Taken by Desire
Taken by Desire begins with a bang: During a house party, Miss Anna Steele walks down a corridor at night to post a letter, only to come across Alexander Struthers leaving her sister Maddie’s room, while Maddie’s very jealous husband Lord Milson, a crack shot, comes from the other direction. On an impulse, Anna grabs Struthers for a very thorough kiss. When Lord Milson threatens a scandal, Struthers proposes. Anna first refuses him, because as an heiress she feels no need to marry and she believes her friends will help her to weather any scandal, but circumstances force her to change her mind. Soon she and Struthers are wed and, after a rather boring wedding night relocate to London, each to their own house, to get used to the change in their lives.
Matters are complicated in several ways. Anna and Struthers have a past: They were close when they were teenagers and Anna got engaged to Struthers’s best friend Christian. When Christian died on the Spanish peninsula, Struthers was the one to tell Anna, which drove a wedge between them. Struthers went to India where he made a fortune, not without difficulties; Anna inherited great wealth from an American uncle and has since lived the life of a completely independent if slightly scandalous lady of means. Now some cousins who feel disinherited threaten her, and this is the main reason she accepts Struthers.
Here is the difficulty I had with the book: Hero and heroine seem to have forgotten that they liked and respected each other in the past. The author shows clearly that they have both been burned badly by those they trusted, and their attitude is plausible. Yet now each thinks they can only come to trust the other again when they have achieved domination, and both plan to do so through seduction. As a result, for a long time each move and each sentence is deliberate and calculating, to achieve a victory in a power struggle. It makes for an extremely intense read, no doubt about that. But it made it very difficult for me to warm to Anna and Struthers.
The book is tightly plotted (except for some scenes close to the ending with overlap with Lavinia Kent previous novel, Bound by Temptation), and the diverse threats to Anna and Struther’s health and reputations kept me glued to the page. I enjoyed the highly sensual love scenes, the fascinating insights into the roles that women could and could not achieve at the period, and the luscious style. I even liked hero and heroine as multi-faceted characters, I just didn’t care at all for the games they felt they needed to play.
Still, Taken by Desire gripped me, and I applaud Lavinia Kent for leaving the more well-trodden paths of historical romance in more than one respect. A book in which I don’t truly love the main relationship cannot be a DIK for me, but for other readers it may well turn out even more enjoyable than it was for me.