Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gaelen Foley -- Prince Charming

Gaelen Foley -- Prince Charming Rated: ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ . ❧   {4.55}
Action: ♠♠♠. / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦. / Suspense: ★★★.☆
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 5 / Romance: 4 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 3.5   //   Historical Flavor: 2 / Humor: 1 / Tears: 6½

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Gaelen Foley's Prince Charming turned out to be my favorite in The Ascencion Trilogy.   Why?   For no other reason, than that it was entertaining, enjoyable, and it did the job for which it was intended -- replaced the current daily dissatisfactions hammering away at my brain with a make believe world that ended up with "and they all lived happily ever after."   Foley is one of those authors who knows how to inspire quick interest in her story by creating an emotional connection to the hero and heroine and then developing an interesting plot that keeps one turning the pages without interruption.

After reading the Historical Note at the end of the story, the way Foley portrayed Crown Prince Raffaele Giancarlo Ettore di Fiore made so much sense -- and felt very realistic.   Not only was Rafe born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but it was a royal spoon and there was not anything that he didn't seem to have to work for -- if Rafe wanted, Rafe got -- and got easily -- all he had to do was stretch out his hand!   So he took!   Foley opened the book expressing the discontent that Rafe was now feeling at the arrival of his thirtieth birthday and he found he was tired of taking and bored at not having a purpose in life (except, maybe, waiting for his father to die so he could finally start his job).   He was tired of not knowing if people truly liked him or whether they were seeking his company for what it would eventually gain them.

The title of the book very aptly described Rafe's personality -- he could charm the pants off any woman in the kingdom with just his smile.   In fact, Rafe was so used to women worshiping at his feet that he didn't believe it when Lady Daniela "Dani" Chiaramonte turned down his invitation to be his guest at his birthday party.   Naturally, that made her even more desirable.

Dani had more important matters to deal with than attending a party hosted by "Rafe the Rake."   As The Masked Rider, Dani had just attempted to rob Rafe as he was taking a borrowed carriage from the opera to the Palazzo Reale at the summons of his father.   Dani had sustained a flesh wound from Rafe's bullet and even engaged in a physical battle with the prince before she was able to flee through the woods to her dilapidated estate where she lived with her not always lucid grandfather, a man who once led King Alfonse di Fiore's army, Colonel Lord Bartolomeo Chiaramonte.

Rafe and his Royal Guardsmen arrived at Dani's home just in time to catch her accomplices, the Gabbiano brothers: Mateo, Rocco, Alvi and little ten-year-old Gianni.   Dani's demands that Rafe remove himself from her lands were interrupted by her grandfather's shuffling arrival in his nightshirt.   Even through Dani was no more immune to Rafe than any other female in the kingdom, she had managed to remember the stories about his indulgences, so she was unprepared when Rafe exhibited a deep-seated kindness by escorting the Duke into the parlor and spending an hour listening to him tell stories about his youth with Rafe's grandfather.

Rafe was so arrogant and unused to rejection, that he explained away Dani's dismissal of him and his underhanded request to make her his mistress (after all, it was obvious she needed the financial support), by surmising that she and Mateo were lovers (upon seeing the close relationship between them).   Rafe had the guardsmen take the Gabbiano brothers to jail and left the Duke of Chiaramonte's estate to finally arrive at the Palazzo Reale to find that his father's meeting with the cabinet members was nearly at its end.   Rafe pasted on his 'I don't really care what they think of me attitude' before entering the lion's den.   Too bad the members of the cabinet weren't women so Rafe could charm them into forgetting his scandalous, rakish ways.

Foley began laying the foundation for the conflict that was going to keep the plot at a level of suspenseful interest that would keep one reading rather than putting the book down to get some sleep.   She introduced the members of King Lazar di Fiore's cabinet through the jaded, yet intelligent eyes of Rafe.

There were two high-ranking members of the counsel who were not only long-time friends, but were also united in their disapproval of Rafe and had no faith in his ability to rule Ascencion.   Foley gave these two men rich, detailed descriptions.   Even though their actual roles in the story would not keep them long on the pages, their relevance to the story was vitally important.   Big, bombastic Bishop Justinian Vasari was loved by the people and was also ten-year-old Prince Leo's legal guardian, thus was granted right of regency should anything happen to King Lazar and Prince Rafe.

The keen, diminutive Prime Minister Arturo di Sansevero, was even more virulently opposed to Rafe because of a personal grudge against him.   The childless Don Arturo blamed Rafe for the death of his beloved nephew, Giorgio di Sansevero.   Rather than stop his nephew from engaging in the illegal activity of dueling, Rafe had agreed to be Giorgio's second.   Rafe could not help but notice that Don Arturo markedly favored his distant Florentine cousin, Duke Orlando di Cambio, who had come to Ascencion two years ago and now served in the Ministry of Finance.

Have to give Foley accolades that she did not try to hide the villain of the story, but came right out and gave Orlando a point of view voice when she decided to reveal the man who was trying to became the future King of Ascencion.   At the end of the story when Orlando's horrific childhood was revealed, it was easy to understand why Orlando was so bitter and had become a cold-blooded killer with bitter, vengeful instincts.   Sometimes it is the small little inclusions in the story that make it so rich.   Even though there is absolutely nothing redeeming about Orlando as he weaves a path of distrust and destruction through this book, Foley included one little incident that made it possible to feel that tiny trickle of compassion for that poor child Orlando had once been.
It was the closest thing to an open declaration of affection that anyone had ever given Orlando.   He stared blankly at the old man with an odd, twisting pain coming up in him from his belly.   Stiffening, he tamped it down under the shield of ice he had formed in himself at an early age.   Without answering, he turned away and left.   (Orlando: page 347)
Another thing that Foley does amazingly well is to so engage the emotions that she can draw tears from the reader.   Granted, I am one of those people who cries at the drop of a hat, but when King Lazar chased after Rafe to explain why he was turning the reins of rule over to his son (so he could visit his grandchildren in Spain), I got chocked up.   But then in this make-believe world, of Ascencion, I have known King Lazar for 30 years now -- since he was introduced in his book, book, The Pirate Prince.   And to think Lazar was dying of a stomach cancer -- yep, Rafe was not the only one to swallow hard.

But this was not the only time Foley drew unshed tears.   Foley does such a great job of drawing one deep into the web of the characters, that she draws upon the emotions at the most poignant of times.   Cannot help but feel sad for both Dani and Mateo as Dani arrives at the docks to say good-bye to the Gabbiano brothers.   With just a few words Foley reveals a world of never spoken longings.
"I'll miss you."   Overwhelmed with sorrow at the hard goodbye, she moved to embrace him, but he held up his hand, looking away.

"No.   If I hold you, I'll never be able to let you go."   (Mateo: page 198)
Naturally, a rake like Rafe is going to have a beautiful mistress to muddy the waters.   The English opera singer Chloe Sinclair had managed to snare the wondering attention of Rafe for four long months and was not willing to give him up.   Chloe was so entrenched in Rafe's life that she even served as the hostess to his birthday bash.   (If the people of Ascencion weren't so busy trying to garner Rafe's favor, they would have been appalled at this audacity (just as was Dani).)   Although it is inappropriate for the hero of a romance book to cheat on his heroine, it was very realistic that Rafe came way too close to doing so when he was approached by the very manipulative, scheming Chloe when she happened upon him not long after he had been delivered some very unsettling news that set him back on his heels.   Thankfully, Rafe came to his senses before he went upstairs with Chloe and realized he wanted more from life than just unencumbered sex.   Have to admit that while reading this particular scene, it was with trepidation, and kept thinking, "Don't do it, Rafe.   Stop it, Rafe.   Go home, Rafe."

Thankfully, Rafe did go home and made love to his wife.   One of the seeds of discord Orlando had sewn was to convince Dani she had to remain pure so the King and Queen could secure an annulment to get rid of her -- an inappropriate wife.   Orlando just had to tell Dani that before leaving for Spain, King Lazar had issued an ultimatum to Rafe regarding marriage and then gave him a list of five princesses to choose from.   So a sexual war ensued between Rafe and Dani.   Rafe used his talent at loving women to use Dani's desire against her during their rocky road to becoming a loving, supportive couple.   Foley has a talent when it comes to writing emotional, yet sensual lovemaking scenes.   Foley did not shy away from adding spice and conflict to her descriptive love scenes.

Rafe had three particular boyhood friends that were part of the inner circle that remained in the periphery of his story.   The first was scholarly, intelligent Viscount Elan Berelli who was being groomed as the future prime minister and was the only decent member of this circle and was probably the most trustworthy.   The second was the sarcastic, wise-cracking Niccolo that Foley did not even bother to assign a last name even though she wove him into Rafe's life with regularity.

The most memorable and controversial of Rafe's friends was Adriano di Tadzio.   Adriano heartily disapproved of Dani, particularly since he was one of her robbery victims.   Being slow on the uptake, did not realize Foley used this gorgeous man and his relationship with Rafe and Chloe to address a controversial subject that must have been taboo in the early 1800s.   Orlando used Adriano as his pawn since he found him to be the most tortured and tormented and, thus, the weak link in Rafe's inner circle.   Out of all of Orlando's horrible actions, his treatment of Adriano had to be the most cruel, and the end result was heartrending.   (Yep, another time for the tears to flow.)

Two other very minor characters played an important role in the plot.   First the important and necessarily under-developed young under-chef that Orlando bribed into poisoning King Lazar.   (Sigh of relief -- Lazar was not going to die!)   Cristoforo was a wiry young man who just wanted extra money so he could visit the very beautiful, very young prostitute, Carmen.   Foley very cleverly used this relationship to tell Rafe and Dani what Orlando was up to.   And then she gave readers a surprise ending regarding Carmen's future in the Epilogue.

Foley briefly addressed the issue that she introduced in Princess regarding the effect Julia's betrayal took on Rafe.   Rafe had named it "The Debacle" and was ashamed that the entire kingdom knew about his big mistake.   King Lazar pushed marriage on Rafe because he believed that Julia's actions were part of the reason that Rafe was a womanizer -- that Rafe went from woman to woman because he refused to trust another woman again.   (Look what happened the first time he did so!)

Foley entered an inconsistency between Princess and Prince Charming regarding Rafe's virginity.   In Princess, Serafina's best friend, Elisabetta "Els," "had seduced the crown prince a few months ago.   Charming Rafe had bragged of it high and low . . . " (Princess: page 78).   Now in Prince Charming, Rafe is remembering his time with Julia: "She seduced him, took his virginity, then robbed him while he slept."   (Prince Charming: page 59).

One thing that did not make sense in the story was the state of destitution of the Chiaramonte estate and the peasants that lived on that land.   How could the renowned Rock of Ascencion (King Lazar), who had a wife who was known for her charitable deeds (Queen Allegra) not be aware of such drastic conditions that Dani took to becoming a highwayman to pay the rising taxes?   Yes, the fat, disgusting tax collector, Count Bulbati, was embezzeling and trying to force Dani into marriage, but, still, wouldn't Allegra have noticed while practicing her charitable efforts?   But, then, Foley did give an accurate assessment of the structure of the "haves" and the "have nots" as she detailed the extravagant opulence that Rafe took for granted versus the impoverishment faced by Dani.

Even though Lazar and Allegra did not inspire the most solid of connections while reading their story (The Pirate Prince), it was still imperative that Foley continue the necessary romance book fairy tale ending (and they lived happily ever after).   After being disappointed in the picture Foley painted of King Lazar and Queen Allegra in Princess (their daughter's story), it was with relief that she redeemed them in Rafe's story.   King Lazar was painted as a man who constantly pushed his son to become an over-achiever for two reasons: {1} because he loved his son (even though he had never said the words to him) and {2} because he loved his country.   Thankfully, Lazar and Allegra came across as more like the concerned parents that should inhabit a fairy tale in this, their son's book.   (Loved the throat tightening exchange between Queen Allegra and Dani at the end of the story.)

Another wonderful addition to the story was the very short point of view voice given to Darius Santiago (Princess) as his children frolicked in the palace gardens in the last chapter of the book.   This was a very sweet, well-written scene.   Absolutely love it when authors paint a picture of how the future is progressing for the previous heros' and heroines' of a series.

One little nit-picky thing.   The book opened in Ascencion in 1816.   Then the typo that instilled confusion was to be found next to the word "Epilogue" on page 400, which listed the date as April 1815.   In the next publication, please change that 5 to a 7.

Would readily recommend Prince Charming, Gaelen Foley's third book in The Ascencion Trilogy as a wonderful, entertaining read to Historical Romance readers.   Foley kept the plot moving at a quick, 'what is going to happen next' pace.   It included {1} several exciting action scenes, {2} a villain that kept the suspense constant, {3} a developing romance between a rake being tamed by a naive little country girl, {4} spicy sensuality, and {5} a deep emotional connection to the characters that inspired tears.
--Vonda M. Reid (Friday, October 19, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.)      {284}

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Books In The Series: "The Ascencion Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.09-1998The Pirate PrincePrince Lazar di FioreAllegra Monteverdi
02.07-1999PrincessColonel Darius SantiagoPrincess Serafina di Fiore
03.02-2000Prince CharmingPrince Raffaele Giancarlo Ettore di FioreLady Daniela "Dani" Chiaramonte

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Characters Found In "Prince Charming"
Character Description
Crown Prince Raffaele Giancarlo Ettore di Fiore[Hero] expressionless suntanned face; patrician angles to his face; long dark gold hair swept back in a queue (1) sired by great man; 30-y-o (2) loved women (4) never lost temper (6) slight, urbane smile (7) clean shaven (8) thrill-seeker's soul (11) wild excesses (12) big; lean; tall; powerfully built; square jaw (14) broad, straight forehead; imperious nose; hard, angry mouth; warrior-like physique; over 6' tall; built of pure muscle; "Rafe the Rake"'; haughty (15) carelessly elegant; excellently manicured hands; large, capable fists; soft, deep, dangerous voice that rang with air of command; proud; handsome jaw (16) white, defiant smile; classically proportioned length; huge; powerful; enticing mouth; half-smile of pure deviltry (17) broad chest; sheer physical strength (19) a golden god with impeccable good grace; smile as sweet as summer sky; heart full of vice and perfidy; known seducer; flamboyant; silver-tongued; devil-may-care attitude; drank; gambled; squandered fortunes; dueled; flirted shamelessly (24) ludicrously charming to all woman; laughed too loud; played practical jokes; sailed yacht (25) broad shoulders (29) quick, neat grace (33) magnificent; larger than life (34) exceedingly handsome; sweeping gold-tipped lashes veiling his deep-set eyes; subtle, cool, dark green eyes dappled with fractured chips of gold; thick golden mane (34) face incandescent with the fierce, burning beauty of an archangel fallen to earth; hard, athletic body; dynamic presence (35) gorgeous; fascinating (36) smoky sensuality in eyes (38) carried peppermints (42) aware of innate superiority (53) sun-streaked hair; bronze skin; white flash of scoundrel's smile; strong, dynamic features of face; indomitable will; gentleness in eyes; strength of his innate noblesse oblige; thick golden eyebrows; deliciously sensual mouth; forceful intelligence in green-and-gold eyes; intangible magnificence made him superior to every man in room (89) sculpted face austere; moved with deceptive laziness (102) layer upon layer of complexity (104) steely sculpted arms; hard chest; lean waist (131) vibrant; magnetic (136) accomplished swordsman (222) 6'3" (228) deep, mellifluous voice (247) had mother's coloring and thoughtful expression (275)
Lady Daniela "Dani" Chiaramonte[Heroine] The Masked Rider (10) convent school (13) father dead (16) cascade of wavy chestnut hair (23) poor; unsophisticated; shy (36) looking after grandfather since she was 9-y-o; throw out of 3 schools (37) ride pony standing astride when 10-y-o (38) intelligent; unsinkably poised; unconventional; willful; fresh; redhead; skin tender as flowers (39) small, work-reddened hands; cinnamon lashes; willowy body; top of her head a couple of inches below Rafe's shoulder; wide prominent cheekbones, angling down to a small, delicate mouth like a rosebud; firm, saucy little chin; small, pert nose; serious demeanor (40) large, intelligent eyes full of fiery will and inborn command; innocent poignancy; aquamarine eyes (41) wide, wary, very innocent eyes the most extraordinary shade of pristine aqua-blue (42) land entailed to her until death; thin shoulders; in control of her life (47) needed morning cup of coffee (65) tomboy; misfit (66) something unique and rare about her; obvious provincial (97) 21-y-o (105) moved beautifully, graceful (109) irresistibly saucy chin; unmistakable air of inborn command (132) trim calves and thighs; gracefully turned hips; lean and wiry; blazing spirit; tumultuous life; fiery beauty (133) a handful (134) stunning (152) adorable (154) flowing, graceful walk; slim, neat legs; straight spine; head held high (155) small, pert, firm breasts (165) fighter; intensity and clarity of expression (175) 5'6" (228)
. . . . . .
Viscount Elan Berelli[Secondary Character] perhaps only decent member of Rafe's inner circle; fair-haired; thin; amiable; big nose (88) slightly hunched posture and forward head gave him look of buzzard; being groomed as future prime minister (89) scholarly (131) best man (208) intelligent; steady, cautious nature (323)
Dr. Bianco[No Appearance] had treated Lazar; died 3 months ago (78)
Count Bulbati[Secondary Character] county tax collector; raised Dani's taxes every time she refused to marry him (46) corrupt, greedy swine (47) fat body; looked ridiculous in frilly frippery; unctuous; greasy sweat on round face; small brown eyes; shrew, mean-spirited expression; thick, rubbery lips (69) small, pig-like eyes (72) pale, doughy face (257)
Duke Orlando di Cambio[Major Secondary Character] Rafe's Florentine cousin; stamp of Fiori in ruggedly handsome profile; 5 years older than Rafe; cabinet would prefer him as king to Rafe; looked more like Rafe's brother than a distant cousin; tall; broad shoulders; good-looking; arrogant; aware of innate superiority; jet-black hair; ice green eyes; bit of a loner; dressed in black; successful shipping merchant; left Florence to move to land of ancestors; served in Ministry of Finance; earned trust of cabinet and king with his able mind and sober, reliable manner (53) a brutal lover; shamed by his need to inflict pain (177) had Fiori family resemblance; raven-haired; darker complexion (181) cryptic ice-green eyes; held head high; wider brow; slightly hooked aquiline nose (182) slick as oil; walked around palace as if owned it (197) strange; brooding; solitary (260) usual blend of charm, manipulation and arrogance (285)
Marquis Chiaramonte[No Appearance] Dani's father; ruined himself with drink and gambling (121)
Carmen[Secondary Character] black-haired young beauty; lovely; olive-skinned; 17-y-o; lithe body; red-rouged lips (80)
Duke of Chiaramonte[Secondary Character] Dani's grandfather; once lead an army; now needed care of small child; aristocratic profile; jut of a pointy nose; a most distinguished mustache; a lofty, wrinkled forehead; gnarled hands (24) testy; senile (32) Colonel Lord Bartolomeo Chiaramonte (33) bushy white eyebrows (38) line face; raspy voice (67)
Cristoforo[Secondary Character] young, wiry, under-chef; tall beanpole; shock of bright red hair (80) brown eyes; freckles (81) tall; lanky (289)
Falconi[One Appearance] ancient castle steward; frail; formidably dignified (50)
Queen Allegra [di Fiore][Brief Appearance] [Heroine of Book One] Rafe's mother (148) light hair; gracefully maternal; known for humanitarian efforts; embodiment of nurturing, motherly wisdom (275) mellow timber to voice (389) wise, amber-brown eyes; gold-tipped lashes; sprinkling of buttery freckles on mildly lined face; not quite fifty; light golden-brown hair (390)
King Alphonse [di Fiore][No Appearance] Rafe's grandfather; Duke of Chiaramonte's boyhood friend (33)
Prince Amador di Fiore[One Appearance] His Royal Highness; two weeks old; Rafe, Dani's son; mother's aqua eyes; father's blond hair (400)
King Lazar di Fiore[Important Secondary Character] [Hero of Book One] Rafe's father; blustery hot-head (7) square-rimmed spectacles; stubborn Roman nose; large frame; striking man; square jaw; hard featured; salt-and-pepper hair shorn close; weathered brown skin; piercing dark-eyed gaze; intense; managed men expertly (51) ill; weathered skin stretched tautly over cheekbones; shadows under his eyes (60) intense stare (61) great, renowned Rock of Ascencion (62) darkly handsome; stern-looking; jet-black hair silvered at temples (274)
Prince Leo [di Fiore][Secondary Character] Rafe's brother; cherubic; sweet-natured; second son; obedient; 10-y-o; a budding rogue (52) sturdy; big brown eyes; rosy cheeks; soft dark curls (379)
Federico[Brief Appearance] member of Rafe's inner circle (121)
Don Francisco[No Appearance] venerated head of Ministry of Finance for 20 years; Orlando's superior; old; white hair (262)
Alvi Gabbiano[Secondary Character] highwayman (12) Rocco, Gianni, Mateo's brother (13) wiry youth (15) spectacles (75)
Gianni Gabbiano[Secondary Character] Rocco, Mateo and Alvi's 10-y-o brother (18) thin shoulders (91) spry as monkey (93)
Mateo Gabbiano[Important Secondary Character] highwayman (10) Rocco, Gianni, Alvi's brother (13) hot head likely to start a brawl at any insult; Dani's oldest childhood friend (14) dark expressive eyes (30) tall strapping farm boy; 24-y-o; handsome rustic youth; curly dark hair; big brown eyes that melted tenderhearted women (45)
Rocco Gabbiano[Secondary Character] highwayman (13) giant; didn't know his own strength (14) village blacksmith (27) big; gentle (75)
Mrs. Gabbiano[Brief Appearance] mother to Mateo, Alvi, Gianni (65) tough old peasant woman; stout, black-veiled widow (68)
Lady Julia[No Appearance] betrayed Rafe (59)
Maria[Brief Appearances] Dani's small, stout housekeeper (28) meaty hip (36)
Niccolo[Secondary Character] member Rafe's inner circle (6) ever-sarcastic (156) brown hair; brawny (320) wisecracking (323)
Nunzia[No Appearance] Baroness Raimando's faithful old nurse; Orlando's nurse; gave statement of Orlando's parentage (363)
Paolo[No Appearance] Mateo's friend; had boat ready to take Gabbianos to mainland (68)
Baroness Raimondi[No Appearance] Orlando's mother; tried to pass Orlando off as husband's child (363)
Bernadetta Rienzi[One Appearance] Mother Superior of the Sisters of Saint Lucia: black-robbed dragon from second convent Dani expelled from (307) tall; brisk; firm; broad shoulders; carried herself like aged warrior-queen (310)
Arturo di Sansevero[Important Secondary Character] Prime Minister; served on Lazar's council (52) Bishop Justinian's utter opposite; disapproved of Rafe; neat; quick; tidy; discreet; consummate courtier; keen, darting mind was like a silent, razor-toothed barracuda; unflinchingly loyal to Ascencion; slight of stature; hooded brown eyes; thin, spare mouth (52) softened when saw sister's children; childless; wife died 2 decades earlier; never remarried; Ascencion was his life; had personal reasons to despise Rafe; grandly rolled his r's (53) single bushy eyebrow (290) diminutive man (344)
Giorgio di Sansevero[No Appearance] one of Rafe's friends; Don Arturo's nephew; Arturo blamed Rafe for his death (125) Giorgio killed in duel (126)
Lady Anita [Santiago][One Appearance] Darius and Serafina's 2-y-o daughter (393) mop silky black curls (394)
Count Darius Santiago[Brief Appearance] [Hero of Book Two] Serafina's husband; fierce; deadly; watchdog of royal family (62) a warrior, not a statesman (261) professional government assassin (265) Count; beautiful; intense midnight stare; hawklike face held no smile; fierce-looking Spaniard (274) 6 children (280)
Lady Elisabeta [Santiago][One Appearance] Darius and Serafina's 4-y-o daughter (393) mop silky black curls (394)
Princess Serafina [di Fiore Santiago][Brief Appearance] [Heroine of Book Two] Rafe's sister (62) ravishing Princess (147) as breathtakingly perfect as Helen of Troy; married 10-y-a; rose-white skin; mass of jet-black ringlets; laughing, joyous violet eyes (274) sparkling quality to voice (389)
Chloe Sinclair[Major Secondary Character] Rafe's mistress; beautiful; opera singer (2) English diva; perfect body; gleaming smile; lasted 4 months as mistress (5) haughty blond (6) talented; sophisticated; courtesan at height of her powers (40) toast of London stage; met Rafe in Venice; radiant, sugar-plum confection of a creature; between 25-30-y-o; flawless delicate face; hair the gold of bright new coins; sky-blue eyes; perfect beauty mark just above the corner of her mouth; milky white skin (86) large breasts; burning light of narcissism in her eyes; wanton-looking mouth; drunk on vanity (87) dainty feet; radiant with laughter; dimples winking (180) endless appetites; bewildering mood swings; self-avowed bitch (193) spoiled, cosseted beauty (195)
Adriano di Tadzio[Major Secondary Character] Rafe's boyhood friend (3) intense; jaded; sullen; gorgeous; dark, seductive beauty (88) usual air of torment (99) raven-haired demi-god (100) haughty (157) jealous; mercurial; emotionally fragile (175)
The Masked Rider[Heroine] young highwayman; adored by Ascencioners; robbed from the rich to give to the poor (11)
Tomas[Brief Appearances] member of Rafe's inner circle (98) brown hair (100)
Bishop Justinian Vasari[Important Secondary Character] served on Lazar's council; big; bombastic; stocky as a bulldog draped in flowing brocaded robes; all bark; no bite; round, rubicund face with wild white wisps of hair that stuck out in all directions from underneath his velvet beanie; sure of God's opinions; constantly pampered his gardens at his rich palazzo; preached with a rolling, thunderous elegance; did not approve of Rafe; Prince Leo's legal guardian and granted right of regency; people of Ascencion loved; fiery; pompous; high-living (52) balding (360)
Zerlina[No Appearance] artless country girl in opera (1)

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"Prince Charming" Quotations
161"I have lived in his shadow all my life," he barely whispered.   "Nothing I ever do is good enough for him.   Just once, I wish he would look at me and say, 'Well done, Rafe.'   Why should I care what he thinks of me?   And still, I do."
367"Now, for God's sake, get off your royal high horse and use that silver tongue of yours to argue in your own defense."

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"Prince Charming" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
. . . . . . Gaelen Foley Website Author
. . . . . . Gaelen Foley Facebook Author
B / Hot01-30-2000All About RomanceLaurie Likes Books
4.42 average{62 reviews}Amazonas of: October 20, 2012
4.00 average{48 reviews}Barnes & Nobleas of: October 20, 2012
4.00--Bella OnlineElizabeth Darrach
----Fact FictList of Books In The Ascencion Trilogy
----Fantastic FictionList of Gaelen Foley's Books
----Fiction DBList of Gaelen Foley's Books
3.79 average{31 reviews}Good Readsas of: October 20, 2012
3.66 average{3 reviews}Library Thingas of: October 20, 2012
Grade: 88--Mrs. Giggles
4.00 average{103 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: October 20, 2012
4.50 Top Pick--RT {Romantic Times} Book ReviewsKathe Robin
3.67 average{11 reviews}Shelfarias of: October 20, 2012
--08-31-1998The Romance ReaderInterview (should be under The Pirate Prince)
4.5510-20-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Gaelen Foley -- Princess

Gaelen Foley -- Princess Rated: ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ . ❧  {4.35}
Action: ♠♠♠. / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥. / Sensuous: ♦♦. / Suspense: ★★★★
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 4 / Romance: 3.5 / Sensuous: 2.5 / Suspense: 4   //   Historical Flavor: 2 / Humor: 1 / Tears: 3½

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Gaelen Foley did a phenomenal job with her second book in The Ascencion Trilogy, Princess.   She quickly drew the reader into the story by opening with a suspenseful action scene featuring Princess Serafina de Fiore as she ran from the three Frenchmen who tried to kidnap her at her engagement party.   As Serafina ran through the maze to escape the villains, she thought about the only man she had ever cared for, Darius Santiago, and wished that he were here to save her -- again.

Foley quickly began to reveal the emotional barriers that were going to haunt Darius and Serafina throughout the rest of the book as she began to weave the intricate, involved story that would eventually lead them down their highly-unlikely path to a future together.   Serafina knew that Darius would not be able to save her this time because he had been noticeably absent from Ascencion ever since she revealed her love for him three years ago.

As King Lazar di Fiore's best intelligence-gathering man (and assassin), Darius was in Russia investigating Prince Anatole Tyurinov, the man to whom Serafina was betrothed in an effort to save Ascencion from the threat of invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte.   Darius, however, learned that the apparently charming, charismatic Prince Anatole was a power-seeking (planned to take the throne away from his cousin, Czar Alexander), wife-beating and killing kind of man.   When Darius learned {1} that King Lazar had tied his daughter to such a brutal man before receiving his report and {2} that Napoleon had planted spies within the palace to thwart the alliance between Ascencion and Russian, he hurried home.   Naturally, Darius arrived in time to save Serafina from being kidnapped.

Foley highlighted the range of emotions that were going to be present in the relationship between Darius and Serafina in her exciting opening gambit.   As Darius went into warrior mode and quickly dispatched the Frenchmen, Serafina looked at him with fear in her eyes -- having never witnessed this dark side of his personality.   Darius was used to everybody else looking at him with loathing and fear, but was crushed when he saw such emotion in the eyes of the only woman who ever saw him as a person and not as a man who could do things for her.   It was quickly obvious that there was a strong tie between Darius and Serafina that was not going to be cut by Darius's sheer will-power.
. . . deep down in a primal, illogical place inside of her that responded to things like the warmth of fire and the smell of cooking food, deep down in her blood and bones where she was not princess, not political pawn, but simply woman, she knew she belonged to this man.   (Serafina: page 15)
Foley has now drawn the reader into the story with action, suspense, and emotion, but she didn't stop there -- she also gave readers a glimpse of the romance and sensuality that were always front and center when Darius and Serafina were in close proximity.   As the ruthless Frenchman, Philippe Saint-Laurent, held a knife to Serafina's throat to keep Darius at bay, he finally found Darius's one weakness.   Philippe tore Serafina's dress to the waist to challenge Darius to join him in sampling the charms of one of the most beautiful woman in the world.   Thus, Serafina finally saw that Darius was not immune to her -- as he had so pretended for years.

Foley managed to make this spoiled Princess a likeable character.   Even through Serafina acknowledged that she was one of the elite who was not above using her position as Princess Royal to get what she wanted, she also experienced the same feelings and doubts as any other woman.   It was also obvious that Darius and Serafina were experiencing the same conflicting thoughts in their own, uniquely lonely worlds.
"Everyone looks at me, but nobody sees me, Darius.   You used to, but you don't anymore.   Now you won't even look at me."   (Serafina: page 101)

"Do you think I enjoy my life as an ornament, living in a fishbowl, on display?   I am surrounded by people who neither know me nor care to!   I wanted to be with you!"   (Serafina: page 103)

"You don't know what it's like, never belonging anywhere."   (Darius: page 104)
Serafina was a very stubborn, strong-willed heroine.   Serafina had decided that she was going to take care of Darius (wounded during the battle with Philippe) even if he wouldn't take care of himself.   When she and Darius went to report to her father (who doted on his daughter) about the attempted kidnapping, Serafina insisted that Darius be the man in charge of her guard detail when she was taken to D'Este Villa for safety.

Darius was furious at Serafina for her manipulations because he didn't know if he could contain his desires for her if they were so close for any length of time.   Foley created a gut-wrenchingly sad background for Darius that explained his feelings of unworthiness -- the reasons he struggled to be the best there was when it came to serving his king.   Since Serafina was the one woman who brought peace to his troubled existence and because he was contemplating a suicide mission to save Serafina from being forced to marry the Russian bully to save Ascencion, Darius and Serafina spent four wonderful, sensual days being together.   Just as in the first book of the series, Foley entertained readers with hot, passionate interludes of foreplay without allowing complete consummation.   Foley is very talented when it comes to writing emotionally-packed lovemaking scenes that are full of spice.

Foley introduced a very unique, interesting twist to Darius's womanizing hound-dog behavior.   Even though all the women were chasing after Darius and comparing notes about having been with him, Darius revealed that he was sick and tired of being used by women . . . of being a male whore.   (Darius's explanation about his childhood to Serafina explained why he felt that way.)   If only those women knew that Darius apparently resented women and used sex to subjugate them.   It made Darius an even more appealing hero -- making readers imagine what it would be like to be Serafina -- the only woman who would make love with Darius instead using him for his sexual expertise.

Foley did an excellent job of adding depth to the story by weaving several intriguing secondary characters into the lives of Darius and Serafina.   It was surprising that Foley almost made me feel sorry for the conniving, blackmailing, point of view character of Lady Julia "Jules" Calazzi.   Julia had been Darius's lover for years and was determined to marry him now that her recently deceased husband had left her deep in debt.   Julia was a malicious schemer who, upon realizing that there was love flowing between Darius and Serafina, used her feminine wiles to seduce men to do her bidding.   The addition of Julia to the character list added to the suspenseful nature and emotional conflict in the story line.

Julia also played a surprisingly important role in the maturation of the crown prince, Rafael Giancarlo Ettore di Fiore.   Rafe will be the hero in the third book of The Ascencion Trilogy (Prince Charming) and was featured as an immature, irresistibly charming minor secondary character in this book.   Foley began to paint a picture of the obstacles Rafe faced when it came to being worthy of following in his father's footsteps -- especially when he compared himself to the indomitable, infallible Darius.   It was to Darius that Rafe turned when he was faced with the brutal reality of betrayal.

In her scheming, Julia also seduced Prince Anatole in her efforts to drive a wedge between Darius and Serafina and kept Darius alive after he incited Anatole's wrath.   Prince Anatole was very much the villain of the story and was given no redeeming personality characteristics.   Even as strong-willed and used to getting her way as Serafina was, she was unable to overcome the dominating cruelty that this vain giant of a man practiced whenever he privately managed to corner her.   Prince Anatole was a well-written, single-dimensional character that provided some action, aided in the suspense, and supported the emotional conflict between Darius and Serafina.   Prince Anatole was also a member of the party used to entertain readers with the exciting, 'Serafina saves the day' ending.

The biggest disappointment to the cast of characters was the minimal, almost invisible roles that Lazar and Allegra (The Pirate Prince) played.   Once of the things that is most appealing about reading romance books is their obligatory fairy tale ending of "and they lived happily ever after."   Naturally, it was to be expected that Foley would enhance the picture of Lazar and Allegra as the parents of the heroine of this book.   Sadly, she didn't.   We knew that Lazar and Allegra were still very much in love because Serafina would look at them and wish that her future would include that same love that passed between her parents.

Even though Lazar played an important role as he comforted his beloved daughter and fought with Darius over his perceived betrayal, he felt unreal.   There was no meat to the father/daughter interactions.   The only thing memorable about Lazar during the telling of his daughter's story was that he ruled Ascension well and his booming voice always preceded his entry into a room.   Allegra was even more shadowy than Lazar.   Allegra was still a do-gooder who ruled her family by expressing her disappointment in them when they failed to meet her high expectations.   The one time Allegra actually interacted with Serafina, I felt sorry for her because it was obvious that Allegra had always favored Rafe, giving no consideration for Serafina's feelings.   On a final note: Allegra bore Lazar a second son, Lorenzo, during the tenure of Darius and Serafina's story.

Foley displayed her awesome skill drawing forth deep emotions and tears with her storytelling and her words.   Deep into the book (page 226) Foley had been slowly building the emotional tension within Serafina since her return to the palace from the villa.   Serafina (and readers) were on pins and needles as {1} Serafina spent the day stressing about Darius when he didn't show up at the ball or her room last night, {2} then Serafina was so anxious to see Darius, she went looking for him, and {3} finally she burst into father's chambers to face tense silence.   My eyes were teary because I could just feel the despair coursing through Serafina -- she just knew something was wrong with Darius but did not want to admit it.   Now she had no choice but to face the truth.   Foley did it all by cleverly drawing the reader into the mindset of Serafina as she painted a picture of the despair Serafina faced having to marry a cold man she detested and loving a man she could not have.

Having just finished reading the book where Darius was introduced at the age of fourteen, it was obvious that Foley changed her concept of Darius between the writing of these two books.   On page 269 of The Pirate Prince, Darius is described as "an exceeding beautiful youth, compact and well proportioned of form, with none of gangling awkwardness of his age.   He had jet-black hair, brooding dark eyes under long, thick lashes, and full lips that gave him a sullen, sensual pout that was a bit unnerving, considering his tender years."   Now, at the age of thirty-four, in Princess the description of Darius's mouth is described differently: "The austere angles of his high-boned cheeks and haughty, aquiline nose warred with the sensuality of his rich, sulky mouth.   A small scar like a crescent moon marred the sculpted sweetness of his lips with a bitter twist."   (page 7).   This scar is often mentioned (and eventually explained) as part of the psyche of Darius's personality.   Why didn't he have the scar in the first book?   And why was the time Darius spent as a captive in book one totally overlooked during the telling of his story?   It sure would have nice to learn how Darius ended up a captive at Al Khuum.

In conclusion, Princess, the second book in Gaelen Foley's The Ascencion Trilogy, is a wonderfully entertaining, engaging read.   Foley peppered the book with {1} plenty of action, {2} copious amounts of 'how is she going to write herself out of this corner' suspense, {3} the building romance between two obviously lonely soul-mates, and {4} fiery sensuality during lovemaking scenes.   Darius and Serafina were very well-written, deeply developed characters who drew the reader deep into an emotional connection with them, even to the point of tears.   It is a book well worth reading.
--Vonda M. Reid (Tuesday, October 16, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.) {283}

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Books In The Series: "The Ascencion Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.09-1998The Pirate PrincePrince Lazar di FioreAllegra Monteverdi
02.07-1999PrincessColonel Darius SantiagoPrincess Serafina di Fiore
03.02-2000Prince CharmingPrince Raffaele Giancarlo Ettore di FioreLady Daniela "Dani" Chiaramonte

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Characters Found In "Princess"
Character Description
Darius Santiago[Hero] beautiful; black-hearted; insolent; arrogant; heathen; not afraid of anything; arrogant smirk; coal-black eyes (3) watched over Serafina all through her childhood (5) dark exotic beautiful fierce onyx eyes; sleek, lean body; broad shoulders; impeccable attired; moved with predatory grace; inky, brooding eyes; passionate, secretive nature; austere angles of high-boned cheeks; haughty, aquiline nose warred with the sensuality of his rich, sulky mouth; small scar like a crescent moon marred the sculpted sweetness of his lips with a bitter twist; soft, lulling voice tinged with a Spanish accent; idle elegance (7) trained to kill; finely chiseled face; long-lashed eyes (8) flash of white teeth in cold, wicked smile; many lovers; Spaniard (11) tall; ruthless; sheer male force of him; clean, musky scent; smoked cheroots; heat radiated from powerful body; hard, sinewy form (12) deadliest man in kingdom (13) intense, fiery gaze (15) 20-y-a: a feral boy-thief; made royal ward; raised as son of king; half-Gypsy (17) long, thick lashes; acutely sensitive being; finely sculpted face (17) careless bravado honed to a razor's edge (20) sharp, efficient control (22) captain of Royal Guard in early 20s; applied himself to getting an education; silently studied people; mastered every weapon; strove for excellence (27) meticulous military sense of order (34) black temper (39) fraternal descendant from Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition (40) sun-bronzed face (42) firestorm inside him; armor of cool invulnerability; courageous; selfless loyalty; smooth, sun-bronzed skin; finely honed powerful body; warm skin smooth as velvet; muscles like tempered steel; hard, sculpted chest (43) didn't drink spirits (44) Colonel (52) played guitar (54) became Count at father's death; inherited vast holdings and vineyards in Andalusia; graceful movements; riveting magnetism (61) Dare (74) muscled build was sleek, elegant, superbly athletic (89) classical profile; long, feathery lashes (97) bastard son of Spanish count and Gypsy dancer (102) complex; intense; intelligent; wry mischief (150) 34-y-o (157)
Princess Serafina de Fiore[Heroine] long, black hair; bold; flirt (2) Darius called her "Princesa" (3) one of the three most beautiful women alive; waist-length hair (9) skin like silk; exquisite (10) usually quick-witted (12) Darius's nickname: "little Cricket" (16) gentle and innocent; pure (19) soft, slightly scratchy voice; elegant shoulders; clean, patrician lines of her delicate profile; absurd length to black, velvet lashes; silver rings adorning dainty toes (20) pale, heart-shaped face; flat belly; lush breasts; king's only daughter; very light; tall; proud; delicate bones; slender arms; spectacular bosom; lucid, sweet, otherworldly violet eyes (21) stunning looks; lighthearted manner; intelligent; could twist men around her finger with a smile (22) "Jewel of Ascencion"; hard to impress (23) turned reckless when nervous or afraid (31) pets: white Persian cat; teal parakeet; talapoin monkey; slim waist; slim, elegant curves to her figure (33) naturalist (34) flamboyant mane of mink black unruly curly; sweet derriere (35) rebellious (38) 8-y-a was 12-y-o = 20-y-o; medicine a hobby (44) muscles rippled on chiseled belly (47) frivolous, darling-of-the-court manner (53) stubborn (59) hated shoes (60) ship and trade firm; massive fortune (61) force to be reckoned with (70) like father; wily; stubborn; stormy; proud (79) soft, plump lips (101) strong, proud, pure (105)
. . . . . .
Czar Alexander[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Russian ruler; 25-y-o; Anatole's cousin; gentle; scholarly (110)
Signore Ambrosetti[No Appearance] excellent architect (319)
Lady Antonia[One Appearance] gossiping lady in waiting // buxom; blond (190)
Eugene Beauharnais[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] Fouché hoped to force Serafina to marry to gain control of King Lazar's Navy // Bonaparte's 24-y-o stepson; young aristocrat; honorable; loyal; even-tempered; on wrong side of war (23)
Bianca[Brief Appearances] Serafina's white Persian cat (33)
Joseph Bonaparte[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] Napoleon's brother (234)
Josephine Bonaparte[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] weak-chinned Empress (234)
Lucien Bonaparte[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] Napoleon's brother (234)
Napoleon Bonaparte[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] warring Emperor
Pauline Bonaparte[Actual Historical Character / Brief Appearances] attempted to seduce Darius // Napoleon's youngest sister; beauty; famous for her conquests and scandalous actions; 25-y-o (220) dark hair; very difficult to read (255)
King Bonifacio The Black[No Appearance] founder of the royal house; had the tunnels built (316)
Lady Julia "Jules" Calazzi[Major Secondary Character] widow scheming to marry Darius; betrayed Prince Rafael // Darius's lover; voluptuous; brunette; notorious seductress (55) widowed (56) malicious schemer (57) La Divine Julia (60) husband left her in debt (61) bedded Anatole (62) brains; wit; sophistication (303) 27-y-o (315)
Prince Camillo[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Pauline Bonaparte's husband (221)
Cara[Secondary Character] Serafina's best friend // petite; blue eyes; blond; Serafina's best friend; 19-y-o; staid (75)
Diamante[Brief Appearance] Serafina's mare (266)
Viscount D'Abrande[One Appearance] French spy (179)
d'Enghien[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] young Bourbon duke; killed for trying to assassinate Napoleon (253)
Elisabetta "Els"[Secondary Character] Serafina's best friend // tall; leggy; red-head; no morals; Serafina's best friend; flair for outrageous; 22-y-o; green eyes (75) seduced crown prince (78)
Falconi[Brief Appearances] palace steward; tidy little man (179)
Queen Allegra di Fiore[Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book One] Serafina's mother; Queen of Ascencion // charitable crusader; Serafina respected to point of awe; presence that commanded with compassion; 38-y-o; unshakeable; impossible to lie to; never had to raise voice in discipline (78) beautiful; ivory , freckled skin; gold-streaked auburn hair, with few gray hairs; moved softly; hugely pregnant; wise; powerful; graceful; like a mighty angel; best thing to happen to Ascencion in 700 years (79)
King Lazar di Fiore[Secondary Character] [Hero of Book One] Serafina's father; King of Ascencion // proud (28) King; bold and seasoned warrior; black hair; silver at temples; powerfully built frame; pirate grin; rugged, weathered face; forceful, charismatic presence; Darius's benefactor (69) dark, penetrating eyes (71) wily; stubborn; stormy; proud (79) warm, crooked grin (80)
Lorenzo di Fiore[No Appearance] Serafina's ancestor (269)
Prince Rafael "Rafe" di Fiore[Secondary Character] [Hero of Book Three] crown prince; Serafina's brother (78) sandy brown hair; tanned; sinewy; 19-y-o; gold-green eyes; cleft in chin (180) Prince Charming; tanned; handsome; irresistible, inborn charm (206) had mother's coloring (207) Darius called him "Raffaele" (209) Prince Rafael Giancarlo Ettore di Fiore; sun-kissed tawny hair streaked with gold; thoughtful gold-green eyes with gold-tipped lashes; comely; well-formed; elegant athletic body; sun-tanned body; known as hellion; unquestioned darling of kingdom; apple of queen's eye; king's pride and joy (303)
Fouché[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Napoleon's minister of police; sent men after Serafina to prevent Russian alliance (22)
Lieutenant Alex Giroux[Minor Secondary Character] Darius's aide (49) fair haired (53)
Henri[One Appearance] French spy sent to kidnap Serafina to prevent her marriage to Russian Prince // tall; finely dressed (2) tousled blond curls; fearsome (3)
Aunt Isabelle[No Appearance] Serafina's elderly aunt (76)
Jihad[Brief Appearances] Darius's midnight Andalusian stallion (115)
Kwee-Kwee[Brief Appearances] Serafina's talapoin monkey (33)
Princess Margaret[No Appearance] Anatole's first wife; murdered (110)
Orsini[Brief Appearances] Darius's successor as captain of Royal Guard (31) broad, meaty face (173)
Don Pedro[No Appearance] old retired matador; taught Darius to play guitar; lived next door to count's alcazar (135)
Pia[Brief Appearances] Serafina's maid (79)
Czar Paul[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Russian Ruler // Alexander's father; a madman; murdered (110)
Sir James Richards[No Appearance] British intelligence; Darius's colleague (311) excellent agent; weapons expert (312)
Roberto[One Appearance] fawning courtier (194)
Philippe Saint-Laurent[Brief Appearance] French spy sent to kidnap Serafina to prevent her marriage to Russian Prince // (6) smug; Frenchman (6) handsome face; a professional (7) trained to kill (8) tall; ruthless (12) too forward; arrogant; smooth-talking (75)
Teresa[Brief Appearances] Darius's former lover (185) graceful; doe-eyed (189)
Tomas[One Appearance] sergeant of squad guarding Serafina (168)
Prince Anatole Tyurinov[Major Secondary Character] Russian Prince betrothed to Serafina by King Lazar to establish a military alliance // (22): Serafina's fiancé (12) Russian (22) vainglorious golden giant (23) 33-y-o; war hero; blue-blooded pedigree; martial victories; golden good looks (24) bulky, herculean build (89) charisma (109) had no honor; deceitful (111) massive man; copper-gold mane vainly spilling to his gigantic shoulders (194) broad chest; pitilessly cold light azure blue eyes; square chin (195) voice like rusted plow being dragged over gravel (196) size and brute strength of bull (200) brawny biceps (298)

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"Princess" Quotations
101"Everyone looks at me, but nobody sees me . . ."
104"You don't know what it's like, never belonging anywhere."
187It had never mattered before that he didn't want these women.   What mattered was that they wanted him.   Somebody, anybody wanted him, even if it was only for this.

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"Princess" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
. . . . . . Gaelen Foley Website Author
. . . . . . Gaelen Foley Facebook Author
D / Hot09-16-1999All About Romance 
Favorites12-23-2000All About RomanceThe All Time Reader Favorites - 2000 (see: Annabelle)
4.40 average{69 reviews}Amazonas of: October 17, 2012
4.0005-29-2012An Obsession For Romance{High 3s - Low 4s} // Very Clever Voting Chart on Site
4.50 average{57 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: October 19, 2012
----Fact FictList of Books In The Ascencion Trilogy
----Fantastic FictionList of Gaelen Foley's Books
----Fiction DBList of Gaelen Foley's Books
3.88 average{40 reviews}Good Readsas of: October 16, 2012
3.86 average{2 reviews}Library Thingas of: October 19, 2012
Grade: 83--Mrs. Giggles 
3.90 average{103 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: October 19, 2012
4.50 Top Pick08-....-1999RT {Romantic Times} Book Reviews 
4.44 average{10 reviews}Shelfarias of: October 19, 2012
4.0007-25-1999The Romance Reader 
4.3510-19-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

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♥  Very Subjective Rating
♥  Will Be Happy To Add Your Review Link to Table

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gaelen Foley -- The Pirate Prince

Gaelen Foley -- The Pirate Prince Rated: ❦ ❦❦ . ❧   {3.85}
Action: ♠♠. / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦ / Suspense: ★★★
Action: 2.5 / Emotion: 4.5 / Romance: 3 / Sensuous: 2 / Suspense: 3   //   Historical Flavor: 1.5 / Smiles: 1 / Tears: 4

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  Romantic Times: 1998 Best First Historical Romance Award Winner
Remembered enjoying The Knight Miscellany Series by Gaelen Foley when read it a few years ago, so decided to give her very first book a try.   The Pirate Prince, the first book in The Ascencion Trilogy was an enjoyable read, but it was not a book that kept my undivided attention.   This review may be a bit off-kilter because after voraciously reading the first half of the book, I went through an extremely dry spell when it came to reading.   The most abnormal thing happened -- I just did not feel like reading.   In fact, did not read for two full weeks before picking up this book to finish it.   Therefore, my take on this book should be digested with a grain of salt.

Obviously, if the hero, Prince Lazar di Fiore, and/or the heroine Allegra Monteverdi had wormed their way deep into the recesses of my heart, this book would have been read without interruption.   But neither of these characters succeeded in making an overwhelming impression.   In fact, the reason it was so easy to put this book aside was because Lazar and Allegra's redundant actions aboard his ship began to grow tiresome.   Lazar was all about wanting to bed Allegra while she was all about convincing him that he needed to take his rightful place as the King of Ascencion.

Foley did an excellent job of initially drawing one into the story by inspiring a desire to read further to find out all the details about why Lazar has been gone from Ascencion for fifteen years and why it took him so long to return to enact revenge against the current corrupt ruler of Ascencion -- Allegra's father, Governor Ottavio Monteverdi.   As Lazar enters the island through the secret tunnels known only to the kings of Ascencion, Allegra is attending a party honoring her father.

It is a bit difficult to warm up to Allegra's character because she is too idealistic and believes she can make a difference in the lives of the downtrodden peasants of Ascencion by providing them with bits and pieces of charity to compensate for her father's overly-harsh rule.   And if that didn't convince one that Allegra was wearing very rosy glasses and didn't have a clue when it came to real life, the fact was hammered home because Allegra had agreed to marry her father's protégé and successor, Viscount Domenic Clemente, because she felt she could help the Ascencioners by offering Domenic wifely advice on how to rule.

Foley began preparing readers for the future contentions between Lazar and Allegra by introducing the ghosts in their pasts.   Allegra had been living in Paris with Aunt Isabella for the past nine years following the suicide of her beautiful mother, Lady Cristiana Monteverdi.   Because Cristiana had been not-so-secretly in love with Lazar's father, King Alphonse di Fiore, it became plausible that her husband would become one of the conspirators who sought to kill King Alphonse and his family.   Allegra had dreamed of Prince Lazar and believed in the Ascencioners' legend that the thirteen-year-old prince escaped the night his family was slaughtered -- and would one day return to rule.

Lazar was a character of contrasts.   He was portrayed as a man of confidence, who inspired trust and loyalty from his men.   Lazar became the leader of Wolfe's Brethren when the pirates who served with Captain Raynor Wolfe, the pirate king, voted Lazar as his successor upon Wolfe's death during a mutiny in Antigua four years earlier.   There were six under-captains who sailed alongside Lazar's ship, The Whale; namely: {1} a giant tow-headed Dutchman, Captain Bickerson of The Tempest; {2} a jovial Irishman, Captain Sullivan of The Hawk; {3} an old seadog, a taciturn Scot, Captain Fitzhugh of The Hound; {4} a foppish young American, Captain Morris; {5} a fiery Portugese, Captain Russo of the brig Sultana; and {6} a disowned son of a French gentleman, Captain Landau of the brigantine Dragonfly.

Lazar is portrayed as a man who dealt out his brand of justice swiftly and without remorse.   That is, until he turned his back on his plan (that was two years in the making) to seek revenge against Ottavio Monteverdi and his family for betraying and killing King Alphonse and his family.   Foley painted a tortured, very vulnerable side to Lazar -- that of a thirteen-year-old boy who had to exist in shame and slavery to Sayf-del-Malik, the ruler of Al Khuum -- a man who fed off fear and the pleasures of causing pain.   The time Lazar spent in captivity caused this self-possessed, fun-loving prince to became a man who suffered from deep feelings of unworthiness.   Lazar became a cold-blooded pirate, but remained a man who could not rape a woman, nor a man who could kill women and children.

Lazar had one long-time friend, who sailed the seas with him.   The English gentleman, John Southwell, called Vicar because he used to be an Angelican priest, struggled to keep the humane side of Lazar alive underneath his piratical exterior.   Vicar was instrumental in helping Allegra turn Lazar away from painting his soul entirely black by convincing him to spare the lives of the Monteverdi family.   Although Vicar played a very important role to Lazar and the story, his personality was minimally developed and he quite often stayed in the background.

The action and adventure nature of the story (Lazar conquering governor's palazzo) turned to sensuality as Lazar took Allegra aboard his ship to seduce her.   Foley did a wonderful job of writing very sensual scenes between Lazar and Allegra as they engaged in foreplay and fought about Lazar returning to Ascencion to take his rightful place as king -- to save the people.   Since Allegra was determined not to become like her mother (fall in love with an unattainable king), she constantly struggled to reject Lazar's advances since he was betrothed to Princess Nicolette Habsburg years ago.   Foley did a great job writing sensually heated scenes, but their actual lovemaking was more emotional than spicy.

When Allegra finally convinced Lazar to return to Ascencion, he first had to face his worst nightmare.   Lazar had to return to Al Khuum to retrieve the signet ring Malik had stolen from him.   This section of the book was a bit disappointing and underdeveloped.   Foley had spent many pages inspiring suspense and interest in what happened to Lazar during his captivity, so expected a more exciting, action-packed scenario when the final showdown came between Lazar and Malik.   Instead the scenes were brief and spent more time highlighting Allegra's worry and attempt to help Lazar, then on the actual exchange between Lazar, Vicar and Malik.

When Allegra finally arrived at Malik's palace, she was able to help save Lazar and Vicar with the help of another slave, fourteen-year-old Darius Santiago.   Foley began drawing a comparison between Lazar and Darius as she introduced this new character into the story.   Even though events transpired quickly after Lazar, Allegra and Darius returned to the ship after their confrontation with Malik, it would have been nice to read more about the relationship that was developing between Lazar and Darius.   Since Darius is the hero in the second book of this series (Princess), will get to learn more about him when read his book.  

Foley revealed Domenic Clemente as a purely-evil, point of view character, who kept cropping up periodically throughout the story to inspire a bit of suspense.   Clemente wanted to keep his place as the new ruler of Ascencion and was determined to prevent Lazar from returning by putting a pirate's bounty on his head.   And, for some reason (probably because he hadn't had her yet), Clemente was determined to return Allegra to his side.   Even through Foley set all these cogs into motion, leading readers to expect a great big, exciting finale, with Lazar going toe-to-toe with Clemente over Allegra, the finale, while exciting, did not exactly inspire a big splash.

Foley displayed her talents as a writer by bringing forth tears during several scenes of this book . . . in spite of the lack of deep emotional connection to the hero and heroine of this book.   Since Foley spent so much time in the middle of the book regaling readers with the battles between Lazar and Allegra, she made Lazar's journey to becoming the new ruler of Ascencion brief and anti-climactic.   There was no battle nor a face-off with Clemente.   Foley had readers crying about the deteriorating relationship between Lazar and Allegra as the political pieces promptly fell into place, resulting in Lazar's acceptance as the new king.

Basically, The Priate Prince was an enjoyable read and not to be missed.   However, it will not find its way onto my favorites list.
--Vonda M. Reid (Friday, October 5, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.)   {282}
Note: Am I the only one who noticed that Foley spelled Ascencion with a "c" rather than an "s" on page 1 of The Pirate Prince (and all the way through the book)?   I mean the editors even spelled it as Ascension on the back cover of the book.   Look at all the sites that listed the trilogy as The Ascension Trilogy: {1} Amazon, {2} Barnes & Noble, {3} Fantastic Fiction, {4} FictionDB, {4} Good Reads, {5} Library Thing, {6} Paperback Swap, {7} Shelfari, and last, and most definitely not least, {8} Gaelen Foley's very own website.

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Books In The Series: "The Ascencion Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.09-1998The Pirate PrincePrince Lazar di FioreAllegra Monteverdi
02.07-1999PrincessColonel Darius SantiagoPrincess Serafina di Fiore
03.02-2000Prince CharmingPrince Raffaele Giancarlo Ettore di FioreLady Daniela "Dani" Chiaramonte

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Characters Found In "The Pirate Prince"
Character Description
Prince Lazar di Fiore[Hero] (1) sun-browned, roped-calloused hand; last descendant alive from the great House of the Fiore (2) beautiful half-wild savage; piercing midnight eyes; powerful chest; ridged belly; fierce pride in hard chiseled face (27) arrestingly good looking; broad, elegant forehead; finely etched charcoal black brows, with devilish flare at outer corners; inky lashes; large, soulful black as the night sea eyes; proud, Roman sort of nose; rugged square jaw of a born conqueror; full, sensual lips (37) hair startlingly shorn to a coarse black stubble (39) half a foot taller than Allegra; granite-hewn body (40) pure, solid muscle (59) most intensely alive person Allegra had ever met (73) 13-y-o when left Ascencion (78) strong (92) Devil of Antigua; soulful chocolate-brown eyes, rays of gold in his irises (93) 28-y-o (116) powerful expanse of wide shoulders; lean, tapered waist (125) air of effortless command in his walk; power in broad shoulders; self-assurance in very angle of his chin (131) Queen's nickname for him was Leo (137) clever; charismatic (148) golden skin; muscled chest and arms; belly carved with flowing ridges; crisscrossing scars healed into a tough, leathery mesh that spanned his back in a gridiron design (152) extreme; intense; dangerous (177) had once been young and idealistic (194) large warm calloused hands (198) depth of character; strength (200) cynic (205) powerful body; deadly skills (213) massive shoulders; muscled back; restless grace; hard profile (239) joined Wolfe's brethren when 16-17 (244) sense of honor (247) sculpted grandeur of golden chest (249) Malik called him "Lazzo" (262) imagination; ingenuity (303)
Allegra Monteverdi[Heroine] (5) intelligence; spirit (10) lovely; good-hearted; slender, elegant figure; chestnut-colored hair; laughter like clear silver bells (19) childlike smattering of buttery freckles; large, expressive honey brown eyes, lashes tipped in gold; fineness in bearing commanded instant respect; focused grace that made her shine (22) gold-streaked chestnut hair (26) 20-y-o (116) brave; honest; idealistic; fierce, yet sweet; demanding, yet pure (167) irises the warm brown of cinnamon sticks (193) gold-tipped lashes (196) flawless face; elegantly curved auburn brows (197) beauty; grit; moral fiber (205) fresh-scrubbed; radiant; ivory skin (235)
. . .. . .
Mother Beatrice[No Appearance] ran convent school where Allegra was student (91)
Bernardo of St. Eilion[Secondary Character] Ascencion musician; kept the legend of Lazar alive (87) fat little bard (303)
Captain Bickerson[Secondary Character] one of Lazar's under-captains; captain of The Tempest (84) (233) giant towheaded Dutchman (234)
Bonifacio the Black[No Appearance] Lazar's ancestor // first king of the Fiori; cut down invading Saracens (127)
Brigitta[One Appearance] Nicolette Habsburg's lady in waiting (358)
General Enzo Calendri[Brief Appearance] King Alphonse's former cabinet member; head of the armed forces (210)
Don Carlo[One Appearance] Clemente's councilman (346)
Viscount Domenic Clemente[Major Secondary Character] Allegra's fiancé; governor's right-hand man; did everything with impeccable grace and elegance; pale gold, lightly powdered hair in neat queue; polished; sullen, pouting tilt to mouth; crisp, aristocratic angles to face; green eyes glinted like emerald blades (5) smooth condescension (10) blond (27) lean, athletic body (29)
Mr. Donaldson[Brief Appearances] one of Lazar's pirates // took Harcourt's place (321) ever-reliable purser (335)
Don Enrique[One Appearance] Clemente's councilman (346)
Emilio[No Appearance] Lazar's chef (167) attended de Medici school in Tuscany (169)
King Alphonse di Fiore [No Appearance] Lazar's father; king of Acencion; killed in ambush fifteen years ago // half as big as a mountain; mind as keen as the gleaming, ancient broadsword of the Fiore kings (79)
Queen Eugenia di Fiore [No Appearance] killed in ambush fifteen years ago // Lazar's mother (48) violet eyes (127)
Phillip "Pip" di Fiore[No Appearance] killed in ambush fifteen years ago // Lazar's younger brother (84)
Princess Anna di Fiore [No Appearance] killed in ambush fifteen years ago // Lazar's sister (48) four years old when murdered (84)
Captain Fitzhugh[Secondary Character] one of Lazar's under-captains; captain of The Hound; taciturn Scot with long gray sideburns and bushy eyebrows to match; about Vicar's age; one of Wolfe's first recruits from earliest days of the Brethren; more cautious than most of their breed; piracy was a business to him (233) old sea captain; honest man (236)
Father Francesco[Brief Appearance] King Alphonse's former cabinet member; archbishop (210) kind, grave soul (337)
Don Gian[One Appearance] Clemente's most intimidating councilman (347)
Giraud[One Appearance] one of Allegra's bodyguards (76)
Goliath[Brief Appearance] one of Lazar's fellow pirates; took Allegra // dark mop of mangy, ragged hair, beady eyes beneath a heavy brow, loomed has as big as Gibraltar (76) rotten-toothed breath (77) ham-like hands (90)
Gordon[One Appearance] Malik's Janissary warrior; Lazar's old friend; gold-haired English giant; known in youth for his practical jokes; nothing left of Lazar's friend in dead, metallic-gray stare (265)
Maria Antoinette Habsburg[No Appearance] Nicolette's older sister; married Dauphin of France (302)
Princess Nicolette Habsburg[Important Secondary Character] [Brief Appearances] betrothed to Prince Lazar; Austrian Habsburg princess; the bulldog girl (137) face of an angel; hair the color of winter sunshine; skin like fresh cream; cheeks pale pink roses; large, round cornflower blue eyes (357) 17-y-o (361)
Hamdy[One Appearance] Moor; worked for Malik; son of Ibrihim the Ugly (259)
Mr. Harcourt[Brief Appearances] Lazar's favorite boatswain (232)
Aunt Isabelle[No Appearance] house in Paris; raised Allegra last 9 years since death of mother (8)
Jacques[One Appearance] one of Lazar's men // sailmaker; garrulous; good-natured; from French islands in West Indies (243)
Jeffers[Brief Appearances] one of Lazar's fellow pirates; tough ex-convict; hulking man (84)
Josefina[No Appearance] Allegra's Parisian maid (148)
Sayf-del-Malik Al Khuum[Important Secondary Character] held Lazar captive when he was thirteen; ruler of Al Khuum // His Excellency Al Khuum; taught Lazar skills of intimidation (79) Malik; held Lazar as a slave; addicted him to opium (181) stolen Lazar's signet ring, faith, pride and self-respect; Sayf-del-Malik (182) "The Sword of Honor" (253) black eyes; beautiful; deadly as a shark (261) feeds off fear and pleasures of causing pain (271) lean; swarthy; sinister grace about him (274) evil palpable in the air (275)
Captain Landau[Secondary Character] one of Lazar's under-captains; tall, wily Frenchman; disowned son of a gentleman; captain of swift, beautiful brigantine Dragonfly (234) friendly; gallant; witty; attentive (337)
Maria[Brief Appearance] Domenic's mistress; loyal and obedient as Spaniel (55)
Andrew McCullough[One Appearance] one of Lazar's men (335)
Mickey the Bean[One Appearance] one of Lazar's men (335)
Duke of Milan[No Appearance] hosted wedding rehearsal dinner (364)
Lady Cristiana Monteverdi[No Appearance] died nine years ago // Allegra's mother; Eugenia's lady-in-waiting (48) beautiful; sad eyes; in love with Alphonse; Eugenia's closest girlhood friend (81) aura of strength; calm; steady poise (173)
Ottavio Monteverdi[Important Secondary Character] current Governor of Acencion; ruled for past 15 years // Allegra's father; brown eyes; middle 50s; medium height; reasonably fit; respectable paunch; slightly tense manner; handled guests smoothly, seasoned by decades of civil service (8) nervous; gray hair; did not like displays of affection; tidy; meticulous (9) King's old adviser (79)
Captain Morris[Secondary Character] one of Lazar's under-captains; foppish young American; self-styled buccaneer with no qualms about cutting throats (233) boy captain; dirty lace flounces on his sleeves (234)
Mutt[One Appearance] one of Lazar's men; head carpenter (335)
Don Pasquale[Brief Appearance] King Alphonse's former cabinet member; prime minister; called the Fox (210) golden eyes; hawk nose; cold; insidiously clever (337)
Pierre[One Appearance] one of Lazar's men // sailmaker; garrulous; good-natured; from French islands in West Indies (243)
Pietro[One Appearance] one of Allegra's bodyguards (76)
Doctor Raleigh[Brief Appearance] The Whale's surgeon (240)
Captain Russo[Secondary Character] one of Lazar's under-captains; fiery Portugese captain of the brig Sultana (234)
King Salvatore the Fourth[No Appearance] one of Lazar's ancestors (127)
Darius Santiago[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book Two"] 14-y-o; exceeding beautiful youth; compact and well proportioned of form; none of gangling awkwardness of his age; jet-black hair; brooding dark eyes under long, thick lashes; full lips that gave him a sullen, sensual pout (269) Malik's slave (270) Andalusian youth (274)
Sullivan "Sully"[Secondary Character] one of Lazar's under-captains; captain of The Hawk (84) "Sully": usually jovial; Irishman (85) (233)
"Vicar" / John Southwell[Important Secondary Character] Lazar's best friend; traveled with Lazar // from England; Lazar's friend; gentleman; used to be Angelican priest; "Vicar" (92) lean; distinguished; older gentleman; long gray-white hair pulled back in neat club (95) spectacles; deep-set silver eyes; keen, penetrating eyes; Devil's prisoner for 11 years; professor at Oxford University (96) kind man (248)
Father Vincent[Brief Appearance] Acencion bishop (13)
Wallace[Brief Appearance] one of Lazar's men (146)
Wilkes[Brief Appearance] one of Lazar's fellow pirates; Jeffers' hardened partner (84)
Captain Raynor Wolfe[No Appearance] killed in mutiny at battle of Antigua four years ago // the pirate king; Lazar once served (153) Dutch (154) long white beard; fierce gray eyes; missing a leg (243) instincts of old-time sea dog; madman; cruel; carried away with the cat-o'-nine (244)

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"The Pirate Prince" Quotations
162 Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, . . .
--quoting Machiavelli

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"The Pirate Prince" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
. . . . . . Gaelen Foley Website Author
. . . . . . Gaelen Foley Facebook Author
A / Hot12-12-2005All About RomanceLea Hensley / Desert Isle Keeper Review
B- / Hot 04-20-2004All About RomanceDee Sains
4.41 average{79 reviews}Amazonas of: October 10, 2012
3.0001-08-2011Amazon: Reviewer "Regan"Excellent Review (on Amazon) {Regan's Romance Reviews}
4.0001-16-2005Amazon: Reviewer "ellejir"Excellent Review (on Amazon)
4.53 average{70 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: October 11, 2012
6 / 6 / 510-03-2002Eye On RomanceBear's Review
10 / 10 / 1006-09-2006Eye On RomanceKristen's Review
----Fact FictList of Books In Series
----Fantastic FictionList of Gaelen Foley's Books
----Fiction DBList of Gaelen Foley's Books
3.87 average{61 reviews}Good Readsas of: October 7, 2012
3.81 average{5 reviews}Library Thingas of: October 11, 2012 (1 German)
4.00 average{118 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: October 11, 2012
--01-03-2006Ramblings On RomanceOn Top Ten List: Short Blurb
4.50 / Top Pick03-30-2010RT {Romantic Times} Book Review1998 Best First Historical Romance Award Winner
3.40 average{10 reviews}Shelfarias of: October 11, 2012
4.5010-21-2006The Adventures of an Intrepid ReaderNew Find
5.0006-13-2009The Best Reviews[pj] also on: Good Reads, Library Thing
3.5010-13-2011The Book BingeHolly's Review; also on Good Reads
Number 805-23-2012The Historical Romance DestinationOn Top Ten List: Short Blurb
3.0008-12-1998The Romance ReaderExcellent Review; Valid Points
3.8510-08-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

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