Pocket Books NY, NY 2011
I like to read romance novels when I travel. They don’t usually require a lot of attention. They tend to be a quick read. When I’m done I can leave the paperback behind and be sure someone will find some use for it. Even so I tend to be picky about my romance novelists. I like writers who are more interested in characters than in sex scenes. I like writers who fill in the details around the story.
This story is set in a small town outside of Richmond Virginia. There are 7 founding families and one of them is looking for a student to move in and write a family history. The matriarch, Mrs. Frazier, has purchased a huge number of papers from the old family home in England which was being sold. Although we are presented with the idea she’s researching to support her claim to a title (the ancestor was an Earl) she has an ulterior motive. She’s looking for a wife for her oldest son because all her peers have grandchildren.
Gemma, our heroine, is intimidated by Mrs. Frazier and out of her class. But she also is in love with history and this would be her dream job. While her fellow students and competition woo Mrs. Frazier, Gemma finds herself wrapped up in a stack of old letters. Of course she lands the job and is intrigued by the family mythology of a heartstone. This stone, said to be given to the Frazier by a witch in thanks for using his strength to rescue some villagers, is supposed to grant a heart’s wish to any Frazier.
As the coincidences of wishes coming true increases, so does Gemma’s understanding that writing her dissertation about the heartstone will wreak havoc on the town and the family she’s come to love. There are all the elements of a classic romance novel, gossip, jealousy, intrigue and hot sex. The story, although fantastical, remains in the realm of possible. There is always a “logical” reason for the wishes to have come true.
What drew me the most to this novel was the fact that Gemma, to help support herself in school, was the tutor for the football team. She came to understand that brains and brawn are not exclusive. When meeting the Frazier boys she recognized them as very much akin to her students. She also, because she was training with the athletes, is quite able to hold her own with the physical challenges in the book. The secondary characters, particularly the younger brother who is an artist, were also intriguing. I’m actually hoping Jude Deveraux will write a series with a story for each of the 5 boys.
This is the first novel I’ve read by Jude Deveraux. I think I’ll add her to my list of readable romance.