Monday, November 28, 2011

Mastering Lady Macalister by Angela Claire

Lady Ainsley Macalister has fallen on hard times. Her brother gambled away the family fortune and their ancestral home. Now she's expected to marry Ashcroft Castle's new owner, sight unseen.

Dechlan Ross grew up as a stableboy at Ashcroft Castle. Ousted at eighteen for daring to kiss Ainsley, he’s back seven years later for revenge…and something more.

In the stables, on the bluffs, and in the dungeons they had played in as children, Dechlan shows Ainsley who is master now. Meanwhile, Dechlan's tough American second-in-command, Charlie Wilson, sees the truth about the neighboring Lord Winslow that he has been hiding even from himself, much to Winslow's tortured delight.

In the ancient castle high above the North Sea, Dechlan and Ainsley grapple with a past that is fraught with misunderstandings, a present that is filled with desire, and a future that unseen forces are desperate to see does not repeat the tragedies of the past.

Reviewer: avidscribe
Let me get this off my chest immediately. I am drawn to good book covers and they often persuade me to purchase a book I might otherwise have passed up. I have to mention, through no fault of this writer, the publisher (Siren) of this story was not paying attention to the book content when they okayed this cover. What I see is a very contemporary looking couple, the woman is tiny in proportion and not endowed like the heroine of this story. She’s also sporting brown hair, not burgundy red. The background garden has no relation or reference to the story either. The cover artist should have been entreated to think of something more like Wuthering Heights when this cover was being composed. And why is the guy wearing jeans?? Even treating the cover to a sepia wash could have given some measure of historical feel to it. My graphic design background is showing when I also begrudge the font used for the title that shows no consideration to the author’s historical material and looks bitmapped to boot. Shame on Siren.

This book was listed as historical BDSM, as I recall. I can’t recall ever reading a story with the two combined so I was intrigued. It does, after all, have ‘mastering’ in the title so I expected at least one D/s scene. There was no BDSM at all, just a brief dungeon moment with the toothless threat of a possible spanking. Sex in a dank, dark dungeon ... sure sounds compelling to me, just mind the spiders ... and rats ... and mold! Sigh.

When I saw ‘stableboy’ in the blurb I thought Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff on the moors and initially, the book leaned in that direction. Set in 1873 and then fast forwarded to 1890, we have an orphaned boy growing up in a castle set high above the North Sea on the eastern coast of Northumberland, UK. Even as a youth, Dechlan Ross’ heart belongs to his benefactor’s daughter, Ainsley Macalister, a high spirited girl who plays like a tomboy with her devoted friend. They share everything together until her father sends her away to finishing school and they are separated for long years. When she returns, they find not only has the connection between them not been broken by the passage of time but is now enriched by the awareness of each other as something more than simple friends. There is, however, a class distinction that her father is absolute in his desire to maintain.

Dechlan gets thrown out at the age of 18 and given passage to America for daring to kiss the Lady Ainsley Macalister. The kiss scorches her, overwhelms her senses and she throws herself on him begging for more and arranging to meet him after dark to pick up where they left off. She waits way into the night but he never appears. When she returns to the manor, she is told only that he defamed her name and has been sent away. She longs for him in the intervening years but believes her father's words that Dechlan acted as a cad. She never thinks to see him again.

Her father dies, her brother inherits the estate and, like Catherine Earnshaw’s brother in Wuthering Heights, wastes their fortune on drink and gambling.

It is now seven years later. Forced to sell the ancestral home to pay off his considerable gambling debts, Ainsley’s brother, loving fellow that he is, throws a marriage to Ainsley into the bargain, touting her good name as part of the deal. Sight unseen, someone has agreed and the story starts out with Ainsley arguing with her brother over his retched uncaring handling of the estate and her.

She has remained unmarried, her heart hardened to possible suitors except perhaps Trevor Winslow, but he remains a confirmed bachelor friend who has thwarted every attempt in the past by Ainsley to succumb to her charms. Of course the identity of the savior turns out to be Dechlan, out for revenge and something more. He’s never gotten Ainsley out of his system and he’s hell-bent to extract some payment for the betrayal he thinks he’s had at her hands. There’s miscommunication going on here with both parties feeling aggrieved and the truth lies in a letter written to both of them by the former lord of the manor, Ainsley’s father himself and not read till the end of the story.

It’s a tale of two virginities taken under one roof, perhaps even a metaphorical third as a veil is stripped away and a truth laid open. I wish the story had been more meaty and I particularly wish there had been a more visceral feel to the moment Ainsley’s virginity is taken, from both their POVs.

The book switches between three voices which helps to bring out the emotion and underlying motivations of each character and makes the read more enjoyable. At 99 pages, it's quick and enjoyable, though it misses the mark on being unforgettable by skimping on details and back story.

I stumbled over the word "tits" to describe the heroine’s breasts. In a story created for a female audience the word is harsh and unflattering, common and feels wrong in this historic novel. I am aware, however, that every woman has different words they don’t like when describing body parts and this just happens to be mine.

One more thing I want to mention, a term that I saw that jarred me right out of the moment. The author has been careful with the layering of more historical words such as the use of "chit" and "blunt" and the "lawn" of her nightgown for period feel but then has one of the characters accusing the other of being a drama queen and I cringed. A quick look-up for confirmation shows this term’s first known use wasn’t until 1979!

I'd give this two and a half stars out of five as being only an average read.

Publisher: Siren-Bookstrand Publishing
Review Courtesy Of: ManicReaders


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