Rosemary Rogers is one of those “Old School” romance writers who have been around a long time – long enough to be proclaimed “The Queen of historical romance.” (I’ve heard this title used to describe many romance authors who have been around for a long time, but it says so, right there on the cover, so it must be true.) I’d not read her before, so when this book came up for review, I thought “why not?” You know, sometimes that little voice in your head urging you to try something new is just plain wrong.
Sapphire Fabergine, nineteen year old, headstrong hoyden, was raised on Martinique in the French West Indies. A year after her mother’s death, her world is shattered when she learns the truth of her parentage. Her mother secretly married the son of the Earl of Wessex. When his family found out, they kidnapped her and shipped her off to America. Alone and pregnant, the only job open to her was that of prostitute, where she met Armand Fabergine, who fell immediately in love, married her and raised Sapphire as his own. Now he gives Sapphire her parents’ love letters and the fabulous sapphire for which she was named, given to the Wessex family by Queen Elizabeth. She is sent off to London to find her father and take her rightful place in society. Accompanying her is her “aunt” Lucia, a friend of her mother’s from the brothel, and her adopted “sister” Angelique, a half native/half French girl who is a slut. We hear way too much about Angel’s conquests, on both sides of the Atlantic, but Sapphire knows she has a good heart.
In London, Sapphire rushes out to confront her father only to find that he is dead and a distant cousin, Blake Thixton, an American shipping magnate, is the new earl. He is not at all impressed with his new title and status, especially as it comes with debts and dependents. When Sapphire bursts into his home demanding that she be recognized as the late earl’s daughter, he is sure that she’s a scheming fortune hunter.
During another confrontation, Blake refuses to even listen to Sapphire’s story, though he is happy to kiss her silly. When they are discovered, Sapphire & Co. are booted out of the house of their London sponsor and left to fend for themselves. Their cunning plan to repair Sapphire’s fortunes? They will let it be known that since they were put out, the two girls must find protectors, and this will shame the Wessex’s into acknowledging Sapphire as the late earl’s daughter so as to avoid a scandal. I was stunned into speechlessness at the brilliance of this plan. We all know that advertising for a protector is a sure way to be accepted into the hearts and minds of the ton…not. And of course, this only confirms Blake’s belief that Sapphire is an opportunistic hussy, but one that he has the hots for, so he kidnaps her and sets sail for America.
And that is just the beginning of Sapphire’s adventures. Sapphire covers a lot of ground – literally. There is a lot of running to and fro – running to something, away from someone, crossing oceans and traveling backcountry woods. The book covers a span of almost two years, though the last one goes by very quickly. More than once, I turned a page to find that several months had passed. A couple of chapters later, and more months had slipped by. It was too disjointed, too scattered, and just too much. Also too much were the no less than eight points of view we get and the additional love stories of every member of Sapphire’s family (as well as the four sexual encounters Blake has before he settles on Sapphire). I suppose this could be called “a sweeping family saga,” but not by me.
Sapphire was a silly chit who ran off at the drop of a hat, and Blake was a bully who delighted in humiliating her. Neither of them at all attractive characters or people I’d want to spend any time with, let alone 480 pages. Yes, that’s not a typo – 480 pages. Next time, I’m listening to that little voice in my head that says “Ummm…. Maybe not.”