Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TBR Challenge: Stealing Heaven

A bit of back story...

I started reading romance back in the mid-90s or so.  Historical romance was my drug of choice, especially after I read Julie Garwood's Castles.  Dude, for me that book did no wrong.  It was sweeping, highly romantic, dashing, and featured love scenes that just made me utterly melt (to this day, Princess Alesandra and Colin's day-after-the-wedding scene in his office is my most memorable).  Back in the early days of my reading fix, I focused on the bigwigs -- Garwood, Jayne Anne Krentz, Nora Roberts, Heather Graham (oh oh oh, I loved her Civil War series to pieces!), and even dabbled in Kay Hooper and gave Linda Howard a try.  Gah, I remember snatching up armfuls and armfuls of romance books at Walden's Bookstore (do they even exist anymore?).  We won't even go into the type of buying I continue to do these days.  I may be more picky, but there is so much more to choose from.  For every day in the week, there is probably a brand spanking new author whose book is being released.

To be frankly honest, I still have unread books on my shelves from the initial days of my romance buying frenzy.  This month's selection for the TBR Challenge, Stealing Heaven by Kimberly Cates, is just one of them.  It features just the sort of trope and atmosphere that rocked my socks back in my first days of romance fandom -- angsty, dramatic, saga-like historical romance with a brooding hero who absolutely does not want a wife but winds up with one anyway.  In this case, spinster Nora Linton answers a "want ad" of sorts when she starts sharing letters with an Irishman who seems as lonely as she.  The fact that the letters she responded to were written by his 15-year-old daughter, Cassandra, is revealed after she arrives in Ireland to begin what she hopes will be a short engagement and subsequent marriage.

From the tone of his missives, she senses a commiserating loneliness and depth of understanding.  But when she first meets Sir Aidan Kane, the aforementioned Irishman, it isn't hearts and stars, puppies and rainbow kisses she sees, but a living breathing irate man who feels as if he's been set up.  He's pissed.  And he's arrogant.  Norah's hopes are dashed almost immediately.  Despite the fact that Aidan will do anything for his daughter, he just cannot fathom marrying a woman desperate enough to travel to unknown lands to marry a man she's never met before.  Uh, desperation?

To make a long story short, Norah and Aidan thrust and parry and finally succumb to an attraction that defies either of their beliefs despite Norah's less than belle-of-the-ball looks.  While she considers herself plain, Aidan finally (hallelujah!) begins to see the beauty beneath her porcelain complexion.  It only takes approximately two-thirds of the book for that to happen.  He's been burned in the past from his first marriage to a ghee-ore-jous slut who may have posed as an innocent in society, but really was a whore at heart.  The only thing good out of that marriage is his daughter, Cassandra.  From page one we know that Aidan's lackluster image results not only from his drinking and gambling, but his reputation as a lady's man and the possible murderer of his wife as well.

If I remember correctly, Kimberly Cates had several Revolutionary War-set novels.  While I may have a handful of qualms about Stealing Heaven today (yeah, the fact that the 15-year-old daughter gets away with just about everything, after all she's just lonely and needs a mama -- gah!), it still reads very well and kept me flipping the pages at a pretty decent speed.  After all, it's angsty and, at times, tragic and is all that I embodied in romance back when I first started.  Back then I loved the saga feel to my historical romances, and there's enough meat to Stealing Heaven that translates well even among today's offerings.

The proof is in the pudding and this type of book is what made me fall in love with the genre...             


Wendy said...

OMG - I love this review. Especially that bit about the daughter getting away with murder :)

And be honest - doesn't it feel GREAT to pull a book out of the TBR that's been sitting there forever. I always get this perverse sense of accomplishment.....

Victoria Janssen said...

I have a couple of Cates books in TBR...DEEP in TBR...I think one of them is a pirate book.

Amy said...

Wendy, it's a great feeling. A lot happened in Stealing Heaven, but to go into it all we'd still be here reading it hours later. It is one meaty book.

Hiya, Victoria! I think I found one or three more when I purged some of the TBR last week. I just couldn't part with her books because I remember loving what I'd read years ago. It's akin to tossing a Morsi book for me.

CindyS said...

"first marriage to a ghee-ore-jous slut who may have posed as an innocent in society, but really was a whore at heart."


Everything about this story sounds familiar so I'm guessing I've read it but I get Kimberly Cates confused with Kathleen Kane (paranormal westerns!). And then there is another author with Kane or Cates as a last name and I know I didn't like that author.

But I'm sure I have a Cates in my TBR pile somewhere. And I would think reading a story from those early days that is fresh and fun like JG (damn I loved that woman) would just be a ball. Sure, some hick-ups, but some fun too.


Amy said...

Cindy, you might be thinking of Andrea Kane? She did historical romance years ago but has pretty much turned to straight suspense. It actually works for! I remember reading a back-to-back double header set of books by her years ago that featured either two cousins or sisters, The Silver Coin and The Gold Coin. Both were pretty good. I'm just trying to remember if I have them on the keeper shelf.

I'm wondering now if this Cates book had a sequel because it just screams for one.