Tempt Me with Diamonds
Picture the movie The War of the Roses as a romance novel set in late Victorian England and you have – in a roundabout way – Jane Feather’s latest novel, Tempt Me with Diamonds. If you enjoy reading about characters who like to fight each other and then hate-bang each other into oblivion, then you might like this book more than I did.
Following the death of his best friend at the Siege of Mafeking, Colonel Rupert Lacey has returned to London after years in Africa in order to settle Jeremy Somerville’s estate. Rupert is almost immediately confronted with the presence of Diana, his former fiancée and Jeremy‘s sister, with whom he’s been at loggerheads ever since they were children.
Diana, recently returned from the family’s land in South Africa, quickly learns that Jeremy deeded half of his estate to Rupert, and she’s incensed. After the death of her father she had been counting on the security of her home and the income from the family diamond mines to support her. Diana is the only standing blood heir, and believes everything ought to belong to her – not the loathsome Rupert.
Diana chose to break their betrothal due to nasty rumors about Rupert’s conduct, and her decision created a rift that has caused contention between them ever since. He’d rather share a home with a nest of roaches or a sharp-toothed snake than Diana, and the feeling is mutual. Rupert expects Diana to walk away from the battle for the estate – but well, Diana is nothing if not a creative woman. They find themselves splitting the vast Sommerville homes in London, all the while putting on a face of conviviality for their friends and family. Lust soon comes bubbling up, but Diana becomes fixed on winning her independence through the family racehorse –Kimberly Diamond – she plans on having trained up to greatness.
Rupert and Diana set themselves to war, giving counter-instructions to the servants, taunting each other about their weaknesses, having unpleasant public dinners, and using relatives and friends against one another. To cover for their shared housing agreement, they lie and say they were quietly married in Africa. But will they end up falling back into love for real? Will Kimberly Diamond become a winner? And what secrets is Rupert hiding about his presence at Jem’s death?
Rupert is, in a word, smug, and he’s another one of those heroes who thinks his emotional damage means he has carte blanche to act like an arsehole to everyone around him. He often comes off as mean – even when he’s doing something kind (like getting Diana a walking stick after she twists her ankle) he does something cruel (like go to Diana’s elderly aunt behind her back and deliver an invitation for tea, spreading the lie that they’re married to the family along the way). He constantly cuts Diana out of choices, then gets angry when she does the same to him. And he’s the one who feels the need to go on and on about wanting things to be the way they used to be between them?!
Diana – smart, wealthy (thanks to the family diamond mine), and beautiful – is a good heroine whose wits only desert her when it comes to Rupert, and even then not that much. I loved her relationship with her fellow debutantes, Fenella and Petra (who will likely be the heroines of the next books in the series), and her relationship with her dogs Hera and Hercules. While she wasn’t pleasant all the time, at least she mostly came off as a rational human being.
Rupert and Diana…well, how much you’ll like their romance will depend on how much you like slap-slap, kiss-kiss style romances. Do you like it when the hero lectures the heroine like a child? Misunderstandings that persist until nearly the last page of the book? Especially the sort that could be easily solved with a single conversation? Then you’ll love this relationship. There is much shouting, conflict, snide-ness and high-handedness between the couple; characters go on and on about how they’re the perfect match because he’s bossy and she’s always been aggravated by his need to take control, which simultaneously makes me wonder if they secretly had stock in an antacid company. Diana and Rupert never talk about their suspicions that the other has been unfaithful to them, preferring to, in the words of Britney Spears and Wil.I.Am, scream and shout. Midway through the book, the main conflict becomes so watered down and so clearly an idiot plot device that I wanted them to either shut up forever or just freaking TALK.
To make matters worse, these two mostly have sex after violent arguments, which is a well Feather goes back to once too often. Much of the sex is treated as a debasement that Diana mentally regrets until the midpoint of the story, and those scenes comprise almost all of the on-page non-fade-to-black sexual encounters between our hero and heroine; this impression isn’t helped when Rupert acts more like an un-negotiated dominant than a boyfriend. These two have known each other since childhood, but that sense of warmth rarely shows up on page, and their constant storminess doesn’t lend to hope that they’ll have a happy marriage. They live in constant distrust of each other, and that is not romantic.
There aren’t many compelling secondary characters besides Fenella and Petra. Rupert and Diana each have a butler and lady’s maid who tend to them, but they don’t come off as interesting people. Mostly, they’re surrounded by servants who tend to pop up, announce a guest, and leave us alone with Diana and Rupert, which is like being stuck between a squabbling pair of hormonal teenagers in a hot car on a long road trip – and one of the many reasons I can’t recommend this book.
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