Sunday, June 2, 2013

Review: Passion for Vengeance by Patty G. Henderson

Passion for Vengeance
By Patty G. Henderson
March 2, 2013
Historical/ Lesbian/Gothic/Romance
192 pgs
Blanca Rose Publising

It's been a long time since Jane Havens, Mistress of Havenswood, felt the joy and promise of by-gone days when her family home, Havenswood, was a thriving and powerful farming estate. Together with her elder brother Cole, who drowns his sorrow in alcohol, Jane does what she can to lead the fading estate through the hard times that fell upon the family after their father, a Union Army Colonel, died shortly after the Civil War.

Jane and Cole try to raise their little brother, Henry, a wild young boy with no direction, no manners and no one to marshal his considerable natural abilities into a productive, young gentleman. But when his new governess, Emma Stiles, arrives, the whole household goes into shock as Henry shapes up, Cole doubles down on the amount of drink he consumes to drown his failures, and Jane Havens falls madly in love with her little brother's governess. Then the trouble begins.

Accidents begin to happen to the residents of Havenswood--incidents that increase in seriousness and danger. Some within the household point fingers at Emma Stiles. Jane will not believe her new lover has anything to do with the terrifying accidents until a chance visit by a new doctor in town raises the specter that Emma Stiles may not be quite who she seems. As the reality of Emma's tortured soul descends upon Havenswood and Jane, it is clear that the demons of vengeance can only be saved by love and forgiveness. Or is it too late for forgiveness and too late for love?

Set in the tumultuous decade after the Civil War, PASSION FOR VENGEANCE is a Gothic Romance tale of betrayal, revenge, love and forgiveness.

Basically the blurb for this book is spot on so I’ll go from there. I enjoy this particular genre of books but haven’t read one in a long time so this was fun for me to read. There was a definite Gothic feel to this story as romance and a dark mystery were entwined perfectly. What was particularly appealing was Emma Stiles as a character. But also the slow reveal and build up to the truth about Emma as well as the romantic angle.

I really got off on how this books starts and Emma’s personality. Emma comes across as confident but aloof as she enters the lives of Jane and her two brothers who are basically living on the edge of depression after many losses to their family and finances. She seems to be in touch with a part of some kind of knowingness of things outside of the normal realm and this intrigues the family.  Right away she takes control of things but in a subtle, indirect way and things start changing for the better. Everyone is affected by her, particularly Jane. However, the longtime family housekeeper and property caretaker are not that keen on her and feel she’s up to no good.

Emma is fairly quick and direct about coming on to Jane. She seems to know Jane will respond to her advances without any questions and she stays in control of how and when they interact to Jane’s dismay. However, what kept her appealing was the constant pull back or air of mystery around her. Something is up with her and Jane gets that on some level.

Jane who has been lonely for any kind of female friendship falls madly in love with Emma almost immediately. I mean that crazy, irrational, intense passionate kind of love. She is somewhat shocked that she’s falling for a woman, but her need and craving of any kind of attention from Emma is such that she cannot stop herself. On the surface though, she is aware that this will cause huge problems for her with her older brother and socially. She doesn’t care; she wants and needs Emma desperately. She even doesn’t care when Emma shares a huge secret that totally freaks her out.

One might think that Jane is a desperate loser type by how I’ve described her, but no, she’s not. The author kept her real. She didn’t just blindly follow after Emma, but she’s willing at every turn to ignore the growing evidence that Emma might not be the person she’s in love with and that Emma might actually be harboring something dark and evil as calamities besetting their household start piling up since she came there. Jane knows in her heart though that there must be some rational explanation that will exonerate Emma.

Outside of the drama going on in the household, the actual romance between Emma and Jane is rather erotic and sweet at the same time. They only have eyes for each other and truth be told, that’s really appealing. Even when the new local Dr. shows up and seems to have an interest in Emma, Emma makes it clear to Jane that she is the only person she’s interested in. One thing I liked is that both women, particularly Jane, don’t bother too much about hiding their relationship. While they do for a while, Jane is fairly adamant in her desire to tell her brother and eventually does without shame or worry about the consequences. They really don’t question too much about what they feel and how people will think about it.

The story itself, the mystery, unfolds at a perfect pace. I actually couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went about a huge gardening job and got straight back to it when done. What’s going on? Who is Emma really? What’s her story? So many hints along the way that kept me interested.

The only thing I will say negatively about this book is that one of Emma’s secrets has to do with a combination of spirituality, witchcraft and mysticism. Not to give away too much, but Emma is learned about nature and the effects of herbs and botanicals, which she uses for all sorts of reasons, including as an aphrodisiac in seducing Jane. While it added something erotic to their first sexual encounter, it seemed out of place for the rest of the story, which didn’t make use of this.

Along the same lines is that Emma has been doing something that she feels will condemn her to hell. She states she was forced by circumstances to do so, but what it is she’s been doing --- don’t want to give it away--- seems so out of place for the general tone of the rest of the story. Sure, Emma has an interesting and dark past, but this seemed to be something thrown in that felt disconnected to the rest of the story.  

Even so, Passion for Vengeance is an excellent, intriguing read. If you’re at all into  the Gothic romance genre this book will definitely hit the spot.

Heat level: 1-2. Sexual scenarios sensually, not graphically written.

Grade: Loved it!

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