Sunday, March 11, 2007

Stephanie Laurens, The Taste of Innocence: A Cynster Novel

The Taste of Innocence: A Cynster Novel by Stephanie Laurens

Category: M&Ms - M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)

Flame Height: 5" out of 9"

I love Stephanie Laurens' Regencies, particularly the Cynster series. Nobody romanticizes the period better, yet at the same time builds the sexual tension higher than her. Other books in the series vary in Flame Height from 5" to 8" and most are Peanut M&Ms, a few are Lava Cakes, but her Crème Brûlée is the first one, Devil's Bride. I will always remember and enjoy Devil and Honoria. *sigh* If you've never read or never thought you would like a Regency, read Devil's Bride. Now THAT was a ROMANCE!

The newest one, The Taste of Innocence, again centers on a Cynster connection; in this case, Gabriel's brother-in-law and Alathea's brother, Charlie- Charles Morwellan, the 8th Earl of Meredith. Like others in the series, the hero decides he must marry and wants to choose someone who will be agreeable but who will not weaken him with love. He decides on one of his neighbor's daughters, Sarah Conningham.

From Amazon:
"When New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens created the world of the Cynsters, she introduced readers to aristocratic British society, where arranged marriages are the norm and love is a dangerous indulgence. For no gentleman is this more true than Charles Morwellan, but, as Lord Meredith, he must marry, so he offers for his neighbor Sarah Conningham. She's intelligent enough to run his social life, beautiful enough to grace his arm, and old enough to know the value of his offer. But as a lady of independent means Sarah is unwilling to surrender unless it is for unbounded love.
But he convinces Sarah to give him two weeks to win her, after which, if he succeeds, they will marry immediately. And so begins an intense courtship. By day, Charles and Sarah are models of decorum. Each night they steal away and sensual embraces turn to searing kisses, which soon become much more.
After the wedding, despite nights of insatiable passion, Charles maintains an aloof distance. Sarah battles to prove that true love is a force that can't be contained, but it's only when she's engulfed in a web of increasingly dangerous incidents that Charles discovers how much he's willing to surrender to protect...the taste of innocence. "

I have to say that Charlie just flat out pissed me off. What a selfish bastard! He totally seduces Sarah into marrying him, showing her how much he cares about her, then after the wedding, he decides it isn't "manly" to care for one's wife and decides he needs to treat her like shit except when they are in bed. WTF? And later, after she confides the danger she's in to one of his friends (Barnaby reappears), he can't believe she didn't tell HIM about it- even though when she tried to, he told her it was none of his concern and didn't want her to bother him about it!! What a complete asshat!!

This wasn't my favorite Cynster book. Charlie just isn't all that likeable (even taking the time period into account), his attitude adjustments were a little too abrupt and extreme, and the climactic scene with the villian was... pretty much nonsense. I wish I could say what I REALLY want to say about that ending, but there's no way to do so without spoiling it.

Sarah was likeable enough, considering the time period, but she was either one of the boldest or one of the most knowledgeable sheltered virgins I've ever read. Sistah couldn't wait to grab a handfull of "swollen manhood" and sure wasn't wondering what that "rigid hardness" was!

I downloaded this from Some books are actually BETTER in audio format because the narrator brings them alive, such as with Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series, MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy Taylor series, or Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson series. But this was my first Regency in audio format. Elizabeth Sastre did a wonderful narration with both the men's and women's voices, but I have to admit I kinda cringed during the love scenes because it just seemed weird to hear the minute details of nipple sucking in such an upper-class veddy British accent! But, once I got used to it, the rest of the book probably was more enjoyable because of her accent.

I think I'm just going to consider The Taste of Innocence the (not quite bad enough to be black) GREY sheep of the Cynster family and eagerly await the next one.

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