Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ARC Review: Libertine's Kiss

Libertine's Kiss
Judith James
Historical Romance (England/1660)

Harlequin/August 2010

ARC from Publisher/NetGalley

From the author's website ~

A Restoration era love story inspired by the character of the Earl of Rochester, King Charles II’s court poet who was rumored to be the model for Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff. William de Veres, the handsome son of a hard-drinking cavalier was abandoned at an early age to a brutal school system and a predatory and abusive tutor. He soon discovers the escapes of poetry, literature, alcohol and sex, and the defenses of a sharp sword and lacerating wit. As a titanic struggle erupts between parliament and king, William takes up arms in the Royalist cause and pursued by Cromwell’s men finds himself seeking shelter from a sober young Puritan woman in a cottage deep in the woods.

The Civil war has cost the once high spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds there is something she never expected. Despite William’s gratitude and promise to aid her, Elizabeth never expects to see him again, but the Restoration of Charles II to his throne will bring her to the attention of both William and the king.

Can a promise long forgotten and a friendship forged in the past help two lonely people find each other and themselves? Can a debauched court poet and notorious libertine convince the wary Elizabeth he is capable of love? These are the questions asked by Libertine’s Kiss…

After having read and enjoyed Ms. James previous books I was looking forward to reading this, her latest release. The time period is not one of the more common periods found in historical romances. While I like Regency and Victorian settings, I also enjoy something different. The fact that the characters are inspired by real people from history made me curious enough to look up information on them. And left me curious as to how they would be portrayed in the novel.

William de Veres is a true rake. He is loyal to his king, living in exile with Charles and returning to England when Charles takes the thrown. William is also very loyal to himself. He enjoys drinking and women and he doesn't try to make any excuses for his actions. It was refreshing to have him not use past abuses as an excuse for his debauchery. His way of thinking is that the excessive drinking and numerous women are simply how things are done.

Elizabeth Walters is a 27 year old widow, living quietly in the country when William bursts into her life again. They knew each other as children, were close friends even, but their families chose opposites sides during the war. It has been years since they have seen each other and now William needs Elizabeth's help and she willing gives it. Years pass before they meet again. This time it's William who helps Elizabeth when she needs it the most. Elizabeth is desperate to get her land back and William is there to guide her through the intrigues of court life.

Once William decided to help Elizabeth get her lands back, he sees that she is dressed in the height of fashion and lets the other members of court think that Elizabeth is his mistress, which she is. He doesn't concern himself with this since it's what they will believe, no matter what he tells them. This side of William was a little hard to take. He cares for Elizabeth but still maintains the lifestyle of a rake.

With William, Elizabeth experiences so many new things and seems to enjoy her time at court. She falls into love with William quickly and is having the time of her life. I liked that Elizabeth embraced her time with William. Of course she wished it wouldn't end but can't see herself with a man who can not swear to be faithful to her. William's life is at court and while Elizabeth enjoys her time at there, she longs for the simpler life in the country.

William believes in looking out for himself and playing the politics of the court. He has this habit of blaming his nature, or the nature of men, for his debauchery. After Elizabeth comes back into his life he doesn't suddenly become a new man, fully redeemed by love. His life with Charles, both as a fugitive and now at court, have left him very cynical. Even with this outlook he still holds fond memories of Lizzie as a child. His first love and his only good childhood memories. There were times when he could be cold and unloving but you could feel his need to take care of Elizabeth and that hidden need to love and be loved.

I must say Judith James makes the court of King Charles come alive with vivid details and descriptions of the ornateness of the palace and the people at court. The life at court with all its finery and excesses, politics and subterfuge, add another dimension to the story. I loved seeing William use his knowledge of Charles and the court to help Elizabeth navigate through those rough waters. Until a misunderstanding due to William's reputation and Elizabeth's previous experience comes between them. They keep their distance from each other but can't stop themselves from caring for each other.

I did, at times have some problems with the slow pace of the story. While I found most of the descriptions interesting there were points when the pacing dragged and I would have liked for William and Elizabeth to have spent less time apart. They do get their happily ever after but James really made these two work for it. They both go through some changes but they didn't happen overnight. They way it played out made it far more realistic with Elizabeth standing her ground and William, being William, and doing the unexpected. Judith James delivers an enjoyable love story with unique characters set in an equally unique historical period.

Rating: B+


  1. I wasn't wowed by the first book, and there are so many books, so little time. I'm sure I'll get around to the next 2 eventually. Good review!

  2. Great review, Leslie. I think I'm going to pick this one up. I like the premise of the story and the characters and politics sound so interesting. One thing I do enjoy about James' books --at least in Broken Wing and in this one, is that the story spans a considerable time frame. It makes the story feel more like a saga (which I like now and then) and allows the author to give the characters a lot of depth and complexity.

    I never ended up picking up her second novel, Highland Rebel. Do you recommend that one as well?

  3. Lori ~ James' style is a slow build, so not a quick read.

    Christine ~ saga is a good word for her books. She takes her time with the development of the relationships.

    I liked Highland Rebel a bunch! It too takes place shortly after LK - 1668 and has some unique characters as well.

  4. This is a great review, Leslie. Is this book considered historical fiction? I still haven't read anything by Judith James, although I think I do have one book by her in my TBR...

  5. Hils ~ it's definitely romance but there's lots of history/politics woven into the plot.

  6. sounds pretty good. This book has been getting some consistently good review :D I'm intrigued with the time period....

  7. Nath ~ the time period is what got my attention. And of course the author too. :)