by Anna Campbell
THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION has to be one of the most unusual historical romances I've ever read.
It's great, but it's...unusual!
Let's start with the tone - not at all the intensely emotional, close focus, sensual approach you get with the majority of historical romances.
Please don't imagine that makes for a cold read. Anything but! The love scenes are deliciously hot.
But somehow Pam Rosenthal adds this edge of Regency detachment to proceedings, a bit like Jane Austen suddenly decided to venture into telling a naughty story. It's utterly compelling! Kind of like Lizzie Bennet is talking dirty (can you imagine that? If you can, you're getting an idea of what this story feels like).
There's a hint of the omniscient narrator and we certainly enter more heads than we do in most historical romances. It's not something everyone could carry off, but the writing here is superb and strides through the tale with impressive confidence. That difficult balancing act between a modern, sexy romance and a suitably 19th-century tone turns into a dazzling display of wordsmithery (I'm sure that's a word!).
What else is unusual? Definitely the hero and heroine who are seriously flawed and have made terrible mistakes in their past. Real life mistakes of vanity and spite and foolishness. These two people are disarmingly human and because of that, the reader tends to forgive their faults. There's a warmth and a fascination about both the hero and heroine in this story that will keep you enthralled as they find their happy ending.
Lord Christopher (Kit) Stansell and Mary Penley have a Romeo and Juliet past. The two of them are childhood sweethearts who meet secretly to avoid the anger of parents feuding over land claims. Not only that, but the match is unequal. Kit isn't his father's natural child, but he's still officially the third son of a marquess while Mary is the daughter of a politically radical brewer rich enough to purchase a small estate next to the Stansells.
In their early 20s, Kit and Mary elope. Just as their parents warned, everything goes wrong and ends in separation. Kit joins the army (the story takes place in 1817 but as you can imagine, back story is hugely important) and Mary pursues her progressive political interests. Both Kit and Mary take lovers in the ten years they're apart although it's pretty clear right from the start that neither has ever stopped loving the other, no matter the seemingly unforgivable sins that divide them.
When these two difficult but extremely charming and likable people are flung together in the Derbyshire countryside, long-restrained passions are unleashed. But the issue between Kit and Mary isn't what they do in bed but the fact that politically they're on opposite sides.
Another unusual element of this story.
The Regency was a hotbed of political unrest and after Waterloo, the lower orders suffered serious deprivation. Not something that turns up in your average romance! THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION is actually a pun. Mary and Kit are so hungry for each other that it doesn't take much to have them flinging propriety aside. But it's also a play on the fact that the story revolves around the government's use of agents provocateurs to flush out working men agitating for political reform. Christine Wells used this historical background for her wonderful THE DANGEROUS DUKE too.
Not your average read, then, but definitely a great story. I'm not surprised this book was nominated for a RITA Award in 2007 (Pam's THE EDGE OF IMPROPRIETY won the RITA for Best Regency in 2009). Sometimes it's fun to walk along a more exotic path and the views on this particular ramble are definitely worth your attention.
Sounds like Pam has crafted an enjoyable and just different enough book. Will be looking for it. Always like books with a slightly different approach to things.ReplyDelete
Pat, it's interesting to see someone take a different take on the tried and true, isn't it? At heart, this is a reunion story and we've all read a thousand of them (and I must say I love that particular trope). But she's taken such a slant-wise view on it, it makes it really interesting! And I loved that she incorporated so much actual history into the story as well. I love the fairytale Regency but it's nice to get a glimpse of different levels of society interacting, perhaps not always harmoniously, as well! And she really is a beautiful writer!ReplyDelete
I love Pam's work possibly because I like a bit of omniscient narration. It can be a bit of a relief from the usual romance style of deep POV.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a great book - I love things that are a little different. After a time reading mainly contemporaries I've picked up a few historicals lately (including Reckless Surrender - yay) and am looking forward to diving into them. I'll add Pam's book to my list. Eliza Bennet talking dirty could work for me ;)ReplyDelete
Keziah, I know exactly what you mean! It really was like having a sorbet after eating a lot of roast beef if that makes sense. Do you know you're the person who introduced me to Pam's work? Way back at the Dallas conference, you told me how much you loved Pam's books.ReplyDelete
Snort, Sandra! I know EB talking dirty ALWAYS worked for Mr. Dirty...uh, DARCY!!!! Hey, I picked up one of yours when I was at conference too - it's in a double with a Day Leclaire, I think. Two authors I always love together in one volume - how cool is that? Hope you had a lovely time at the New Zealand conference. It was lovely seeing you in America! Hope you enjoy MRS!ReplyDelete
Anna, what a wonderful review! I adore Pam, both as a person and a writer. For me, the book was utterly compelling. I think there is something so compelling about two passionate people who love each other almost literally to distraction. I loved this book so much I instantly had to tell all my friends about it (some of whom had read it and knew exactly what I was talking about!) I'm so glad you enjoyed it, too.ReplyDelete
And thanks for the plug for The Dangerous Duke, also :) Cheque's in the mail!
Thanks Anna - I'm always looking for something 'different' and this book sounds like something I would enjoy.ReplyDelete
Reading about a Hero and Heroine pushing through time, obstacles and all kinds of differences has me intrigued. Also I finished Reckless Surrender and Captive of Sin. Loved, loved both books. :)
Hey, Miss Christine, I love that you used real history as the basis for TDD! I'm not at all surprised that book was up for a RITA. It's a fab read! I know you're a fan of Pam's - you have exemplary taste, m'dear!ReplyDelete
Hi Maria! Lovely to see you here! Didn't we have a wonderful catch-up in NY? I really felt like I was hanging out with the cool girls when we were at that restaurant! Actually one of the things I love about this book is that it confirms just what a range of voices and styles and tones historical romance offers!ReplyDelete
Carol, thank you so much! I'm so glad you loved COS and MRS! Just putting the finishing touches to the latest ms before I send it to Avon. Midnight's Wild Passion! How could anyone say no to an over the top title like that? Snort! Actually I love how in a good reunion story, the hero and heroine are always much wiser and better people at the end than they are in the beginning. Love it!ReplyDelete
Great review and honest opinions, Anna! This sounds like a different book, but compelling me to put it on my TBB list. I like reunion stories and I like that the hero and heroine are from different classes in society.ReplyDelete
Deb, sometimes it's nice to take a walk on the wild side ;-) Glad the review got you to put the book on your list! I think one of the things I loved about it is that it's so realistic - there would have been awful pressures on the marriage that these two make when they're very young. It was nice to see them grow and conquer those difficulties!ReplyDelete
Thanks for giving us the scoop on Pam's book. It definitely sounds like a romance from back in the day- circa Judith McNaught when heroes and heroines weren't as squeaky clean as today's. (like having other lovers.) Whitney, My Love is one of my favs. I just adore how deep the black moment is for those characters because of their non-heroic flaws.
I'm headed to town tomorrow and will be on search for this book. THANKS! :)
Oh, I'm definitely going to have to get this one, Anna! Your recommendations are always spot on!ReplyDelete
Anna - it was one of the best afternoons I've had in a while - and I loved spending time with you.ReplyDelete
Sarah, it's nice to read a book that takes a few risks, isn't it? I think you'll really enjoy this! It's very different to Whitney My Love but similarly courageous, I think.ReplyDelete
Hey, thanks, Gannon! I'll be really interested to know what you think of it. I read it in one sitting!ReplyDelete
Maria, ditto! It's always great to have a good giggle with good friends, isn't it?ReplyDelete
Hi Anna! Thanks for another terrific review and one more book to add to my tbr mountain range. ;-) I haven't read Pam's books yet but you never steer me wrong so I'll be looking for this one.ReplyDelete
I enjoy books where the author has taken a risk or a new (or slightly controversial) approach. I just finished reading an ARC of an October historical debut that is sure to have people talking. I loved it!
How are you? Just back from a l-o-n-g vacation, and I find you once again, introducing me to another author I was not aware of!
Thanks mate! LOL! I already brought home 2 boxes of new and used books!
But I love the sounds of this. I love stories of rekindled love, and there sounds like there is enough conflict sprinkled in to keep things moving along nicely, I will be looking for this!
Ooh, PJ, was it Surrender of a Lady? I thought that book was fabulous and took some real risks that paid off in spades!ReplyDelete
I'm looking out for Pam's RITA-winning THE EDGE OF IMPROPRIETY now. Can't wait to see what it's like!
Hey, Karyn, nice to see you back! Seems like you've been on the long and lonesome trail too. With America and then Sydney, I feel like I've hardly been home at all lately. And I'm away next week for a week for the Brisbane Writers Festival and a book signing then. Looking forward to hunkering down in my cave then for a while! Great to hear you've been buying great books while you've been out and about!ReplyDelete
Okay, Anna, you have certainly peaked my curiosity with this one. I'll be adding it to my list for the next trip to the bookstore. Thanks for another terrific and thought-provoking review! :)ReplyDelete
Anna said; Ooh, PJ, was it Surrender of a Lady? I thought that book was fabulous and took some real risks that paid off in spades!ReplyDelete
Got it in one, Anna! *grin*
Hey, great, Andrea! I love talking about great books with you girls!ReplyDelete
Snort! How did I know? Bwahahahahaha! Seriously, it's as hot as a summer night on Jinan's island, isn't it? Phew!ReplyDelete
Great review, Anna. Wow, THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATIONReplyDelete
sounds very intriguing. I too am always looking for something 'different'. So this book sounds like something I would really enjoy.