29 March 2010

Reading Romance: Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter

I picked up Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter from my TBR pile yesterday, and I'm already about half-way done. It's a really engaging read. Plus, I've enjoyed Madeline Hunter's books from the very beginning, when she wrote a set of three fine medieval romances, By Design, By Arrangement, and By Possession nearly ten years ago. Ms. Hunter was also kind enough to reply to an e-mail I sent her about balancing the two worlds of romance writing and university academics (she's a professor of art history). She really is as nice as she looks in that author photo at the back of her books. Here's a link to her website.

Anyway, Ravishing in Red is the story of how a young woman is compromised and how she and the gentleman involved deal with it. What I enjoy is the way that Hunter treats being compromised as a real disaster. There is genuine mortification involved when the heroine, Ms. Kelmsleigh, sees herself portrayed in lewd engravings sold on London street corners. The hero is an MP and the brother of a peer, and his career is totally run off the rails when gossip paints him as a ravisher of innocent young ladies. He's actually concerned about his honor as a gentleman and about the ton's perception of him as violent blackguard. I found this believable and much more period-accurate than the more typical scenarios that we see in romance novels: "Whoops! We've been caught kissing! Guess we ought to get married!"

Ravishing also has a secondary plot involving the heroine's father and a war-profiteering scandal. This, too, rings true, despite the somewhat silly and mysterious "domino" character.

I'm already looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Provocative in Pearls.

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