The first half of this book is a wonderful love story. The second half is an so-so revenge/mystery plot.
I swear I fall in love with nearly every hero, but Nicholas is my favorite type of hero. The kind that emanates masculinity and strength combined with vulnerability and aching tenderness. It makes my insides melt. And then he goes and plays with penguins! Holy mother of god, what sweet bliss is this? There’s nothing sexier than a man charmed by something adorable. Nicholas was an easy going, light-hearted sort of fellow. Which was an interesting counterbalance to his deeply troubled soul. He was half Gypsy and half Englishman. He connects more with his Gypsy heritage and is very spiritual and free.
Clare, on the other hand, has lived her life in profound seriousness. Never one to step out of line or even to allow herself many joys. She’s modest and never stays from the line of propriety she’s built around herself. She’s boxed herself in by expectations she thinks people have for her, but more those she expects of herself. She’s troubled by her Methodist religion and feels like a fraud and its a struggle for her through most of the book. It made for a very interesting dynamic between the two.
What I loved the most about this novel was that these two don’t fall in love in a matter of days. They spend months getting to know each other and their intimacy develops over time. Not just physical intimacy, but emotional intimacy. It’s deep and poignant and passionate and wistful and just simply stunning. It has all the feels in the world and it builds up more and more throughout the book with this rich and heart melting slow burn that was just swallowing me up.
But then it suddenly fizzled. They’re at this point where their need for each other to connect as human beings and friends and lovers is so palpable, and then they pull back from each other. The incredible connection they felt is severed and they’re even referring to their own relationship as similar to that of a brother and sister. Sadly it felt that way. I think Mary Jo Putney was trying to create some added tension, but instead it had a cooling effect.
When they finally come together in the first love scene its in the wake of a tragic event and because of that it was powerful and moving, but it just didn’t catch my heart the way it would have 40 pages earlier, when I was practically panting for it. Something was a bit lost in their love scenes after this. It saddened me because up until this point there were so many feels.
Lots of things happen in the end that are glossed over that could have rebuilt this connection between them. Early on the scenes where they grew closer to each other were fully developed and we are witness to them. Then it gives way to telling us about the developments in the past tense. For example, it was only stated that Nicholas seemed more relaxed or that a lovemaking session seemed particularly intense, we didn’t get to witness them. And those were important developments.
The end focuses on the revenge/mystery plot with the local coal mine and one of Nicholas’s friends. It was an interesting subplot, though rather predictable. I think it wouldn’t have lost me if we could still see inside Nicholas’s mind, his POV, how he was feeling and what he was thinking. But we stopped getting that towards the end. And Clare’s internal dialogue was very focused on her own spirituality, which was important to the story but the romance suffered for it. Essentially the book stopped being character driven and started being plot driven.
As for steam, the beginning was very feeling and wonderful. Some of it was hot, some of it glossed over a bit too much. Lot’s of fade to black and almost no steam at the end.
So the issues at the end are more my personal issues with what I like in a romance. If you like plot-driven romances this will probably be a 5 star read for you.