The Price of Pleasure
The Price of Pleasure has the sort of adventurous plot that’s sure to entice me, but in the end the book left me a little unsatisfied. My ongoing frustration with the hero and heroine served to limit my enjoyment of an otherwise entertaining novel.
When she was thirteen, Victoria Dearbourne was shipwrecked. Her parents were killed, and she spent the next eight years on a deserted South Pacific island, alone except for her companion, Camellia Scott. She had to be strong and intrepid to survive and to keep herself and Cammy alive. She has survived not only the rigors of the jungle, but also the attentions of a sex-starved band of sailors who once sheltered on the island. Victoria is, therefore, extremely wary when she sees Captain Grant Sutherland and a party of men arrive.
Grant was commissioned by Victoria’s grandfather to find her, and he has been searching for her for years. When he sees her on the beach, he is captivated by her beauty, and immediately (and quite stupidly, I might add) leaps from the boat and runs after her. Alarmed, she flees. For the next several days, Tori leads Grant on a wild goose chase all over the island. Only when Grant finds Cammy, who is sick, and takes her on board ship, does Tori agree to accompany him.
But if Grant thinks that he can simply return a docile Victoria to England and collect his reward, he is quite mistaken. Tori has survived by seizing what she wants, and at some point upon the voyage home she decides she wants Grant.
It’s a case of the wild child meeting the staid gentleman, which is a setup that I like. Grant is extremely upright and honorable, to the point of complete rigidity. He’s one of those men who has every moment of his life mapped out for him, and he refuses to bend to such illogical notions as love or sexual desire. Until he meets Victoria, that is. She blows his cool façade away like straw, and he can’t resist her.
I admire Grant’s instincts. As much as he wants Tori, he feels that the only reason she’s interested in him is because she’s alone and afraid. He is her protector in the strange new world of English society to which she’s returning, and he thinks that any relationship between them would be taking advantage of her.
Grant’s gentlemanliness is just one of the things I enjoyed about this novel. The author does a very good job showing how Victoria became the free spirit that she is. It’s also very poignant to see how frightened Victoria is at the thought of leaving the only world she knows – her island. She was able to conquer the jungle, but she is pierced with insecurity at the thought of returning to England. Another thing I liked was the book’s highly erotic love scenes.
However, the book features plenty of things I didn’t like much. Grant may be a gentleman, but he’s also just not very smart. He chases Victoria all over the island like a hound after a rabbit. At once point, he steals her diary and reads it, learning (a) that she’s afraid of would-be-rapist sailors, and (b) that she can read and write. Hey Grant, why not leave her a note explaining who you are? I know that the whole cat-and-mouse on the island thing is supposed to be very thrilling, but I do enjoy a hero who uses his brain, don’t you? Grant is also horribly inarticulate. He has an extremely difficult time saying what he feels, and sometimes says something quite opposite. Are you wondering if that might lead to misunderstandings? If so, you’re way ahead of me.
As I said before, Victoria’s characterization is quite good. We really understand why she is so unconventional – but that doesn’t mean she’s not annoying. Tori is a person who doesn’t let anything stand between her and what she wants, and while this might be a valuable survival trait on a deserted island, it is not a wonderful relationship technique. She is completely incapable of compromise, and her obstinacy is frequently exasperating. At one point in the book she leaps to a conclusion based on a partially-heard conversation (one of those in which Grant says something he doesn’t really mean), and mulishly clings to the resultant misunderstanding for the next third of the book. When that finally gets straightened up, she does something even more pigheaded. I sympathized with her, and I understood her reasoning, but there are times when I wanted to slap her.
The main couple from the author’s last book (The Captain of All Pleasures) make an appearance as secondary characters, but there’s no substance to them. Like so many other retired heroes and heroines, they serve only as a kind of Greek chorus, who know immediately (for no apparent reason) that Grant and Victoria are meant for each other. Cammy is another important secondary character who’s a little hard to get a handle on. She was apparently deathly ill on the island, but her illness only really manifested itself in a tendency to become ever-so-slightly wacky. When she’s all better, she’s still a little wacky, leaving me to wonder why everyone’s so ecstatic about her recovery. The book’s most likable character is Ian, Grant’s cousin, who will surely be the hero of a future book. He seemed nice, but the book ominously suggests that he’s become a pirate. That may not bode well.
This is an old-school sort of romance with larger-than-life characters and loads of sexual tension, and since I like that sort of thing, I generally enjoyed this. But I can’t overlook my lingering annoyance with the characters. If you enjoy adventurous, swashbuckling romances, you might want to give this one a try; but if you want characters who behave like sensible adults most of the time, you should probably pass it by.