de Granville[No Appearance] Alexis' father (279)
Thalia de Granville[No Appearance] Alexis's sister (111)
Timothy Grey[Rare Appearances] Kate's father; gold miner (9) found gold 2-y-a (10) came from wealthy Virginia family (13) loved to read (14)
Robbie Grey[One Appearance] Kate's brother; protective (12) Harvard (86)
Sophia Grey[Major Secondary Character] Kate's mother (11) daughter of English gentleman (14) nagged; fussed (16)
Zachary Grey[One Appearance] Kate's brother (11)
Hazelton[Rare Appearances] Richfield butler (168)
Lettice Hopwelt[No Appearance] daughter of Richard Hopwelt // ancestor killed in Ghost Tower (194)
Sir Richard Hopwelt[No Appearance] killed daughter and her love in Ghost Tower (194)
Sir Humphrey[Brief Appearance] hired by Alexis to keep Val from Cardigan (145)
IagoAlexis's dog (7)
Countess of Landsborne[Rare Appearances] attended Juliana's house party // member of "great beauty" contingent; Kate didn't like; wanted Alexis (145)
Emeline [Maitland][Brief Appearances] Kate's great-aunt (9) light-mindedness (15)
[Mr. Maitland][No Appearance] Ophelia's father; Sophia's brother (14)
Ophelia Maitland[Secondary Character] merchant ancestor 3 generations back (9) embroidered; played piano (19) light-hearted goodness; sense of humor (20) blond hair; made sure nobody knew of her interest in books and politics (38)
Maisy[Brief Appearances] Kate's maid (252)
Colonel Maude[Brief Appearance] hired by Alexis to keep Val from Cardigan (145)
Meredith[Secondary Character] Alexis's valet (4) sensitivity to Alexis's moods since he was a youth (59)
Patience[No Appearance] Fallen Woman; saved Kate from rape; friends for a year (15)
Mr. Poggs[Minor Secondary Character] Kate's man of business // Kate meeting about railroad shares (42) all nose and Adam's apple (61)
Fulke Sinclair[Major Secondary Character] Alexis's cousin (3) older man (5) Alexis's ex-guardian (6) 16-y-a left successful political career to care for Juliana, Alexis, de Granville estates; first cousin to Alexis's father ; conservative Tory; 48-y-o; discontented (6) tall; long-limbed body; square chin; air of dignity (73) kind; unbearably upright; ignored wife; preached at people (87) overly religious (_) black and silver hair (174) parents him when showed sign of affection for a lady (216)
Hannah Sinclair[Secondary Character] Fulke's wife (71) flounced gowns; spoke softly; no sun touched skin; oval face; cupid-bow mouth; light blue eyes; nice, ordinary light brown hair (76) delicate face (140)
Mr. Osbert Snead[No Appearance] antiques man Kate contacted regarding renovations to Maitland House (168)
Mademoiselle St. Germain[Rare Appearances] attended Juliana's house party // member of "great beauty" contingent; Kate didn't like; wanted Alexis (145)
Lord St. Maur[No Appearance] Valentine's father (8)
Earl of Swinburn[No Appearance] red nose; corpulent; Ophelia's husband (39)
Turnpenny[One Appearance] coachman (39)
Wainwright[No Appearance] shipbuilder hired by Kate; drinks; houses harlots (220)
Lady Wickworth[One Appearance] guest at Juliana's house party (151)

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Suzanne Robinson
♠  Website
♣  pseudonym used by: Lynda S. Robinson
Suzanne Robinson Book List:
♠  Fantastic Fiction
♣  FictionDB
Lynda S. Robinson Book List:
♠  Fantastic Fiction
♣  FictionDB

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Lady Hellfire Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
3.67 average{3 reviews}Amazonas of: March 18, 2012
4.50 average{2 reviews}Barnes & Nobleas of: March 18, 2012
4.00 average{1 review}Good Readsas of: March 18, 2012
4.00 average{1 review}Library Thingas of: March 18, 2012
4.50 average{1 review}Paperback Swapas of: March 18, 2012
4.50 average{2 reviews}Shelfarias of: March 18, 2012
4.5003-18-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, B&N, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

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♥  Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥  Very Subjective Rating
♥  Willing to share Cheat Sheet
    ♦  in whole or in part
    ♦  WordPerfect or PDF
♣  Will add your Lady Hellfire review link to table, just ask

1 comment:

  1. I loved your review. Full of energy and inteligence. Thanks.
    Maridol. Spsin.