Thoughts on some historical romance novels #7

This was supposed to be included in the same post with my short review of Mary Balogh’s More Than A Mistress but then it took a (very) different turn and Yours Until Dawn was to get its own post. Then I thought I was gonna post it together with a review of Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton but I got carried away (just scroll down and you’ll see how) and so here you go. My review of…

Yours Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros (a.k.a. A toi jusqu’à l’aube)

I wasn’t really impressed by this. The whole idea of a woman looking after a man is very attractive to me but this book wasn’t really what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I really did. It’s just… Well, I blame it on the French! I attempted to read this one in French because I thought, well, if historical romances can get me to read so much, at least I could make it useful by polishing up my French. And I certainly don’t regret the decision. Besides the challenge proved to be rather easy. I had no difficulty following the plot. Although I would look some words up from the dictionary, its frequency didn’t bother me.

The characters are good, except for their stupid behavior towards the end. Gabriel is depicted as a rake struck by love. To prove his love is real, he goes as far as enlisting himself to fight at the war which costs him his eye sight. He returns home as a wounded man. Not only physically but also emotionally because his beloved, seeing his pitiable condition, leaves him. I would like to read a prelude to this story. To see how Gabriel fell in love with Cecily. We are given insight to this period though short passages from letters exchanged between Gabriel and Cecily at the beginning of each chapter. This was definitely a winner for me, though I was too daft to understand their purpose until it was revealed.

Samantha/Cecily is full of surprises and pleasant ones at that. I admire her for trying to atone herself for abandoning Gabriel when she finds out that he got blind at war. Adopting a false name and disguising her natural perfume to avoid being uncovered by Gabriel, she becomes his nurse. Gabriel falls in love with Samantha without knowing that she’s the same woman he loved before. When Gabriel regains his eye sight at the end (bah!) Cecily has no choice but to leave him. Burdened by guilt over having left him helpless and vulnerable, she can’t have him know her true identity. No matter how much it breaks her heart… Wow, I should try my hand at writing romance blurbs!

I did like this book but going back and rereading some parts, I realized that it contained some morally disturbing scenes… At least to me. So, I want to take a closer look at the love scenes. There aren’t so many anyway but already the size of this review is scaring me. Anyway, the following four quotes are from when Gabriel and Samantha make love for the first time.

All excerpts from the book © Teresa Medeiros All rights reserved

It had been so long since he’d held a naked woman in his arms. Even before Trafalgar, he’d spent months of self-imposed celibacy longing for Cecily. While the other sailors aboard the Victory had satisfied their cruder urges with harbor prostitutes during their brief stints ashore, he had remained aboard the ship rereading Cecily’s letters. Although his body had burned for release, he had been content to let it smolder while he dreamed of the day when they would be reunited. If he had known that day would never come, he still would have been willing to wait for this moment. For Samantha.

Doesn’t sound realistic, does it? When writers try to make their heroes look appealing by making them appear as if they think like women on celibacy (you know, saving yourself for someone special), it makes me want to laugh. Imagine this scenario: A guy has sex with a woman once and later tells her that he felt horrible after it because he still hasn’t got over his ex girlfriend. He is either being serious or just trying to come up with an excuse to make the woman go “Awww…” over him in order not to do it again. Doesn’t matter but let’s say that the woman buys into his confession. This would have an appeal for me. It would raise my opinion of the guy but at the same time, the notion sounds too impossible, and therefore, so unmanly. And coming back to Medeiros’ book, the way a man’s voluntary celibacy is flaunted like that doesn’t not make me go “Awww…” Especially when it deems other men “crude” for paying sex workers. So suddenly, if you’re a guy and you hook up with a prostitute you become crude? Please…

“It’s all right, Samantha. There’s nothing more I need to know. I realize you haven’t been entirely forthcoming with me. A woman like you never would have sought a post like this if you hadn’t been running from your past. But I don’t care. I don’t care if there was another man before me. I don’t care if there were a dozen men. The only thing I care about is that you’re in my arms, right here, right now.”

And then he realizes that she is indeed a virgin.

Gabriel had always prided himself on his sophistication. He was shocked to learn that he was still barbarian enough to want to beat his chest and roar with triumph, all because he was the first man to have her—the only man.

So Gabriel takes satisfaction in the fact that Samantha is a virgin despite what he told her earlier. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. He was prepared to have her anyway because his love was too strong to care about virginity, which is admirable of him. *gasp* But what do you know? She is a virgin! Don’t you just love the sugar-coatedness of it? Well, I certainly don’t. I need tragedy, hard reality. And when Gabriel regained his eye sight at the end, it was just the cherry on top I need.

He wanted her to burn for him, to ache for that moment when she would take him deep inside of her and make him her own.

Interesting… Did I read that right, “make him her own“? When a man gets intimate with a woman, she automatically becomes “his.” I like to see that the “possession” takes place mutually, which is the case here. There is something so heartwarming about a man regarding himself as belonging to a particular woman. I would even say that a man saying “I’m yours” to a woman is… sexy!

Up until this moment the book was really good. Samantha is revealed to be Cecily, which was a “wow” moment for me. I didn’t see it coming and was pleasantly surprised. But then her deception at the end didn’t appeal to me. Luring Gabriel into sex while he thought her to be someone else (someone he no longer loved) wasn’t very morally correct in my opinion. That’s one thing. But Gabriel agreeing to have sex with her in a way to punish her with seduction while declaring that he will never love her was… cruel. Incredibly so. If Gabriel likened Samantha and Cecily in this thoughts at any moment in the book, I would have been okay with this scene. I would expect him to think something like this: “Something about Samantha felt oddly familiar. Something he had lost long ago along with his eye sight… No it couldn’t be. He shoved the thought right away. He couldn’t afford to go in that direction now.” But instead he doesn’t suspect a thing or at least I remember nothing of the sort.

Still kneeling there between her legs, he spread her thighs wide and drove himself deep inside of her. Gabriel heard Cecily’s gasp, saw her eyes roll back in her head, not with pain, but with pleasure. Even as her tight body struggled to contain him, he had to grit his teeth against a savage pang of disappointment. He should be grateful that she was no innocent. That meant he didn’t have to hold anything back; she was woman enough to take whatever he could give her.

What the fuck is he doing? What if she were a virgin? He would hurt her terribly then! But this is perhaps the only moment that Gabriel shows any sign of affection for Cecily if you can call it that. He discovers that she’s no virgin and becomes disappointed which, by the way, is  contradictory to his earlier statement I mentioned above. And I hate this subliminal “it’s all right” message. It’s all right that Cecily’s not a virgin because Gabriel took her virginity in the first place! Ugh!

I love you I love you I love you. The words ran through her mind like a ceaseless song. Terrified she was going to say them out loud, she buried her face against his throat, tasting the salty warmth of his sweat-dampened skin. It was just as well that she had denied him her lips. He would have tasted those words in her kiss, just as he would have tasted the helpless tears trickling down her cheeks. She rubbed her face against him, drying them with his hair.

Now this is good. Cecily is being selfish and that is deliciously heart wrenching. She is desperate for any crumb of affection she can snatch from Gabriel. She is so desperate that she will have Gabriel while he believes her to be someone else whom he hates now. She will not allow him to kiss her to prevent him from finding out who she is. And Gabriel, the dork that he is, doesn’t know it’s Samantha until he has solid proof. He should have found out from her touch, from the look in her eyes. Isn’t that the whole point of historical romances?

There is one last bit towards the end that caught my attention. Samantha is revealed to be Cecily and she’s having a conversation with her friend who is also an accomplice in her scheme. The friend suspects that Cecily must be pregnant. I roughly translated the conversation from French. It goes something like this:

“My God, you’re not… pregnant, are you?”
“I would give everything to be pregnant!”
The confession had naturally slipped from her lips.
“This shows how horrible I am, doesn’t it? To be ready to break my family’s heart, to be rejected by the ton, to risk everything just to have a reminder of him.”

I personally experienced this feeling and until I read this book I had no idea other women (fictional or not) could feel the same way. Later, I found out that Lorraine Heath’s Waking Up With the Duke contains a similar allusion to it. Interesting, isn’t it? A child from the man you love would of course be the most prominent reminder of him. Incomparable to a gift, a photo or a rose he gave that you keep pressed between the pages of a book. Apparently, it had just never occurred to me to regard a child as a reminder of his/her procreator.  Thus my surprise and fascination. There is something so romantic and womanly about this that I can’t really put my finger on.

Final word on this book… It’s a good romance. No cheesy mystery, no stupid villains. Just some out of character behavior that only seems to bother me judging from the Goodreads rating of the book. Perhaps, it could do with a little less emphasis on Gabriel’s household. I’m not big on filler characters, really. On the whole, I wouldn’t say no to another Teresa Medeiros book.

Sensuality rating: Warm (according to All About Romance)

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