Wicked Loving Lies (This DIK review was written by a reader)
2002 reissue of 1976 release, Historical Romance (1800s [Napoleon] France, England, U.S., Middle East, High Seas)
MIRA, $6.99, 768 pages, Amazon ASIN 1551669277
Ever wanted to have it all? All the romance sub-genres in one sexy epic? Yankee pirate Dominic Challenger captures pure and sheltered Marisa, then transports her to the decadent court of Napoleon. Amidst glittering intrigue, Dominic and Marisa are forced into a loveless marriage by the wily French diplomat Talleyrand.
Crazy about regency-set historicals? Months later, Marisa is in London, enjoying the Season and being wooed by cultivated Philip Sinclair. Highwaymen are sexy - so here comes Dominic, disguised as a highwayman, to reclaim his wayward bride. Lots of sex here! Cut to Philip's fog-shrouded estate, where Marisa is kept prisoner by mad servants. Ah, romantic suspense. Rigged duels, horrible deaths, and Dominic and Marisa set sail again.
Uh-oh! Tripoli pirates take the ship, and soon Marisa is enjoying the languid life of a harem slave. If you love sexy desert sheikhs, this is the section to read. But read fast - the United States Marines just stormed the Shores of Tripoli!
Steamy southern mansions? Scheming southern belles? Fresh from the harem, Marisa inherits a lush Louisiana plantation, only her stepmother Inez is not too happy about sharing. Watching Marisa get cheated, humiliated and sold as a slave brings back the best of Southern Gothic - and then Dominic pops up for some incredible outdoor sex.
Tired of decadence and luxury? Want rip-snorting passion? Wild frontier romance? Let's wrap things up with a highly-sexed version of Lewis and Clark. Dominic and Marisa cross Texas sharing a blanket. Can they begin a new life together? Though Marisa is not exactly the frontier type, (think Zsa Zsa Gabor in Green Acres) the book ends with birth and renewal under the Texas stars.
Now, what is right with this classic romance, and what is wrong? Let's look at the main characters.
Marisa is the weakest link; she is utterly passive. There is not a single sex scene she initiates freely, nor a voyage she undertakes willingly. Though she takes on every guise imaginable, from cabin boy to harem girl, her own wits and resourcefulness never determine the outcome. This applies to sex as well. Without any effort of her own, she is swept to peak after peak of moaning ecstasy. Marisa is a victim heroine, never truly assertive or independent.
Dominic is better. At first he seems like a Rhett Butler clone, laughing demonically as he carries Marisa up the stairs. But notice how kind he is to minor characters, like his henchman Donald or the slave Paulus. This brooding hero saw his mother tortured to madness by his unfeeling father. He has been tortured himself by sea captains, slave owners, and aristocrats of every description. It takes time for him to recognize Marisa as a victim like himself, (and like his mother.) But he is able to grow, and in spite of all the outer cheesiness he ultimately becomes a valid character.
But what saves this book, and makes it a true desert island keeper, is the incredible richness of the historical settings. Everything seems so real! Even if you don't care for Marisa, you can take her place. Sink into the pages and lose yourself in luxury. Then too, there is the amazing appeal of the minor characters. Look closely and you find an unforgettable supporting cast, several of whom could easily carry a book on their own. Watch for these sexy extras:
Aunt Edmee - Marisa's elegant French aunt is part fairy Godmother and part dizzy matchmaker. She's still young enough and sexy enough to bed Dominic herself, but in spite of that little indiscretion she's genuinely devoted to her niece. A charming woman, with a liberated view of love, a lot more strong-willed and candid than one might expect.
Inez - the wicked witch, the cruel stepmother. What makes her interesting is the fact that Marisa herself recognizes her strength, and is drawn to the exotic Latin beauty like a moth to a flame. Inez is cruel and ruthless, but also poised and intelligent. A classically attractive femme fatale.
Kamil - the desert sheikh. All powerful at first, Kamil loses himself to the worship of his pampered Marisa, anointing her with oils and showering her with gifts. One senses that he is an older man, desperate to hold on to his virility. A surprisingly complex figure, both proud and helpless.
Lalie - the gentle slave. Lalie is a dignified character who shows the quiet resolve of oppressed people everywhere. With her black lover Paulus, she helps Dominic and Marisa escape to the frontier. She is graceful and attractive, appealingly soft-spoken, and always politically correct.
Rosemary Rogers invented much of the historical romance as we know it today from the bodice ripper branch of the romance family tree. With glittering locations, historical intrigue, and torrid sex that goes on and on, her books still excite. But today's readers demand a heroine who chooses sexual experience rather than simply submitting to it. The fact is, the romance genre has grown up a lot in the 25 years since Wicked Loving Lies, but Rosemary Rogers is one author who started it on its way.
-- Larry Rogers
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