Awaken the Senses
I promised myself I’d read the entire Dynasties: The Ashtons continuity series, and have spent most of the past couple of months wishing I hadn’t made the commitment. The first installment earned a C+ while books two and three earned D’s. Awaken the Senses is nothing outstanding, but it’s a vast improvement over the last two books. The lead characters are likable, the plot actually moves, and best of all, the love scenes are hot and sensual. The underlying thread of the mini-series is its biggest flaw, though, and its authors can only do so much within the constraints of the series.
The Ashton Estate Winery, owned by the evil Spencer Ashton, is in competition with the Louret Winery, owned by Spencer’s ex-wife Caroline. The Ashtons have asked French vintner Alexandre Dupree to visit the winery as a consultant to help them improve their wines. It doesn’t take long for Alexandre to pick up on the dynsfunctional family currents, so he’s kept his distance. But one day he meets Charlotte Ashton as she is riding her bicycle…
Charlotte is the daughter of Spencer’s late brother David and his Indian wife Mary Little Dove. She and her brother grew up with the rest of the Ashtons and the shy, quiet Charlotte always felt like an outsider. She tends to the estate’s greenhouses, growing flowers and creating arrangements for the various functions held there. She is tongue tied before the handsome Alexandre and pedals off, leaving her journal behind.
Alexandre thinks it is a planting journal, but when he browses he finds a series of letters to “Lover Mine” pleading to be courted, seduced and loved. Alexandre sets out to do just that, and he and Charlotte fall deeply in love. Meanwhile, the Ashton family is rocked by a series of incidents and revelations that will no doubt be addressed in future installations of the miniseries.
Both Alexandre Dupree and Charlotte Aston are stock romance figures, but they are also likable. He is outwardly the sophisticated Frenchman whose worldly mother never married her long-time English gentleman lover. Alexandre loves both his parents, but it hurt that he could never call his father Papa in public. Under his worldly facade, he longs for fidelity, loyalty and commitment and finds that in Charlotte.
Charlotte is the outsider in her family, but she is not a Cinderella nor a doormat. She is quite aware of the unhealthy undercurrents in her extended family, and has simply kept her distance and carved out her own career. She is sensible, and intelligent, and a very likable character. Yes, she does go from shy violet to hot passionate lover very quickly, but it’s a very short book.
The love scenes in Awaken The Senses are hot and luscious and the best thing in the book. They really serve to show the progress of Alexandre and Charlotte’s growing intimacy. I’d love to see Nalini Singh tackle a longer book so she could stretch out.
I hope that the incidents and revelations introduced in this book lead to even better titles in the future. Even though her characters were stock, I think Singh did her best to work within the dictates of the series’ overall storyline; hopefully the books to come can do an even better job. I’ll be here in June with the next installment of Dynasties: The Ashtons.