Sunday, June 21, 2009

Recent Read

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 ****


Stacy~ said...

I also read this book many years ago, and still today, remember how uncomfortable I felt while reading it, but I didn't hate it. I agree that what Sebastian did to Rachel was rape; he believed he could do whatever he wanted to her, that it was his right. I felt the author was able to turn my feelings of anger at Sebastian around and make him more sympathetic and remorseful. At that point, his motives changed, and he began to see her as a person, someone he could truly care for.

No question, this is not an easy story to read, yet that's what made it so memorable for me. It could have totally gone in a wrong direction and I could have hated it, but instead the author handled it in such a manner that I ended up caring about these two damaged people and wanting to see them together. I got what I wanted.

Great review Kristie.

sula said...

I read this one a few years ago and remember it being a very powerful and emotional book. Definitely not a happy-joy-joy bunny book, but totally worth the read. I was actually looking at it on my shelf the other day and considering a re-read....hmm.

Lori said...

Hmmm... I never read this one. Now wondering if I should for the power of it, or if I'll hate the hero. Lately, dark isn't my thing. I may have to wait till I'm more ready for dark.

Kati said...

This is one of those books that over and over I mean to pick up and just haven't. This review is enough to make me want to read it.

Since you and I have pretty similar thresholds, Kristie.

Thanks for the reminder!

nath said...

I bought this one last year I think and still haven't read it.

Rape is always an uncomfortable subject and it's distasteful... However, I think we shouldn't forget this is fiction and at least, the book was emotional and dark... nothing fluffy, so that's good.

orannia said...

Thank you Kristie! I think you expressed your thoughts on the book very well! And you've actually tempted me into hunting it down...I think books with lots of grey, characters that change and grow...

Kristie (J) said...

Stacy: Love it or hate it, this is a book you will never forget isn't it? It was years ago that I read it and I was fuzzy on some parts of it, but overall I remembered it very well. And if one is in the love it camp - that's a very good thing. And I agree - it would have been so easy to make Sebastian completely unredeem able but it is due to her incredible talent as an author that we actually hope they are able to work things out.

Sula: I've always preferred darker type books where there is a further internal journey for either the hero or heroine or both have to take. Light is nice sometimes, but I'd take dark over light much more often. And there is no question that this is a dark book.

Nath: One of the things I find fascinating about this book - and I may be wrong - but I don't know if Rachel really considers what Sebastian does AS rape. In todays enlightened times of awareness of such things, we see it for what it is, but when Rachel agreed to work for Sebastian as his housekeeper, she was aware from the beginning that more than housekeeping would be expected of her. I'm not saying that makes it better - not at all, but to her it was a forgone conclusion what would happen. And once he looked inside himself and saw what he really was, she started developing feelings for her. And he was the one who brought her back to life - back from the abyss where she had lived for so long. And because she was still in that abyss when it happens - hmm, I'm not sure how to explain it - but it's not quite the horror it could have been if he had been violent.

Orannia: *g* Well - you can tell from my review that I"m all for this book. I think besides ultimately being a great romance, it's also very well written in that the author can turn a character we despise into someone we think is good for the heroine makes it special. I say it's worth trying to track down.

Lori: You definitely have to be in the mood for dark as this is quite dark. But if you ever are *g* this is a VERY good dark romance.

Kati: Oh I hope you do read this one. I first read it years ago and while I think I see life a lot different and my taste in books have changed considerably, this book more then stands the test of time.

PeggyP said...

I too love this book but have reservations...God help you if this was the first romance novel you ever picked up! It is a wonder to me how Gaffney turns this story around when it seems headed for every cliche we've ever read... but it is good and memorable and a keeper for me. Dark? Definitely but you come to understand the motivations through alot of "show don't tell" and what a story it is!

Leslie said...

Kristie your review has made me add this to my buy list. I think I would like it because it's different. Thanks! :)

~ames~ said...

I read a review of this book a long time ago and stayed away. But I think I'm going to try it out - it sounds compelling, to say the least.

Heather said...

This definitely sounds like a must read. Thanks for the recommendation.

On the topic of rape, in todays society we view rape as a woman saying no and the man continuing, however before the mid-twentieth century, the woman really had no say, it didn't matter if she said yes or no, she was the property of the man. This scene would have been historically correct.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, Kristie J. I don't actually remember her saying no as said here, but in a way it almost doesn't matter, because you're right, she did not feel she had any choice. -- willaful

Kristie (J) said...

Willaful: I couldn't really remember whether she actually said no either and could it have been called a forced seduction - that's one of the reasons I wanted to read it again. But she did. And even stronger so the second time. Now the second time it was because she was starting to feel something, but HE didn't know that was the reason and a no is a no is a no. Which leads me to comment on Heather's comment :-)

Heather: Exactly!! And that's why if one reads this book, one should try and get into the mind set of the times when lines were much more blurry. Today we see it for what it is, but back then I don't think it was quite so obvious. And while Sebastian knew what he did was wrong, wrong, wrong after his epiphany, I still don't know if he saw it as rape. And that is part of what makes this book so very intriguing. And he did come to see that he needed Rachel to make life worth living - and vice versa.

Ames: I do think you should give it a try if only to see your take on it. It's a great book that can be debated about and discussed. I think Jessica was planning on using it for one of her classes and I can see why she would want to. It would make for some very interesting talk. And that's another reason why I have no problem recommending it for those who don't see such a thing as a hot button for them.

Leslie: It is unique among romance books - that's for sure :) And a lot more people then just me say one of the reasons is the skill of the author in writing such ambiguous characters that you can go from hating them to hoping things work out!

Peggy: I agree! I don't think a newbie to romance would find this one anything but a wall banger. But if one is a regular romance reader, it's a very good example of the story a "romance" can tell.

ReneeW said...

Great review, Kristie. Thanks for reminding me I need to re-read this book. I loved it but it's been quite a while but some scenes are still fresh in my mind and you described them perfectly. Some scenes were just downright painful but I loved them anyway which is rare in most books I read. A very unusual romance. I'm going to have to dig through some boxes to find it.