Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Brothels: A Review of Since the Surrender by Julie Anne Long

Our regular reviewing schedule has been decidedly diverted by my new fixation on the Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long. I do apologize for that, although I can't say I'm that sorry. After all, I read for pleasure, and I find these books pleasant.

This novel, book three, is the one that many a review warned me about--I kind of went in expecting not to like it. However, I did enjoy it in a lot of ways, flawed though it may be. It's the story of Rosalind March, a war widow who's sister has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. She turns to Chase Eversea for help. During the war, Chase and Rosalind had one brief indiscretion (while she was still married), and the two have been wracked with guilt, yet unable to forget the pleasure of it ever since. So when they meet again, under these circumstances, they find themselves reluctantly drawn together, even as they investigate the dangerous mystery...and so forth.

Positive Comments


What I really enjoyed about book two, the more I thought it over, was the slow build of the relationship and Long's skill in demonstrating how love forms unconsciously in even the most reluctant of minds and hearts. That is also what I liked about this book. Chase is nothing but honorable in the forefront of his mind, yet we learn how his attraction and affection for Rosalind began to build while she was married. We learn how this attraction grew to a force that caused them both to sacrifice their honor for a brief and regrettable kiss. While I didn't like the fact that Rosaslind more or less cheated on her husband, and I was reluctant to forgive them and buy into the romance of their coming back together later on, I felt that the author did a brilliant job and making the whole thing understandable, because of the emotional turmoil involved.

I found Rosalind sympathetic, despite myself. Her initial marriage was made for practicality's sake, because her family was poor and she had sisters to support. When it turns out to be a bit bland, if not entirely passionless, she still embraces her role as a colonel's wife and loves him as best she can. I found that admirable. I also found it understandable that she would wonder about and miss the passion she's never had, and that this would ultimately manifest as an incident of mild adultery. Later, when she and Chase are free to be together, she is eager to explore the passion, but less eager to enter into marriage. Again, it's entirely understandable, and I really liked her for it.

Getting back to the mystery plot, I must say that it kept me curious. When all was told, I did find the resolution of this subplot to be somewhat silly and pointless. But, I can't say it bored me throughout the story.

Critical Comments


Bottom line, this is a romance novel, so the big question is always: Was the romance believable? It was very nearly believable, but not quite. I would say that the sexual tension was engaging and believable. I would also say that I saw a distinct possibility of real emotional attachment between hero and heroine. But I would not say, necessarily, that I believed them to be entirely in love. I found that their were not enough quiet, intimate moments. Because intimacy, not sex, are what make a relationship real to me. They just didn't have it. Yet.

This is likely because the sex that takes place is fiery and shocking and happens at the most illogical of times. They choose public(ish) places, while their in the middle of spying or solving the mystery. They miss out on afterglow, on sharing a bed and meals and the like. And so not only do we miss out on intimacy, but we kind of have to question our main character's sanity and motivations. Really, here, now, while your sister is missing? While dangerous folks might well be near by? Really? That kept me from fully enjoying the romance.



It's not a book without merits, and I found a lot to like about it. However, if you really hate the "adulterers meet again and are now free to love" trope, this is surely not a book for you. I would also recommend against it if you're looking for a cozy, more emotion driven romance. I would recommend this to Long fans, who are invested in the series, and who don't mind rolling their eyes at a few ill timed scenes. 3 stars.

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