Thursday, February 19, 2009

TBR Challenge: REVIEW: The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale

COPYRIGHT: 1991
PAGES: 449
SETTING: Historical - Victorian (set in Hawaii & London)
TYPE: Straight Romance

SENSUALITY: Hot

REASON FOR READING: Well, because it's Kinsale and because it's a DIK at AAR (and appears in the Top 100 Romances consistently) and because this book has been mentioned numerous times on various blogs and message boards and it's considered a classic by many romance readers.

SUMMARY:

From nationally acclaimed bestselling author Laura Kinsale comes a boldly original, breathlessly unforgettable tale of honour, adventure and undying love.

The Shadow is wealthy, powerful and majestically handsome, he is a man of dark secrets - a master of the ancient martial arts of an exotic distant land. Scarred by a childhood of shocking degradation, he has sworn to love chastely ... but burns with the fires of unfulfilled passion.

The Star is lovely, innocent and nearly destitute, and drawn to him by a fevered yearning she could never deny - following her enigmatic 'shadow warrior' into a dangerous world of desire and righteous retribution.


THOUGHTS / OPINION:
I bought my copy of TS&TS many years ago but I just could not motivate myself to read it until recently. That is probably due to the fact that it is 449 pages long with very small print and my limit seems to be less than 400 page these days. So I knew I needed to devote a chunk of time to reading it so I procrastinated. Plus the cheesy cover put me off.

But as they say... don't judge a book by it's cover. TS&TS turned out to be a real treat and a keeper. There is so much to love about this book I don't know where to start. I love that some of it is set in Hawaii. I love the tortured dark hero and wonderful heroine. I love stories about the redeeming power of love. And I love Kinsale's writing and how she can evoke such a range of emotions.

Samual Gerard was rescued from a sexually abusive childhood by the wealthy Ashland family and brought to Hawaii and where he is shown love and accepted as a member of the family. But he still feels unworthy and overwhelmingly ashamed of his past. Their Japanese butler, Dojun, who is a master in martial arts takes him under his wing and trains him in the techniques and philosophy of martial arts which helps him heal from the trauma from his childhood. But as Samual grows into adulthood he becomes horrified with his increasing sexual awareness of women jumbling these natural feelings with the degradation of his past abuse. As a result he regards his sexual side as something to guard against. Samuel uses the rigid control of the ancient arts to quiet his inner turmoil and maintain a celibate lifestyle.

Leda Etoile is a prim and proper English woman who works as dressmaker's assistant in a London shop. When Samuel and his foster mother and sister visit the shop, he is confused by his strong physical attraction to Leda. When Leda is unfairly dismissed from her position she repeatedly fails to find employment as a typist. After a series of encounters Samuel eventually hires her as his private secretary to help him in his secret campaign to close child prostitution houses. Leda is an intelligent character, a bit naive but very sweet and oh-so-proper. I loved how she calls Samuel "Dear Sir".

The unfolding of their relationship is intensely emotional but in some ways very subtle. Kinsale is a master at this. And their first love scene is amazingly erotic even though both H/H are virgins. They are forced to marry and both of them seem afraid to show each other their true emotions even though their physical relationship is so passionate. Leda is confused by Samuel's seeming distance after losing control during their lovemaking. The story has many twists and turns which I don't wish to spoil. Let me just say there is not one wasted word. I wouldn't shorten it a bit.

As you can tell TS&TS is not a "quick" read, but it's complex fascinating characters, compelling story and intensely emotional love scenes are like savoring a piece of my favorite chocolate truffle.. rich and satisfying, leaving you with the feeling of heaven on earth. Kinsale is not for everyone but after reading Flowers from the Storm, I had to try this one and I'm so glad I did.

GRADE: A

Psst.. I like this new cover from the re-issue much better: