Saddened with their latest Powerpuff offering and hopeful that Jo Goodman’s new book would get them both out of their reading slump, Katiebabs (aka Blossom ) and Ana (aka Bubbles) decided to join forces again and review The Price of Desire. By now, you should know the drill: Ana reviews it here, Katie at her place – two opinions, one book. Are we to disagree or agree this time?
(side note: saddly, Buttercup is still MIA – that Batman is keeping her busy!)
Title: The Price of Desire
Author: Jo Goodman
Genre: Historical Romance
Stand Alone/ Series:
Summary: Olivia Cole is devastated to learn that her ne’re-do well brother has promised her to the operator of a London gaming hall as payment of his debts. Olivia accepts her fate-even if it means that her reputation will suffer from living among rouges and gamblers. But when she meets the sexy and mysterious Griffin Wright-Jones, the Viscount of Breckenridge, Olivia has more than her good name to worry about-for he rouses in her wanton thoughts she’s never dared
Griffin wears the scars of his life on his striking face, Although he wants Olivia like no other woman before, he doesn’t force her to share his bed-a difficult task considering how beautiful she is. But with each passing night Griffin and Olivia’s resolve weakens until finally they take their greatest gamble on one night of reckless pleasure…
Why Did I Read The Book: I read Jo Goodman’s previous book, If His Kiss is Wicked and LOVED it for the writing more than anything. I keep meaning to read more from the author but never seem to find the time. The latest release was the opportunity I had been waiting for.
I will start by saying that the first 300 pages of the lengthy The Price of Desire are some of the best pages I read this year. In fact, before reaching the Point Of No Return ( i.e. that part in a book were things go down the drain), I was contemplating choosing it for the last available spot in my top 10 of 2008. This is to show how good I thought The Price of Desire was – and for that amount of time where I believed this to be one of the Great Ones, I was happy like you wouldn’t imagine.
It begins with a set up that allows us to get to know the characters a little bit before they get to know each other. There is Griffin Wright-Jones, Viscount Breckenridge, owner of a gaming hell in London who as the story begins is dealing with Alistair Cole, a gambler who now owes him the small fortune of a 1,000 Pounds. Alistair has no means to settle the debt at the moment, and asks Griffin for a respite of a few days. Being the owner of a well-know gaming hell, Griffin cannot let this pass (appearances, you know) and asks for something in lieu of the money until Alistair is able to come back. Alistair gives him his ring – an heirloom, which he is not happy to part from. So much so, that unbeknownst to Griffin (and with the help of someone inside his own household) Alistair later replaces the ring with a marker – a marker that says that Griffin is to collect Alistair’s sister from their home and keep her until he comes for her.
Cut to Olivia Cole – at home, worried about Alistair. There are mentions of unhappiness and of starvation. And the uneasy feeling that something is not right with her as she hardly blinks when the two men sent by Griffin to escort her to the hell appear at her house. She just goes. We realise something is not right with Olivia. And it becomes really clear that for once, we get a Tormented Heroine instead of a Tormented Hero; it is a great change from what I am used to read and one that I welcomed with an open heart even if it hurts so much to learn about what has been done to her. (Imagine the worst thing that could happen to a child -of the sexual variety – multiply it by ten, have it happening from the age of 6 to 12: that is Olivia’s past. ) It is not unexpected then Olivia is a solitary, wounded, emotionally detached woman with severe nerve problems, plagued by night terrors and prepared to expect the worst from people. But even with all of this, she is also strong, determined, able to fend and defend herself and she is indeed surprised that Griffin doesn’t seem to know what to do with her (well, he doesn’t) and that he treats her with some degree of kindness and respect. She is to be kept at his house until Alistair returns – but they both know it will take a long time for this to happen, if ever.
Things proceed really slowly in The Price of Desire. The story flows gradually into a point where both Griffin and Olivia are able to open themselves to each other – only after it has been established that they are “one of a kind”. Griffin who has a mistress as the story begins, decides to break up with her way before he develops real feelings for Olivia (even if he realises from the get go that she is intriguing); we also learn he has a wife who has been missing for years and whom he has been trying to find. As for Olivia, she is able to find a place for herself in his household and eventually even at the gaming hell as a dealer of faro.
The storytelling is very solid with two great characters and the writing is absolutely stunning – the two greatest points of the book in those first chapters and some of the most glorious moments in romance novel I read this year. Most things up to about page 300 are shrouded in mystery – what exactly happened to her, why does a Viscount owns a gaming hell, where is his wife and why are they stranded and that mysterious feel was atmospheric and enthralling, I kept reading and reading, wanting to know more, wanting to SEE more of the great interactions between them. If there was one thing that was detracting a tiny bit from the overall enjoyment of this first part was this impression of detachment and coldness in their dealings with each other – there are no inner or outer expression of passion until it was there – not even a build up of said passion until it just…happened. I think it suited them though, suited their story but I missed that extra oomph and I hoped they would eventually thaw but alas, no. I could have lived with it, heck, I WAS living with it but then came the Point Of No Return – whereupon we learn their complete past story, and what up to that point, had been a slow evolution of the story, takes a turn for worse and everything you can imagine happens, all at the same time and it is all extremely far-fetched and convoluted (I shall not spoil it in here, but if you would like to learn what exactly happens , I will be expanding the discussion on far-fetchedness of plots in the Additional Thoughts session below) .
I find myself lacking the necessary patience to endure such trivial, clichéd, absurd plotlines specially when they seem to have been added as after-thoughts to add extra, last-minute conflicts to a story that was moving so well and needed absolutely no external conflict other than the one basic villain from Olivia’s past.
There were moments of brilliance in the midst of the mess towards the end of the book though – I was particularly fond of one sequence when Olivia faces her worst nightmare all by herself. Griffin is unable to help at that moment and even though part of me wanted the hero to save the heroine (and kill the villain in a very slow and painful manner) , when she finds the strength to stand up and face it,it was every bit as empowering and liberating as one could expect.
Still, it is ever so painful to say it, but this is another book that ends up going to the Land of Wasted Opportunity. I can’t give this the high grade I had hoped when I first started reading it because I can’t simply disregard the point where things went awry for the sake of a sympathetic review.
I do not regret reading it though, not at all. Because there were those first 300 pages and there were moments of sheer beauty like this one, when they first kiss which is a fine example of top quality prose that is both beautiful and effective:
He caught the scent of lavender on her skin and the taste of mint on her mouth. The fragrance made him think peculiarly of innocence – the taste of things fresh and unsullied. He deserved neither, he thought, and took a measure of comfort that neither were being offered to him. His imagination supported what he craved, but the reality was merely lavender and mint. (…)
His kiss made her remember emptiness and longing. It made her think of what she could have in the moment but would always be denied in the forever. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, the kiss stirred her.
Warmth became heat; desire displaced comfort. She wondered why she was no longer afraid, why standing in the circle of his arms should make her abandon good sense and caution.
He smelled faintly of tobacco and tasted of brandy. She thought of things certain and solid. He held her loosely, but she could have leaned back against the clasp of his hands and he would not have let her fall. It was the very security of the embrace that allowed her to soar, to feel what was unimaginable only minutes ago.
She did not deserve it, she thought, and took a measure of comfort that she had not asked for it, that he could not know what he’d given her. Her imagination supported what she craved, but reality was tobacco and brandy and a pair of hands at the curve of her back.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: another good example of the writing:
“Olivia judged him to be not yet thirty, though it was a narrow thing. There was a weariness in his expression as he waited that he had taken pains to hide from her earlier. Even as she wondered at its source, it vanished. If it were not for the fact that she’d glimpsed a similar look in her own mirror, she could have been convinced that she’d imagined it. This commonality did not cheer her in the least. There was no conceiving of what harm might be done by two people with these unfortunate dispositions.”
“Are you being clever, I wonder. If so, you should know that I am not easily taken in.”
“I thought I was being honest. If you think there is something clever about that, I will not attempt to dissuade you.”
He raised his cup once more to his lips, wishing – not for the first time – that he had more whiskey in the thing that tea. He drank, set the cup down, and allowed himself a small admission. ” I cannot say that you have met or exceeded my expectations, Miss Cole, since I conceived of none, but I think there is no harm in telling you that I find you to be a most singular individual.I offer no judgement as to the good or bad of it. It is simply that I want to acknowledge a certain peculiarity of character about you that I find more intriguing than annoying.”
Olivia tilted her head a fraction as she took in the import of his words. “Then I have missed the mark, my lord, for I did so wish to be annoying. “
WARNING: SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
I wonder what is that point where enough is enough? Where a plot of a book reaches a point that requires a lot more of suspension of disbelief that one is prepared to allow oneself despite of how good the writing is or how good the characters are?
This is what happens in The Price of Desire:
Her own father has sexually abused Olivia when she was a child. Not satisfied in doing it at his home, he sends her to a convent school when the kids were regularly taken from said school to an unknown location where they where raped by a ring of paedophiles of which her father was part of. Griffin on the other hand is the son of a lord who ends up having to take care of his impoverished family and this is why he owned the gaming hell. He was married to this older woman who turned out to be a sex addict who banged everything that moved from footmen to stable boys. When Griffin learnt of this, he tried to divorce her but she disappears and he’s been trying to find her ever since so that he can disprove the rumours going about that he has killed her.
All of the above is ok. I can suspend my disbelief about a ring of pedophiles operating from a convent in 19th century England and I can even control myself not roll my eyes about the evil ex-wife who was a bimbo because both of the happenings have shaped Olivia and Griffin..
But then there is ALSO: the fact that Olivia when she was older, fled her father’s house to become a servant at an inn and there was nearly raped again and ended up killing someone and has been terrified ever since; or that she somehow was the best faro dealer EVER and became an instant sensation at Griffin’s gaming hell. Or that when things are starting to fall into place, they have good sex and are falling in love, the ex-wife is found. Dying of consumption and with a boy she claims is Griffin’s son. She dies, he brings the boy home and of course, the boy is traumatized by his mother’s evilness. Someone is trying to kill Olivia, she is nearly raped and nearly dies in a house fire. Again. It turns out , it is all a plan concocted by Griffin’s EVIIIIL, scorned crazy ex-mistress who is now Olivia’s brother new mistress and she is also, god knows why obsessed with that heirloom ring and she wants revenge and somehow, ready for this???? Is in cahoots with Olivia’s paedophile father whilst ALSO being a lover of another gaming hell owner who is Griffin’s enemy and all of these villains come together in the end and kidnap Olivia. *headsdesk in despair *
I am sure I am missing something – and this is my point. There was simply too much when there was no need for it! Griffin and Olivia were such amazing characters that they could have carried the story all by themselves.
So, would you agree with me that there is a point where enough is enough regardless of anything else? (Unless we are speaking of an epic story such as Gone with the Wind, which spans for a long time. Not weeks. )
Verdict: The book started really well and for the first 300 pages, it was one of the best books I read this year. After page 300 – the plot gets convoluted and far-fetched and too much suspencion of disbelief is required from the reader.
Rating: 6 – GOOD, recommended with reservations
Reading Next: To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt