May 2008, European Historical Romance (1760s [Georgian] England)
Forever, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446406910 Part of a series
I’m not certain I can put into words how To Taste Temptation, the first installation of Elizabeth Hoyt's new Legend of the Four Soldiers series made me feel. I’ve never read the author before and I don’t know how this book stands up next to the others she’s written. I only know that I loved the setting, the plot captivated me, and the characters intrigued me.
Samuel Hartley is a self-made man. Born in the backwoods of colonial Pennsylvania, he served as a scout for the British Army during the French and Indian War, the result of which brings him to England on a quest for a traitor. If he can find out who betrayed the regiment, he hopes to ease his own demons resulting from his actions during the massacre and find justice for all those who were slaughtered. While in England, one of his goals is to make the acquaintance of Lady Emeline Gordon, sister of a British officer killed at Spinner’s Falls, who Samuel admired greatly. Once he meets Emeline, he sees through her prickly exterior to the vulnerable woman underneath.
Lady Emeline Gordon is a model of proper deportment and as such she is eagerly sought to guide young ladies successfully into society. She is also the epitome of independence, managing what’s left of her family (her aunt and son) after the deaths of her husband, father, and brother. When she first meets Samuel, she is put off by his unconventional dress and lack of respect for British social niceties. However, she is intrigued enough to accept Sam’s sister as her newest protégé. She is also aware that Sam’s rental of the house next to hers and his desire for her to mentor his sister is more than mere coincidence and quickly realizes it’s connected to what happened to her brother and the regiment.
Emeline affects Sam like no other woman before her and he can’t determine why. She is just as entranced, but wants to resist at all costs, even to the point of making other commitments formal. Their relationship takes on the characteristics of predator/prey and is completely instinctual. In Sam's mind he wants to dominate Emeline and make her his woman (however, he is not the alpha male of the old bodice rippers) and she admits to herself that she likes the domination. At the same time, he knows how strong she is and wants to ease her burdens. Samuel makes Emeline unsure of herself as she knows he can see through her strong façade and senses what she’s insecure about – her age, her unpleasant thoughts, her meanness. However, he’s so different from her, she knows the relationship is impossible – he’s a colonial, he’s in trade, and he views social status quite differently.
The Georgian setting, combined with Colonial American elements, kept me riveted. Though the action of the story does not take place in the American Colonies, it is the result of events during the French and Indian War. The horror that Sam and others experienced provides the motive for many of the characters. The contrasts between Sam and his sister and Emeline and her family illustrate the difficulties of any relationships formed between two differing groups. And while I think some readers may be put off by Samuel’s character - he is a bit of a brute after all - it is important to note that Samuel wants Emeline to admit that she is denying herself what she deserves and wants out of fear. What they both go through to get to their happily ever after is emotionally heart wrenching.
Hoyt opens her story describing the legend of four soldiers and each chapter begins with a bit more of the legend. How the legend itself corresponds with each of the chapters is truly poignant and I simply cannot wait for the next installment of this series. The rich setting, intricate plot, and powerfully intense characters make To Taste Temptation a Desert Island Keeper for me.
-- Heather Brooks
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