Posts tagged ‘private arrangements’

October 5, 2012

Thoughts on some historical romance novels #2

This time I think I’m doing the sensible thing and writing my thoughts on a novel right after I have finished it.

Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas

The following review contains spoilers. Click here to read the spoiler-free version.

Because being in love does not give you any excuse to be less than honorable, Lady Tremaine.

Wow. Just WOW. I didn’t fall in love with either the hero or the heroine. I might not have liked them even. I didn’t think the story was anything original. But I don’t remember ever being shaken in such a way by a historical romance novel. There is something about this book and I can’t put my finger on it really but if I blame it on the exquisite writing of Ms. Thomas, I don’t think I would be too far off.

First, let me explain why I wouldn’t enjoy this book if it weren’t so extraordinary. The characters and theme of the book isn’t to my liking. Gigi is too arrogant and Camden is too controlled on the outside. They both hide their emotions (not appealing) and always try to have the upper hand (so not appealing). And on top of all this, they fall in love instantly as if to put me off more.

And here’s what appealed to me despite what I said above. I admired Gigi when she relentlessly tried to win Camden back after he supposedly took his vengeance by leaving her. I liked that she is no passive female and that she will chase her man. Her desperation touched me when she would barge into Camden’s room in Paris and attempt to seduce him, while it made Camden loathe her even more. But I don’t favor either character in this book. I think they both acted as they should all the time. As for Camden, he is a perfect case of harmony of contrast. I really have to give him that. He is naturally outraged and appalled by Gigi’s scheme to manipulate him into marrying her. He cannot forgive her despite his deep love for her. I’m not a person who attaches great importance to pride. I value emotions above all. But this wasn’t about Camden’s pride. He was emotionally hurt over finding out that his beloved is capable of disregarding and manipulating his decisions with such disdain. The agony he felt over loving and hating her so much was a so heart-wrenching. He couldn’t do the honorable thing and face Gigi about her deception and plotted revenge instead to punish her with his absence. But this turned out to be as cruel a punishment for him as it was for her. And all this emotional drama was just so delicious for me. Now at this point I ask myself if I am a horrible person who enjoys the characters’ pain and desperation? I guess if the book didn’t end happily, I wouldn’t be such a sadistic fan.

About the supporting characters… Well, Lord Frederick is still an enigma for me. I could perfectly relate to Gigi’s feelings for him but they way he so calmly took Gigi’s decision to not to marry him after all left me baffled. But then I hate watching people’s hearts getting broken (again, if they don’t get a happy ending). But Lord Frederick was a well-written character too. His courage when facing Camden was admirable. But he was this characters that was supposed to be unappealing to the reader (and also to Gigi) due to his lack of flaw in character. He was just too perfect to be passionate. As for Mrs. Rowland and the Duke of Perrin… Well, if there is a good secondary love story (as not in Madeline Hunter’s The Sins of Lord Easterbrook) in a novel, I always lament at the end why it didn’t get its own book. And it did this time for this totally interesting couple. Pity. It seems I can’t divide my attention (or rather the flutters in my heart!) between great love stories.

On the whole, Private Arrangements is a story of the battle among betrayal, guilt and love. What starts as a deception driven by love ends up in betrayal for the sake of vengeance. When you put it this way, it all sounds very epic. But to me it felt so real, not something I would read for distraction. For starters, the hero and heroine are immensely flawed, not something I am used to in a historical romance novel. One might even say that they have very ugly personalities, which makes this book all the more interesting and at odds with the stereotypical historical romance story. The way they express themselves is not at all fantasy-like. This isn’t the kind of book which will take you on a ride above the clouds. I don’t enjoy stories where the hero and heroine dislike each other at first and then fall in love. But this one is the other way around, leaving the reader anxious over the possibility of a happy ending. This book is indeed a really sad one with its crude portrayal of reality. Seriously, I never weep while reading romances and I didn’t weep while reading this one either, but I had never felt so sad over a romance before.

In short this book moved me, awed me, shook me to my very core with sorrow and utterly surprised me when I loved it so much. Seriously, I had never so fervently wished a historical romance novel to be turned into a movie. I think this one would work better than any Nicolas Sparks adaptations. I recommend this book to all romance readers regardless of their likes/dislikes and preferences in a story.

Sensuality rating: Hot (according to All About Romance)