I love vintage romance novels. I can't get enough of them. The way I see it, we all need a vice, and mine is reading the types of books that most people try to forget exist - I SEE YOU, BACKLISTS. Usually, I read these types of books alone (shamelessly!) but this time, my two friends Karly and Heather joined me for the ride.
LAVENDER BLUE is set in the South Western United States, during the Civil War. In terms of setting and scene, it's actually very similar to Rosemary Rogers's SWEET SAVAGE LOVE: Juaristas, Emperor Maximilian, blockade runners, haciendas. Oh, yes. I didn't realize I was still craving that sort of edgy, Western setting until I picked up this book and was hit with the fond, nostalgic vibes of picking up SSL for the first time and sinking into some Rosemary Rogers goodness. This is a very different story from SSL, though.
Jeanette was married to a French guy who died young, in the Civil War. I think she owns a cotton plantation near the Mexican border, and she gets the brilliant idea of selling her cotton and then fencing it through a blockade runner in order to purchase arms for the Confederacy, because that was the Cause that her late husband championed. Jeanette is an unconventional lady in many ways, and her only true friend was also a friend of her husband and herself since childhood, Cristobal, the son of impoverished Spanish nobility.
When Jeanette meets the blockade runner, it's in the dark, bound, and blindfolded, and his terms for fencing her cotton is that he wants her. All she knows is that he's French and his name is Kitt - and he's really, really unconventional and attentive in bed (hee-hee). He also says the most amazing things to her in French. I had Google translate open so I could actually figure out what he was saying, since I don't speak a lick of French, and oh my God, be still my heart. *fans self*
What Jeanette doesn't realize is that Cristobal - the foppish, prissy, affected man she often finds herself being alternately disgusted and exasperate by and at one point even believes to be gay - is actually the Frenchman who's using her body for leverage. Not only that, but he's been secretly in love with her for years - basically since they were children. BE STILL, MY HEART.
This makes it all the more frustrating when Cristobal undergoes a total change of heart around the 80% mark and inexplicably becomes cruel, raping the heroine and slapping the heroine and saying all manner of cruel things towards her. He doesn't seem to get why Jeanette might feel betrayed, instead mocking her and basically making light of her misery until her anger reaches a fever pitch that pushes him over the edge and causes him to hurt her.
I read a lot of cruel heroes in bodice rippers so this didn't upset me as much as it did some readers, but it definitely felt out of character and the rating took a hit because of it. I still loved Cristobal's character and I guess you could argue that the things that made him so obsessive and impulsive could just as easily work against him, kind of like Stanley's animal passions in Streetcar Named Desire. Still, this was a lot better than the other book by Bonds I read, DUST DEVIL. Nobody gets their nose cut off in this book. I always consider that a plus.
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars