This is my third book review for my cousin's latest release. As I'm nearing my second blogiversary on Feb. 5th, this means she's had three books come out in that time.
I know. She is amazing.
1 - You can check out all three reviews in My Book Reviews archive.
2 - When a Stranger Loves Me is the third book in Julianne's Pembroke Palace series. The hero is part of an English ducal family driven to act by the deranged requirements of the patriarch. The current duke is going mad, and believes a flood will wipe out their ancestral home - unless all four of his sons marry before Christmas. If they fail to find wives in that time, the entire fortune will go to the Horticultural Society.
3 - Part of Avon's Historical Romance category, When a Stranger Loves Me gives us a heroine who tried to follow her own passions as a young woman, was hauled away from her elopement by her prominent father and promptly became the outrageous scandal of London. The hero survives a shipwreck in the English Channel, washing ashore upon the Jersey Island where the heroine has lived in exile.
4 - We meet Lady Chelsea Campion, a woman whose exile from society turned into the kind of freedom that allowed her to blossom. Chelsea lives in the summer home of her family's estate year round, along with her mother, brother and sister-in-law. Chelsea is deeply attached to her island home. She knows how to read the skies, she knows every ridge and hollow of the island, and spends her days crafting stories.
5 - Luckily for the hero, Chelsea takes a walk along the shore after a wild storm, ending up in the sea caves. There she finds an unconscious naked man thrown onto the jagged rocks. When he finally awakes, it is only to discover he can remember nothing of how he got there. Not the circumstances of his discovery, not any circumstances - he has no memory of anything that happened before he was discovered in the cave. Including his own identity.
6 - Chelsea dubs him Jack so he can have a name, at least. Jack's abilities remain intact - his aristocratic manners, his knack of tying a cravat and especially his exceptional talent for drawing. Among other pastimes, Chelsea and Jack spend many fulfilling hours while she writes and Jack sketches.
7 - But at night, Chelsea joins him in his room, giving in to the frightening passion she feels for this complete stranger. For he may not know who he is, but Jack can see inside of Chelsea in a way no one else has ever done - not even the lover she'd tried to marry before her family put a stop to it.
8 - Jack tells Chelsea she is his whole world now - the only person who knows him in a world he can't recall. But the gnawing sensation of letting someone down, of something urgent that needs him to act intrudes upon his Jersey Island idyll. And why can't he remember being stabbed? When Chelsea found him in the cave, he was bleeding from a puncture wound. Was it simply from the shipwreck? Or did someone want him dead?
9 - A thread of rebellion against the weight of duty runs strongly throughout this book. Charged with being the reason for her family's exile, Chelsea feels compelled to bear the burden of her loved ones' future, with her father passed on and a marriage proposal made by a man willing to overlook her ruination. Is it so wrong to allow herself a few days of pleasure with a stranger before shackling herself to Lord Carruthers?
As for Jack - why does his heart sink when he's finally located by his family? Why must he leave Chelsea behind and face the crushing expectations of 'loved ones' for whom he has no feelings?
10 - Julianne really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
"Chelsea sat for a long time, listening to the steady ticking of the clock on the mantel and the constant murmur of the sea. The sun had disappeared below the horizon, and outside the window, high in the sky, the stars appeared, one by one.
Rising to her feet, she strolled to the bedside, put a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn, then leaned over the man. He would no doubt be very weak when he opened his eyes, perhaps too weak to even speak.
Feeling a sudden wave of compassion for his suffering, she laid her open hand upon his forearm. Gently, with the tip of her finger, she traced a path around all the little scrapes and cuts, as if she were following a maze. He was warm to her touch, but so very still and lifeless.
Her eyes traveled down the length of his body. She could see the outline of his firm torso and long legs, and remembered again his naked form in the cave. Her belly swirled with fascination and arousal, which shamed her for a moment, until she remembered that she was a flesh and blood woman - a woman who had once known passion and desire for a brief time before this seven-year exile. There was a time she'd wanted nothing more than to know a man's body, and to be made love to by someone she adored.
Suddenly, without warning, the man's arm snapped up. He grabbed her wrist.
Panic flared in her stomach. She gasped, but before she could even comprehend the pain in her arm, he was scrambling out of the bed like a wild animal, coming at her with raging fury in his eyes.
She screamed as he threw her to the floor. Her head hit the rug and she squeezed her eyes shut. All the air sailed out of her lungs.
The man pinned her down, tossed a leg over her hips and straddled her. When she opened her eyes, he was sitting on top of her, holding a brass candlestick over his head. It gleamed in the firelight, just like the ferocity in his wild blue eyes.
'Aaah!' he yelled as he drew the weapon back and swung."
11 - As always, Julianne excels at the dialogue between her hero and heroine. Julianne never fails to take a scene I think is going in one direction - and then flips it on its ear. She's the master of getting to the deeper emotions between lovers. Their raw feelings create true conflict, twisting the reader's heart into the same knots as the lovers'.
12 - Julianne moves to St. Martin's Press for her next release. Here's her announcement on her website:
"Julianne just accepted a three book deal to write for St. Martins Press. The contract is for a historical romance trilogy set in the Scottish Highlands. Release dates to be announced soon!"
She's wearing her fingers out at the keyboard on the first of the trilogy. My writers' chapter already got a sneak peek at the opening scene. Ladies, this is a hero to die for.
13 - I leave you with an excerpt from When a Stranger Loves Me. Enjoy!
" 'So you've forgiven me, then?' Jack asked as he refastened his trousers.
They had made love standing up against the door of his bedchamber. She had not seemed to mind the base carnality of it, nor suggested they move to a quieter spot on the bed. Perhaps she knew there was no one nearby to hear, for clearly she'd come here with one thing on her mind, and they got down to business without any of the usual genteel preliminaries.
He nuzzled her cheek and stepped back. Chelsea pushed away from the door.
'We already agreed that there is nothing to forgive,' she said. 'You were right when we spoke outside earlier today. You have not kept anything from me. I knew what I was getting myself into when I came to you the other night, and I have indeed been more than satisfied.'
He watched her for a strange moment, as she walked seductively to the window.
'But there is something different about you,' he said, narrowing his eyes. 'You're closed off. You're not acting like yourself.'
'Is it? I think you are still angry about what happened in bed this morning.' He hesitated. 'Or perhaps... hurt.'
'I am neither,' she quickly asserted as she pulled the curtain aside with one finger and looked out. 'I am simply trying to be realistic.'
She faced him. He had the distinct impression she was giving a great deal of consideration to her answer, almost as if she were plotting one of her stories, deciding upon the most effective piece of dialogue for her protagonist.
'I don't want to become too attached to you,' she said at last.
He studied her eyes and saw a hint of vulnerability there, mixed possibly with some melancholy.
But it was an honest answer - at least he believed it to be so - and it gave him some reassurance that he had not lost her completely. She was still being open with him.
He approached her. 'And is there a danger of you becoming too attached?'
'There is a danger of anything. You are very pleasant to be around. Most of the time,' she added playfully.
'When I am not calling you by other women's names, I suppose.'
'I'll try not to do it again.'
'I would appreciate that.'
For a moment more they stood without talking, merely looking at each other while the waves rolled up onto the shoreline outside the window. Here in the room, the clock ticked steadily on the mantel.
Jack noticed the heavy beat of his heart. He felt restless, filled with a yearning that seemed to have no cure - for he could not close the space between them. How could he, when he did not know who he was, or if he was even free to care for her the way he wanted to?
Then, for some unknown reason, he remembered the urgency he'd felt the night before, and felt again that he was letting someone down. The feeling dropped into his stomach like a stone. Someone needed him. Of that, he was certain. There was a duty he was expected to fulfill.
God, was there a wife?
He looked down at the floor.
'So until we know more about you,' Chelsea said, her voice more forceful now, almost as if she had read his thoughts, 'I will simply keep my heart out of it, as you should do as well.'
'That's probably wise,' he heard himself saying, without looking up, because he was not in a position to offer his heart, or any kind of promise that involved the future. As things stood, he could offer Chelsea nothing, and she knew it."
- Julianne MacLean, 2009
Join me next week when I review Wanderlust by Shelley Munro.