Sunday, September 11, 2011

REVIEW: Lord of Fire by Gaelen Foley


Award-winning author Gaelen Foley has created a pair of enthralling twins for Lord of Fire, a Regency romance that blazes with passion. Lord Lucien Knight gave his honor for his country -- baiting traps with sins of passion and politics in the shadow war against Napoleon. Now that peace has been declared, the master spy turns his talents to vetting possible brides for his twin, testing their worthiness to wed his icily honorable war hero brother, Lord Damien. 
In the course of that duty he learns of Alice Montague. Miss Montague is said to be young, pretty, clever, good with children, and of impeccable character. She sounds perfect for his twin. Why, then, does Lucien lure Alice to his estate, compel her to promise to remain in what she knows to be a fortress of sin, and then begin a skilled campaign of seduction? Can it be that the Lord of Fire himself now burns with the fire of love?

I love the way Gaelen Foley writes. To me, she's one of the best writers out there. I know I'm only on her second book, but regardless. Her words invoke a whole new world and I find myself irrevocably drawn into it. My senses are forever engaged, and I can not only picture the setting, but I feel like I'm engaged in it. The world building is excellent, with history intertwining superbly with personal backgrounds. The plot is tight, the characters are complex and multi-dimensional. I get tickled everytime I meet her characters as they are presented and thrilled to see them challenged as they struggle and grow. Awesome storylines and lovable characters. :D


On to the post!

Things I loved about Lord of Fire:

Lucien. Lucien who is not really anyone's favorite. Lucien who is just so misunderstood (Hi, his name is Lucien, Draco is one of his numerous alias. Sets you up thinking he's a bad guy. But oh, he's soo not). Harbors many secrets (he is a spy, so naturally) and conceals his real thoughts and feelings from others (a stonewall, so he won't get hurt). But hiding inside himself got exhausting, and it did not prevent his heart from breaking.
How fitting, that this was what his life had come to, he thought acidly as he crossed the billiard room. For the past two and a half years, he had worked alone, changing identities like a shape-sfifter each time he had moved on to a new assignment, drifting in and out of countless people's lives like a ghost, never quite connecting. Now not even his twin brother knew him anymore -- di not know him and did not want to know him, for he was a spy, a deceiver, a man without honor. A man who knew the rules of gentlemanly conduct and ignored them. Self-loathing pulsed through him, and despair. If Damien did not give a damn about him anymore, who ever would? No one, he realized, with an empty, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was utterly alone.

Lucien has a realization that he simply doesn't want to be alone. Fate threw him together with Alice, and because of a deep and indescribable connection he felt with her, he chooses to hold on to her and not let her go. I loved being inside Lucien's head. It was confusing, and you feel his hesitations and you understand why. It was heartening, seeing how tender and gentle he is with Alice, patient, willing to compromise ... to learn. I was there with him when he let himself become vulnerable enough for Alice to be able to break down those thick walls he built around his heart. I, too, allowed myself to hope for the best. 

Loved jealous!Lucien, I couldn't help but laughed when he was reduced to irritation. Looooved playful!Lucien, being so awesome with Harry, playing pee-a-boo, the way he interacted with him when he was giving him his gift (oh, and it was so much more than the prism, Lucien.). Ugh. My heart. When he comforts Harry. Guh. It's ten times as big. And then he finally breaks down and tells the story of his capture and my heart breaks for him. Especially when he thinks that by showing his true emotion, she'd think him a weakling. Oh, Lucien. You'll always be my hero. ;)

Loved that we were able to go on this journey with him, from his loneliness to his desperation to his happiness.

Things I liked:

The plot, the game, the action. Oooh. When there's action happening I can't even breathe. I had to stop and remind myself to breathe. Hehe.

The minor characters. I know we didn't see a lot of him, but I liked Mr. Whitby. Awesome mentor. Heh. The bad guys really did give me the creeps. I really felt danger whenever the story shifts to their perspective, and I truly feared for their safety. That Bardou guy. Eeeevil. Caro ... I hated her, and pitied her. So much.

Things I didn't like as much as I would have:

Otherwise known as things that hinders happiness and/or causes Lucien pain. Hahahaha. I promise I didn't even notice it when I was making this list, but I couldn't figure out where to put these characters. Then it hit me. The main reason why I don't like them in the first place is because of how they've tortured Lucien or made things so much more difficult for him. :D

Alice. I liked Alice well enough ... for recognizing early on what Lucien is trying hard to express to her. There were moments that I didn't like, specifically some things she did that I didn't like ... Maybe it's because I'm biased, because I didn't want Lucien to be hurt (hahaha, he's got my heart), but when she proposed an ultimatum? Gaah. Cringe-worthy moment for me. That's not to say that I don't understand what she's trying to get at, but, heeeey. Guy is thinking about the future, your future together, even thinking of you bearing his children, for goodness sake, and there you are, listing your demands before he can have you. I know, can't really blame the girl for trying, for trying to understand and break through Lucien's world. (After all, how many of us can comply with the "ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies" policy?) Another thing, when she (of course) didn't stay in her room, defiantly going after him in the Grotto ... making him choose again, revenge over love. Then the thing happened, then they had to separate ... I see it from both sides, so this one's a tough one, but ultimately, my loyalties lie with Lucien (mortal enemies, come on!). But then. And this is after reading the entire story. I was left with the feeling that Alice will take really, really good care of Lucien. Good enough for me. :D

Then there's Damien Knight. I didn't even know how disparaged spies were, but this is his twin we're talking about! His twin, and he's failed to understand Lucien. :( Just didn't seem right. And I know, it's said that Damien is the respected one, admired and beloved, but he just came across as cold. (Heh. Damien's cold as ice while Lucien's hot as sin. And yes. That's from Sarah MacLean's list, lol.) And then he has the audacity to go to Alice and propose to her and "make things right." Wth, D, that's how low your opinion is of your brother? Or that's how far you are willing to go to hurt him? And that horrid proposal, lol. I hope whoever he'll marry will have fun making him melt.  But then. Oh, but then. We get towards the end and we see that Damien is not indifferent. Oh, no, not at all. That scene with Lucien and lost, so heartbreaking. And then they clear up misunderstandings ... I'm intrigued, what can I say. I'm intrigued and soon I'll be reading Damien's story. :D

Quotable quotes:

Something profound changed inside him at that moment, as he held her. He wasn't sure what it was. One second he was praying for some way to take away her pain, and the next he felt as though a sledgehammer had just knocked a gaping hole in the biggest, thickest wall that he had built around his heart. Light poured through -- aching, nourishing light.
Look at me.” He cupped her jaw and made her meet his hungry stare. “I’m not going to hurt you.” She peered uncertainly into his eyes.
“I would never hurt you,” he whispered. “I’d rather die.”
“Why must you kiss me?”
“Because I cannot bear waiting for you to kiss me.
If she had been poised to continue bewailing her fate, his blunt answer visibly caught her off guard. “You actually expect me to kiss you?” she retorted in breathless indignation.
“Expect it? No. Desire it? Yes.” He gave her a lazy half smile. “With every fiber of my being."
"I should’ve made us wait out the storm at Whitby’s cottage. I should’ve been holding onto you. I should never have made you stay here,” he said, his voice dropping to a whisper. “But I could not help myself.” Alice took a step toward him. 
“I know. You are tired of being alone. You told me.” “You don’t know,” he said in a low, almost hostile voice. He shook his head. “I don’t even know what I’m doing with you. You’re not like anyone else who’s in my life—” He stopped abruptly. “Did you ever drink too much wine, Alice?” He held up the glass in his hand and waggled it idly, making the ruby contents swirl.
“I’m not one to overindulge.” “No, you wouldn’t be,” he said wryly. “Allow me to explain, then, that the more you drink, the more thirsty you become. Not all the wine in the world can assuage the thirst for water. Water. Wine makes you merry, but a man needs water to keep him alive. Pure, clean, sweet water.” He sighed, silent for a moment. He stared almost bitterly into the fire. “I am parched, Alice, scorched like a wasteland, burning like a damned soul in hell. I thirst."

Blast it, why was she hiding again in her room? It was Saturday night, and she wanted to be with him. He was right—she was not free, for somehow she didn’t dare do what she wished. She was afraid of what might happen—what she might allow to happen. She was afraid of what he made her want. With the night’s velvet darkness, the intimate whisper of rain, and the sensuous spell of his charm, she did not trust either of them to behave respectably. Her own longings made her want to run, to find some means of escape, though he had an army of watchful servants and black-clad guards posted around the property. He was so very dangerous—and yet Lucien Knight made her heart sing as no other man ever had. How could she reject that simply because he had sidestepped the conventional procedures of courtship? Conventional men had left her entirely uninspired.
When you find the one, my lad, grab her up in your arms and never let her go. You may never get another chance.
She held perfectly still and let him look, for in that magical moment of soul-deep recognition, she realized she had never met another man like Lucien Knight, and, more importantly, never would again.
Lucien,” she protested. “I’m sure you’re not at all in his shadow.”
“Of course I am. You’re just being polite. I always have been.” He stopped to wait for her as she negotiated her way around a slippery patch of mud.
“Lucien, really.”
“It’s true. Ask anyone. There’s Damien and ‘the other one.’ I’m ‘the other one.’ I don’t really mind—only, I admit, it does render one a bit redundant.”
With a soft, tender laugh, she caught up to him and laid her hand on his back, caressing him as she came up beside him. “I don’t think you are at all redundant. If it’s any consolation, to me, Damien will always be the other one.”
“Why, it is, Miss Montague.” He flashed her a rueful grin. “It is a very great consolation, indeed.”
“Good.” She gave him a pert smile, the dappled shadows of the leaves playing over her smooth ivory skin, then walked on ahead of him. 
But he thrust the option away from him in revulsion, quite to his own shock. Not that way. Not for her. Not here in the Grotto—not for her first time. She was not ready. To be sure, he could bring her pleasure the likes of which she had never known, but she would regret it as soon as the moment’s fleeting bliss had passed. She would despise him. Worse, he would despise himself. As badly as he craved her, he did not want to win by trickery. It would only end in his making her as jaded as he was. If ever he was going to prove to himself that his honor still existed, though he was a snake of a spy, it had to start here, now, with Alice. His only hope of saving his soul was to put aside all his powers of seduction and manipulation and to reach out from the deepest, truest—and most vulnerable—part of himself. Perhaps then he might be worthy of her trust. He knew he did not deserve it in his present state. The ghastly moment of her fall had illumined like a blinding bolt of lightning the fact that, contrary to his earlier whim, this was no game—this was a beautiful, honorable young woman’s life he was toying with. He was responsible for what became of her.
"I see. So you playacted the role of a rake who was only pretending to be in earnest, knowing you would come across as though you had the lowest of motives, when in fact, you were sincere?”
She gave a short, wry laugh and shook her head at him. “Convoluted sir! You are a maze.”
He shot her a sulky glance. “I thought you were going to say I was amazing.”
“That, too,” she admitted with a rueful smile, capturing his square chin between her fingertips. 
"If only I could coax Lord Lucien to sit for me,” she said with a sigh, smiling at him as he walked into the room. “I already know what I look like. I have a twin brother, remember?” He sauntered over behind her chair and gave her shoulders a soft squeeze. She caressed his hand on her shoulder. “But you’re you. You’re my Lucien. I don’t care about that other one. Let me sketch your portrait,” she insisted, resting her head on the chair’s back to gaze up at him sweetly. He blushed a little at her affectionate words in front of his men, but they took up her cause.
He leaned back in his chair with a lazy half smile. “Do with me what you will."
Something profound changed inside him at that moment, as he held her. He wasn't sure what it was. One second he was praying for some way to take away her pain, and the next he felt as though a sledgehammer had just knocked a gaping hole in the biggest, thickest wall that he had built around his heart. Light poured through -- aching, nourishing light.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh. I tried to like Damien and his story, but for some reason, the book (as a whole) just did not work for me. So sad about that. I'm hoping I'll be just as engaged as I was for the next one ... not giving up.