Series: The Christies #1
Author: Carrie Lofty
Genre: Historical, Victorian, South Africa
than diamonds. . . .
Sir William Christie, ruthless tycoon and notorious ladies’ man, is dead. Now his four grown children have gathered for the reading of his will. What lies in store for half-siblings Vivienne, Alexander, and twins Gareth and Gwyneth? Stunning challenges that will test their fortitude across a royal empire…and lead them to the marvelously passionate adventures of their lives.
Lady Vivienne Bancroft fled England for New York, hoping to shed the confines of her arranged marriage to unrepentant rogue Miles Durham, Viscount Bancroft–though she never forgot the fiery desire he unleashed with his slightest touch. And when the gambling man arrives on her doorstep for a little sensual revenge for her desertion, he is met with Vivienne’s dilemma: she must earn her father’s inheritance by profitably running a diamond business worth millions in colonial South Africa.
Swept together in an exotic undertaking filled with heated passion and hungry temptation, will Vivienne and Miles discover that the marriage vows they once made are the greatest snare–or the most treasured reward?
There’s no denying that the book cover for FLAWLESS is gorgeous. In fact, it was what brought the book to my attention in the first place–that, and the fact that I read Ms. Lofty’s SONG OF SEDUCTION in the past and very much enjoyed it for her characterizations and historical detail.
The setup for this series is that the four Christie siblings (who get along and actually seem to love each other, which was refreshing) are brought together for the reading of their rich father’s will. A self-made man, he gives them each a task to complete related to his businesses. If they are successful with their tasks, they will reap the rewards and receive their portion of the will. Vivienne (who is actually an illegitimate half-sister to the others) has the task of making her father’s diamond brokerage in South Africa successful. She must stay at the helm for two years; if, at the end, the brokerage is turning a profit, then she will win. If it’s still operating at a loss at the end of the two years, then she receives none of her inheritance.
The bigger picture, though, is that this is a reunion story between Vivienne and her husband Miles. Put off by her husband’s past reckless behavior and also threatened by it due to her illegitimacy, Vivienne left Miles to return to America before the book began. Miles attends the reading of her father’s will, believing that it’s all over–she’ll receive her inheritance and will be able to free herself from their marriage–but when it becomes apparent that this won’t happen for at least two more years, he determines to go to South Africa, prove to her that he can be the man she wants, and win her heart again. (Actually, he at first convinces himself that he intends revenge by getting her to fall in love with him again and then leaving her, but it’s clear this is just his way of protecting his own heart, and the revenge angle soon goes away.)
There were many things to love about this book. For me, the best aspects were the historical details and the characterization between the hero and the heroine (which I’m always a sucker for). Viv (as she calls herself) and Miles both have their flaws and vulnerabilities, and it’s wonderful to see how they each rid themselves of their armor to reach out to the other. The trouble with their marriage in the past hangs on secrets and assumptions, but it seemed to be the workings of a genuine relationship, not just random conflicts thrown in by an author’s pen. Perhaps that’s another thing I really enjoy about Ms. Lofty’s work: her characters seem very real and genuine, not just stereotypes or shadow characters.
I would have liked to have seen perhaps one or two flashbacks to the time during their marriage to get a better sense of Viv’s heartbreak, as some of Miles’ explanations didn’t completely satisfy me (mainly, the reason why he behaved the way he did), but I don’t think that their absence detracted from the book; I just feel that it would have added to it.
If there is anything that bothered me about FLAWLESS, it’s the changing focus to setting. Toward the beginning of the book, when the reader first arrives in South Africa along with Viv, we are swept away in the setting. This is one of Ms. Lofty’s greatest talents, in my opinion, and her ability to throw the reader into an unfamiliar scene was just breathtaking. However, after they arrived in Kimberley, the city in South Africa where the Christie brokerage was located, it felt as if the background of the rest of the book in terms of setting became a little stagnant. Although the scenes moved from place to place–their house, the brokerage building, and more–I didn’t really get a sense of movement or, if it makes sense, even placement. The settings didn’t feel unique, but easily exchanged. This might not have been noticeable at all if I hadn’t been so stunned by how well she swept me away at the beginning of the book, but because I was aware of how well she managed to do it before, this change was keenly felt.
However, in view of the whole, this is a very minor complaint. The hero and heroine and their romance was so compelling–a story about redemption, forgiveness, and trust–that I think any other reader reading simply for enjoyment and not specifically analyzing things for a review <grin> might not notice it.
I very much enjoyed FLAWLESS, and can’t wait for STARLIGHT, Alex’s story, which comes out in July.