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
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