Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In the Arms of a Marquess, Katharine Ashe

Olivia, also known as Tavy, met Ben when he rescued her from potential kidnappers. She was newly arrived to India, but the sparks were there between them from the beginning. A relationship slowly grew between them, the sparks turning into flames, but Ben was half-Indian and Tavy's aunt didn't approve. Tavy was whisked away and Ben was recalled to England. They meet again years later when Tavy returns to England and seeks Ben's help for a friend. Time and misunderstandings fill the space between them, but the fire still burns...

I was first introduced to Katharine Ashe by Sue, who is a big historical fan. I'm kinda 'eh' on the sub-genre, but when Sue said 'Read,' I read. If I remember correctly, I thought Swept Away by a Kiss had potential and I enjoyed it, but that was about it.

In the Arms of a Marquess followed along the same lines for me. However, what I did like about this book was how they handled the whole India/half-breed thing. It's a bit of a cliche when a hero is a 'half-breed' that there is some teeth-gnashing about being an outsider and usually some nonsense about sullying the heroine. There was none of that in this book. By the time we meet the hero again, he is titled, supremely confident, and well-connected. Facts about culture and society of India in the 1800s are carefully woven in and seem natural to the plot. There's little romanticism or cynicism. It felt like Ashe was simply describing it as it was. As always, there is an obligatory monkey, but it mostly disappears after the heroine returns to England.

I think part of what keeps me from loving this book is the plethora of characters. I know it sounds a bit odd to say that, but for this book, I can think of about ten characters off the top of my head with consequential dialogue. It reminds me of the Deathly Hallows part 2 movie. Fleur and Bill are in one scene to tell the viewer about the setting, they silently walk in with the Order of the Phoenix when they take back Hogwarts, and then they randomly pop up in the crowd scenes. Ginny has all of like three lines in the entire movie (I am so not kidding) and then quietly shows up here & there. That's what this book was like. A wife flirts coyly with the hero, fades into the background for a couple of chapters, and then reappears with critical information. Two characters pop up at separate intervals to thank the hero for his past good deeds and then disappear. Even the monkey is there at the beginning, goes away for the middle, and then reappears at the end.

I guess I am a minimalist when it comes to my historical novels. I want the characters to be mostly in the background like the stereotypical servants or for them to be integral to the plot. I'm not talking about the commonplace hero's best friend who is the hero of the next book, I mean the characters who are essentially the equivalent of Broadway's chorus roles.  I suppose it's weird to feel that way when you think about it, considering that, in reality, people randomly wander into and out of others' lives all the time, but then again, I never claimed to be normal.

In any case, if you want to read a historical that doesn't take place in a ballroom, has a feel for realism and chock full of intrigue, check out this book, releasing on August 30th (MM, $7.99). It would also appeal to fans of Elizabeth Hoyt and Nicola Cornick.

Excerpt and purchasing info here at Katherine Ashe's website.  ARC was obtained via NetGalley.

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