To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney
Why this one: I read it years ago and then lost it. I bought a copy through Amazon and then got another copy at a UBS recently. Since I now had two copies when before I figured I should read it *g*. It’s one of those books that comes up for discussion with quite a bit of controversy and since it’s been a while, I wanted to read it again.
Steam Level: Pretty high
Blurb: Sebastian Verlaine, the new Viscount D'Aubrey, was cynical, sophisticated, and too handsome for his own good. He was also bored. Why else would he agree to sit on the bench with two fellow magistrates to judge the petty crimes of his tenants and neighbors? It was all a lark -- until a beautiful prisoner came before him, and he realized he held her fate in his hands.
Rachel Wade knew everything about helplessness and sexual degradation. Her husband's violent death had freed her from that nightmare, but ten years in prison for his murder was only another kind of torture. Now a jaded viscount was offering her freedom -- but at a price. "Housekeeper," he termed her new position at Lynton Hall. "Lord D'Aubrey's whore," the scandalized villagers called it.
A ruthless, unkind bargain. But neither of them guessed how the tables could be turned. How a game that began in base desire could lead to a breathtaking gamble in love.
My Thoughts: As I already said this book is often up for discussion such as here and here due to its controversial nature and one or two scenes in particular. As it’s been a while since I’ve read it, I didn’t feel I could offer much to any discussion as my memory can’t always be trusted and I was determined to fix this.
Now for my thoughts. I can see why so many people love this book and I saw again why I loved this book when I first read it many years ago. Both Sebastian and Rachel are broken characters though in different ways. Sebastian is broken inside by his lack of a working conscience and Rachel is broken inside by having to deaden herself to all emotion in order to survive her ten years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.
I think this book is almost broken into two sections, each equally compelling. One of the reasons I wanted to reread this book after so many years is to qualify in mind whether Sebastian did rape Rachel or whether it was forced seduction and to me – this time there was no question it was a rape. It was about Sebastian’s power over Rachel. Even though it wasn’t a violent attack; in fact he made it as gentle as he could, she said no, he knew she meant it and he did it anyway because he wanted that power over her. Even as she was becoming slightly aroused the second time, it was rape and for that very nature it was an ugly scene. And anyone who hasn’t read this book who is horrified that I loved it and think it’s a powerhouse of a book – I don’t blame you. I’m surprised myself that in the end I would love this book and root for Sebastian and Rachel. Even after the rape scene, Sebastian continues to treat Rachel viciously – though not in the physical sense. Following this scene he allows a 'pack of rabid dog' friends to humiliate her at a so called dinner party and even shrugs his shoulders when the most vicious of this pack heads out to assault Rachel.
Oddly enough I did enjoy the book up to this point though not so much as a romance but more of a character study of two interesting people. Rachel was very sympathetic and Sebastian was villain with depth. But the attempted assault on Rachel made a turning point in Sebastian's character. After shrugging his shoulders on what was about to happen to Rachel, he had an epiphany about himself and his character and how jaded and uncaring and cold he had become over the years. And at this point he made a determined effort to change himself and Rachel had become the catalyst for making this change. He needed her. And she needed him. She had all but wiped herself out in order to survive and needed him to bring her back to life. I realize unless you read this book you probably can't really understand what I mean and probably for many, even if they have read the book, Sebastian is unredeemable. I can understand if he isn't for them. But he was for me and that's one of the things that makes this such a compelling book. Even before Sebastian had his 'change of heart' he was starting to change from the jaded, bored, dissolute aristocrat who only cared about his own needs into a responsible, country landowner who cared what was best for others.
And equally absorbing was the transformation that Rachel went through. For the first part of the book we saw a young woman who had been so defeated by her tragic circumstances that she had become almost invisible. But we see her slowly start taking herself back. And oddly enough it was Sebastian that set this change in her in motion.
Unless this is a real hot button I have no problem recommending this book. Grading it is more difficult then normally so. Can one have a DIK without it being a perfect grade? I know I can and this is one of those books. Interestingly enough I started this book in the middle - at the dinner party where Sebastian has his own personal revelation and read it to the end and then started it at the beginning and read it all the way through again.
Grade: 4 out of 5 - with an asterisk ****