Yes, it was quite a pleasant sort of surprise. For while I’m not terribly acquisitive by nature, like so many of my sisters throughout history, I don’t decline for no good reason a pretty little bauble. Yet most women who receive jewelry from men know the tokens rarely are accepted without some exchange of power.
So we romance readers almost intrinsically appreciate the nuance of symbolism attached to magnificent jewelry given to female characters by wealthy men in historical romance. Sure, a matching emerald-and-diamond “parure” placates or cuts ties with a hero’s light ‘o love. But when a peer presses ancestors’ gems upon the heroine who’s reluctant to be kept in his thrall, those family jewels are laden with more than their karat weight in expectation.
Yes, one absolutely must associate symbolically jewels with a hero’s virility and his assumption that the object of his obsession should be thrilled and honored to accept both gifts. She is, after all, a woman.
The heroine of Madeline Hunter’s elegant and captivating new “Provocative in Pearls” reluctantly accepts the gift of an extraordinary pearl creation from her husband, a family piece he’s kept despite his being strapped for cash to help his suffering tenants. The problem is, he married the heroine two years prior, she faked her death just after saying “I will” and they’ve only just serendipitously—for him—been reunited.
Yet Verity Thompson wouldn’t have married Grayson, Lord Hawkeswell, if she hadn’t been forced by her scheming cousin, coerced into a manufacturing-earned-dowry-for-connections trade-off with the promise that she’d be saving the neck of someone she held dear. Minutes after the wedding, she learned she’d been duped, so she bolted, deciding she’d take charge of her life and lay low until she reached her majority, could “return from the dead” and petition for annulment.
A bit naïve, that, even after she’s found again by Hawkeswell, he’s still without funds because of his and Verity’s unconsummated marriage, and his ego’s been battered, which adds to his already arrogant and on-the-cusp-of-unreasonable aristocratic world-view of her perceived options. So no matter that Hawkeswell sees a grown-up Verity’s become nobody’s fool, his due is her money, obedience and body, the latter of which he’s on a mission to seduce for reasons other than legal consummation.
And while Verity comes up with lines of cogent reasoning that convince him they’d suffer if they remain married, Hawkeswell’s betting on the eventuality he’s certain she hadn’t examined: Verity’s extremely aroused by him, and neither is unhappy he’s forcing his hand by demanding she make up for lost time with his demand for a few innocent kisses per day.
What kinds of power do you think are exchanged when jewelry is gifted and accepted in romance novels? In real life? What do you like about Madeline Hunter’s novels and what are some of your favorites?
Check out Melanie Murray’s Take on “Provocative in Pearls,” and her visit with Madeline Hunter at Romantic Reads where “Ravishing in Red ,” book 1 in Madeline’s The Rarest Blooms quartet is a February Featured Selection.
Dying for Romance?: Every day this month, meet and swap comments w/a different top romantic suspense author at BN’s Mystery boards as moderator Becke Davis celebrates Valentine’s Day with a Month of Romantic Suspense!
Michelle Buonfiglio writes daily about romance fiction at BN’s Heart to Heart and RomanceBuytheBook.com and Tuesdays at BN’s Unabashedly Bookish. Buonfiglio also authors the popular RBTB NEWs romance newsletter.
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