Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Zebra (October 1, 2006)
Publisher: Zebra (October 1, 2006)
Emeline's entire life is controlled by men. She's just been won in a wager by Jeffrey, the Duke of Eton, who keeps her under lock and key. And her cruel stepfather, Simon, wants nothing more that to dominate her entire future. What she wants is a man who'll set her free...and Rogan Cullen, heir to the dukedom, just may be the answer to her dreams...
Rogan is more than eager to have Emeline in his care, but his urge to protect her grows into a yearning to possess her - body and soul. Surrendering completely to love, they cannot foresee that something very sinister threatens to destroy them, for Simon will stop at nothing to control his stepdaughter's future...and only the most fervent passion can endure against such relentless odds...
The first time I'd heard about this book was early this year, while visiting Michelle Buonfiglio's Romance by the Blog and reading her 2nd post on forced seduction. Her description of this book stuck with me, so much so that I just had to buy it, and I did, a few weeks later. But it wasn't until another 6+ months went by that I finally felt the urge to read it. Nothing against the author, it's just that I have to be in the right frame of mind to read my books, and it just took longer for this one.
When we first meet handsome and Irish Rogan Mullen, he has just returned home to Barbados from an extensive journey, and has a joyful reunion with his sister Kieran and his parents, Patrick and Camille, the characters from Tracy MacNish's previous story, "Veiled Promises". Almost immediately upon returning, his parents give him a letter from England, from Camille's brother Jeffrey, summoning him to London. Despite already having been gone from his home for so long, running from his pain, he decides to answer the summons, taking his younger sister with him. Rogan's soul is restless, his heart heavy, and he's trying to outrun the demons that have him in a chokehold, so traveling to England means naught to him.
When we first meet twenty-one year old Emeline, she has just become the new plaything of Jeffrey, Duke of Eton, cousin to Simon Britton, Emeline's stepfather. Jeffrey is also uncle to Rogan Mullen. Both Jeffrey and Simon are obsessed with Emeline in their own twisted fashion, yet Simon has lost her to Jeffrey in a card game and must give her up for as long as Jeffrey wishes to keep her. Jeffrey, inflamed by the exquisite young woman, jealously guards his new mistress, going as far as to keep her locked in a room in his home, away from others who may try and steal her away.
When Rogan and Emeline first meet, it's as only arrived at his uncle's house, with his ill sister in tow. After seeing to Kieran, he roams the mansion, and as he's passing Emeline's locked door he makes a noise and she fears it's Jeffrey, and begs that he not come to her yet again. Rogan, concerned, wonders if she needs help, but she sends him away, and intrigued, Rogan decides he will visit her again, once he's met his uncle and taken care of Kieran.
Soon, feeling out of place, more restless, he returns to Emeline's door, not sure why, but compelled nonetheless. Later, he's appalled to hear his uncle and Simon talking of Emeline at the dinner table, and tries to control his anger at their crude comments in the presence of Jeffrey's wife. Incensed by them, and giving in to his own demons, he find some oblivion in London for a few hours, and upon returning to the mansion in the wee hours of the night, once again finds himself in front of Emeline's door, and turns into a regular though unusual correspondence with the young woman. They talk of a great many things, and Rogan presses to find a way to save his Princess Emeline, but she refuses to let him. She does warn him though: if he ever sees her, he will want to bed her. It's what happens to men.
Inevitably the day comes where Emeline is released from her confinement, and on that day, Rogan sees her for the first time, and yes, he does indeed want her. Very badly. She is all she warned about, and more. Emeline in turn feels an awareness for Rogan, sees his strength, his vitality, his beauty. Yet unbeknownst to Rogan, Emeline is trapped, a prisoner of a madman who has a hold over her in a way that makes it impossible for her to be free; she cannot escape because he has control, and in the end, someone must die. Emeline must make a choice, and along with it, lose her soul.
For me, this was a difficult book to read at times. Not because it was awful, but because of Emeline and the cruel way these men violate her. Though we don't get explicit descriptions of what happens to her with Jeffrey or with Simon, but do we know she does not like what she is forced to do. One's imaginations is given free rein, and these passages had me squirming, but not in a good way. Emeline is a victim, and she knows it, hates the constant shame and humilation of what she has become, yet cannot avoid it. She does what she must to survive, and if that means acting the part of whore, then that is what she must do.
Rogan is equally as inflamed with Emeline as Jeffrey and Simon, but the difference is, he sees her desperation, that is merely tolerating her situation and finds no pleasure in it, and it eats at him. Rogan is the rare man who truly doesn't care what others think of him, and has enough control over his own lust not to force himself on Emeline, even when she tries to use her body to thank him for his kindness. Eventually Rogan convinces Emeline that she is more than an object of men's needs, and she begins to trust in him and believe what he not only tells her, but shows her with example. He desires her, recognizes this, fights it, for he wants to give her something more, his respect, to show her she is a brave, caring woman worthy of love and happiness, just not from him. He makes no promises; he can never love her. But he can, and will help her, protect her. She deserves that much. One thing I have to mention is that Rogan had this way of saying "aye" when he talked, it was just so charming to me, and such a part of him.
I loved the interaction between Emeline and Rogan, how brutally honest they are with each other, and how Rogan doesn't ride in on his white horse and save the day. Emeline saves herself, and Rogan knows she can. He may never be able to care for her as she deserves but he can be her friend, and he will stand by her. Both have been broken in different ways, and recognize that in each other. Parts of their story were heartbreaking, but also beautiful. As difficult as it was to read at times, other moments were a joy. The developing relationship between Rogan and Emeline is touching and earthy, and as it unfolds, it becomes stronger, deeper, more honest. It is a story that will stay with me for a long time. I only wish there were more books out there that would have a similar impact on me.
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****