Blurb: In 1849, a celebrated French beauty-and British spy-risks her life to expose smugglers with the help of a dashing Englishman. But it’s her heart that’s in danger when the local gentry spread gossip of their illicit partnership. Because beneath the veil of secrecy lies a very true passion.
My thoughts: This book seems to be hard to come by unless you are willing to spend quite a bit of money. On amazon.com it is available used from 24$ which I find quite astonishing. I got the book maybe a year ago while I was participating in a romance challenge over at Shelfari but never finished the challenge. I’m always for the tortured hero and the heroine sounded feisty and down to earth. Almost all reviews were enthusiastic, except for a few who complained about the book being porn. All the more reason to get it, my curiosity was piqued.
So, first of all, this book is NO porn. It is an erotic romance, and a great one at that. There are several things that –for me- make it stand out of the vast amount of romance books out there.
I like heroines who are self-reflective and admit, at least to themselves, if not to others, their feelings and true motives. So far I have only come across one heroine I truly liked and that was Harriet Pomeroy in “Ravished” by Amanda Quick. Madeleine in Winter Garden is not quite the same type, she does object to and is afraid of being in love. When she realizes her true feelings she chooses to lie about them. Nevertheless she is not your run-of-the-mill heroine.
Thomas is a great character. He has an ulterior motive to bring Madeleine to Winter Garden, which is only revealed very late, but he never deceives Madeleine about what he is feeling for her.
What differentiates this book from a lot of others is the fact that both characters are drawn to each other almost immediately and they both acknowledge it! This is almost unheard of. The normal procedure is that the man refuses to admit to himself that he is in love or, heaven forbid, he loves the woman (a fact, by the way, that doesn’t stop him from having sex with her, if he can). The woman on the other hand might admit that she feels something for him, but denies it for about two thirds of the book and comes up with stupid reasons why she couldn’t possibly be in love with the man (a fact, by the way, that doesn’t stop her from enjoying having sex with him, if he initializes it).
Here, not only do they both admit their attraction, they also engage in various sexual activities at an early stage in the story. Madeleine is here just as active as Thomas and also initiates them quite frequently. He, for his own reasons, isn’t willing to go all the way though, for quite a while. The roles are almost turned upside down.
Another point that strikes me as different is the reason the couple eventually separates. I usually find those incidents that cause either the woman or the man to leave ridiculous and far-fetched. They either are based on a misunderstanding or misconception and could be avoided if people actually talked with each other and let the other person finish. Here we have just the opposite. Exactly because Thomas reveals the truth Madeleine decides to leave him and I could totally relate to that. It wasn’t some trivial misapprehension, but something that made her whole self-image collapse. So it was perfectly understandable that she had to leave
I found the love scenes highly erotic and pleasant to read. The way the romance develops and turns into love makes this book different from almost all the historical romance books I’ve read. In a good way.
The smuggler plot, even though always present, to me, was a side plot. Thomas and Madeleine are not so very eager to investigate as they could have been, a fact that was even pondered by Madeleine herself. A lot of the story focuses on the couple and explores their interaction and relationship. Fine with me, I read the book for the romance, not for the sleuthing. However, they manage to bring the case to a conclusion in a neat way in the end.
If you are tired of the same old plot and like independent women, but not to the point where they contradict just for the sake of it, a loving hero, erotic scenes and an almost cabin romance feel, this is your book.
Winter Garden is available on amazon.