Monday, January 14, 2008

At Love's Command by Samantha Kane

Samantha Kane - Brothers in Arms series
(Ellora's Cave)

Series Category: Crème Brûlée - My All-Time Moan-Out-Loud Favorites. (A+)
Flame Height: 9" out of 9"

The Courage to Love1. The Courage to Love - Jason, Tony, Kate (see previous commentary)
Love Under Siege2. Love Under Siege - Phillip, Jonathan, Maggie (see previous commentary)
Love's Strategy3. Love's Strategy - Valentine, Kurt, Leah (see previous commentary)

At Love's Command 4. At Love's Command - Ian, Derek, Sophie

Book Category: Crème Brûlée - My All-Time Moan-Out-Loud Favorites. (A+)
Flame Height: 9" out of 9"

To read my "official" The Good, the Bad, the Unread condensed review of At Love's Command, click here. (Just be warned that it was the innocent victim of TGTBTU's recent template and server changes, so it's a bit wonky and the comments have disappeared. Hopefully, everything at TGTBTU will be working smoothly soon.)

The Brothers in Arms series centers around a group of men who fought together in the Peninsular War. In pairs, they protected each other and saved each other many times over. They love each other but, for some of them, they never considered how much they needed to also physically love each other and could only fulfill that unspoken need by sharing one woman. Once they find a woman they can both love, it also frees them to explore their love for each other.

At Love’s Command is the story of two of the men, Ian and Derek, who have already discovered how much they need each other in every way. But Ian dreams of a new start with someone not associated with the war and all that happened there… Finally they could put the past behind them and live fully in the present, planning for a future. Ian wanted a family. He wanted children. And he wanted to give those things to Derek, too. Unfortunately, Derek neither needs nor wants any part of it. He is convinced that a wife will destroy his life with Ian.

“A child when they were betrothed, Sophia Middleton has been waiting twelve years for Ian Witherspoon to return and marry her. Preyed upon by her vicious father and older brother, Sophie longs for Ian to rescue her.”

In this series, Samantha Kane shows us another reality within the Regency era ton… woman had no rights and were at the mercy and whim of the men in their lives. They either accepted their lot in life or held out hope that yet another man would change their circumstances. From the vantage point of our modern times, it is hard to comprehend that women had so little personal power. And as romance readers, we are accustomed to seeing women of the ton treated as pampered, protected pets or, at worst, neglected and ignored by indifferent parents/guardians.

In At Love's Command, it is truly horrifying to learn what Sophia has endured at the hands of her father and brother, made more so by the fact that she really had no choice but to survive it or take her own life… until Ian sends for her. It was heart wrenching to watch her fear of Ian’s rejection and her willing debasement of herself as she grasped at the only hope she would ever have in her life. From her POV, the fact that Ian already had Derek in his life (I assume her brother told her about them) meant that he would make few demands on her sexually and she would feel some measure of freedom and control for the first time.

When I first read the previous books in this series, they immediately landed on my all time favorites list. It still amazes me that, even with this fourth book, Kane’s mastery of erotic scenes somehow allows us to perceive each erotic act to be unique to that set of participants. But as much as I loved those previous books, they almost pale in comparison to At Love’s Command.

Kane’s writing has matured exponentially with this rich, exquisite, multi-dimensional story. Each of the men reminisces about their history together which makes their bond all the more believable and allows us to see their current situation from both viewpoints. And watching Sophie bloom and discover her true personality and sexuality is a delightful journey. Kane weaves Ian’s dreams of a loving triad, Sophie’s dreams of freedom from men’s cruelty, and Derek’s cynicism together and gradually a pattern of mutual respect and caring starts to appear.

I think At Love’s Command could probably be read as a standalone, but I recommend you read them all just for the enjoyment. Most of the characters from the previous books appear but I don’t think it would be difficult to catch the gist of their stories in relation to Ian, Derek, and Sophie’s story. In fact, Kate, her friend Kitty, and her niece Very (all of whom we meet in book 1, The Courage to Love) play important roles in At Love’s Command, but just enough of their back story is mentioned that their presence would make sense to those who haven't read the previous books. FYI: the Majors Richards and Randall who appear in Derek’s and Ian’s Peninsular War reminiscences are the Tony and Jason from The Courage to Love who also appear here in At Love’s Command.

Kane wisely brings an end to a continuing subplot from the previous books that had run its course, although I feel it was a bit out of place and unnecessary here—Sophie’s family member provided more than enough villainy without the need for the additional villain. Thankfully this subplot makes a relatively brief appearance. And I have to admit to a bit of selfish disappointment that this story ends before the ball. I hope the next story opens there.

A note regarding Kate’s niece Very... Very (Veronica) is extremely likeable and a welcome contrast to the other women in the series who have suffered at the mercy of various men. Considering the circumstances in which we meet her and Kate in The Courage to Love, I will concede that Very might be more worldly than the average teen girl within the ton. But in At Love’s Command, I think her precocious adult insight and sexual knowledge strained credulity.

On a more personal note, her erotic scene with Michael and Wolf had me metaphorically cringing behind my hands and peeking out between my fingers to zip through it (FYI: heavy petting, no intercourse). Yes, I realize that it would not be unheard of for a teenager of that era to be married, but since the adults in the story relate to Very as a child, that is how I relate to her too. So the scene had my squick-o-meter alarms clanging and I fervently hope that Kane allows a few years to pass in Very’s life before the triad consummates their relationship.

You know, one of the joys of having a voice in Romancelandia is that I have a platform which allows me to champion authors and books that I consider “MY” squee-worthy discoveries (I bet you have some you feel the same way about). Samantha Kane is a shining example of the gems offered by ePubs at their very best. As it stands now, NY would never touch her bisexual storylines, yet I assert that At Love’s Command deserves to be front and center on the mass market new releases display at every major bookstore.

I can summarize this book, indeed this entire series, in one word… exquisite.

Read an excerpt.

Piquant Opines: Ecataromance, RJ, Teddy Pig, Euro-Reviews,


Kris said...

I have not read anything by her before. This sounds like something i ight lik,e I will have to keep an eye out for it. Thanks! I cannot wait to read it.

QB said...