Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kidnapped Lords and Secret Princesses: My Review of "The Barefoot Princess" by Christina Dodd

As much as Jermyn hated to admit it, Lady Disdain was right. 
He was a wart on the noble ass of England.

The Barefoot Princess, Christina Dodd pp. 154


Synopsis: (from back of book)
Life in exile has taught the passionate Princess Amy to hate injustice, and on the enchanting English isle of Summerwind, she finds injustice personified in the powerful and wickedly handsome Jermyn Edmonson, marquess of Northcliffee. Since he had stolen the islanders’ livelihood, Amy decides to steal him. She kidnaps the arrogant nobleman, chains him with his own manacles, and holds him for ransom.

It’s a simple plan, destined to succeed. Surely Jermyn’s uncle will pay his ransom. Alas, his uncle would be delighted if someone killed his nephew and left him to inherit the title and fortune. And holding the furious, guileful, sensual Jermyn chained in her basement provides a challenge to Amy’s restraint and her virtue.

How could such a little revenge and blackmail go so passionately wrong? 
                As I have reviewed before – I love Christina Dodd. I first read one of her books while living with Bestie, McPolski. She brought all four of the Darkness Chosen Series books and told me, eyes twinkling and super excited, that I just had to read them. All. Now. Preferably now. Like, right now. And OMG I did – I totally did, dear Readers – I read right through the four in under 3 days – thank heavens for long weekends! And I fell in love with the tone of her books – the sensuality was there – and it was hot, but there was also a real relationship – there was danger and fragile trust and characters that made me yell and laugh – Dodd’s work is brilliant, and she deserves all the fanfare she gets for it! (As a side note – go “Like” her FB page, she’s hilarious and has the best pictures!).

                But Darkness Chosen and the Chosen Ones series are all contemporary – ditto to the Fortune Hunters series and the Lonely Texas Heart series – all of which are connected and all of which are so awesome! I had yet to read A Dodd Historical. On one of my final trips to John R last winter with Smithy and Gabi, I finally found their romance section and pulled out of the pile a few historical Dodds, Medeiros, and a couple of Garwoods. One of the books was The Barefoot Princess, and I put it on my desk to savour at first chance. But then I moved and everything got stuck in bags and boxes and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was determined to read this.

                Oh My Goddess.

                The question is – why did I have to take so damn long!? As usual, I started a series somewhere in the middle – this trilogy is about 3 sisters, who are exiled princesses from the kingdom of Beaumontagne (Good Mountain) in the Pyrenes. When they are young, there is a rebellion and their Grandmother sends them to England – the two younger ones to a boarding school and the older, crowned princess somewhere else – somewhere super secret. Unfortunately for our Amy, she and her middle sister, Clarice end up being kicked out the school when the funds from their grandmother stop coming, and are cast out into the street. They make their way as peddlers and thieves, and somehow separate. Amy, being the tomboy princess, ends up on a ship as a cabin boy until someone figures out she’s not a boy, and throws her overboard. Then she ends up in Summerwind – and is taken in by Lady Victorine – a sweet old spinster who keeps a crumbling manor in a small village, after the Lord of their area took their livelihood away (their livelihood is a beading lace machine – I looked it up, but it looks super complicated).
                Meanwhile, our Hero, Jermyn is kind of an ass. He is a lord, his father is dead and he has Mommy issues since his mother allegedly abandoned him when he was six. He carries around a lot of pain and hurt from this and is, in general, a prickly bitter fellow who seems to be very accident prone given the amount of accidents he’s currently sustained. He has also let his estate fall into disrepair, under the watchful eye of his uncle, because of his bitterness and anger.

                And then he’s kidnapped by a girl with eyes the colour of poison.

                The heat of her contemporary novels is still here – the difference, for me, in Dodd’s heroines and others, is that they usually have to choose – consciously choose, to be with the man they’re with. Amy does all the groundwork before having sex with Jermyn – she consciously mulls it over, thinks about the consequences and what she wants, and just takes the plunge when she thinks she’s ready. For me, this makes it hotter – the scene suddenly ignites and you just don’t want it to end. I think that this type of heroine is an important edition to the romance genre – and though I have seen other examples of it with other authors – I keep coming back to Dodd.
                But what really made this book my new Dodd-favourite – the characters. They are so broken, and so heart-breakingly damaged and yet … you must keep reading, and you must watch them as they fall and crawl their way back up. Dear Reader … I cried. I totally cried when Jermyn was talking about his Mother, and I balled my eyes out when Amy spoke about her Father, and I sniffled back those tears when I read this scene:

In the haze of his rage, a cool finger of guiltintruded. He remembered that most of the china on which he'd been served had been chipped, and that Miss Victorine handled it with painful care, as if she needed it to last the rest of her life. Or as if each piece carried generations of memory.  

"Let me help you." He had enough chain to get that far. 

When he stepped closer, she flinched. 

And he recalled that he'd held a knife to her throat, he throen her aside, too, with the best of intentions, burt he'd seen the purpling bruises on the thin skin of her arms and seen how she hobbled. 

pp. 113

                How heart breaking is it when your hero is so fallible? How endearingly painful is it when your hero realizes the truth of the matter and it punches him in the gut? It was such a beautiful scene – had nothing to do with the romance, but beautiful nonetheless!

                And yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak and rebuilding, the characteristic Dodd humour is still there – it’s a tongue in cheek type of humour that makes you laugh through your tears and chuckle along with the antics of the characters. It is funny, plain and simple. Witty, funny and long lasting. Especially since it is in such an effortless way:

“I rather like my house.”
“The roof leaks.”
“It has atmosphere”
“Miss Victorine, that’s not atmosphere, that’s rain.”
Pg. 111

                Christina Dodd just blends the sadness, the humour and the sexiness into one great novel – in a way that not many people can. And she does it all with great humour and generosity. I highly recommend you pick up this book – or any of her books, she really is a delight to read!

Up next for Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

Read if you liked:
  • Some Like it Wicked by Teresa Medeiros
  • Prisoner of my Desire by Johanna Lindsey
  • Ransom by Julie Garwood



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