Sunday, February 10, 2008

To Have and To Hold, Patricia Gaffney

Title: To Have and To Hold
Author: Patricia Gaffney
Published: 1995, Topaz (NAL)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 8/10

I have completed book 1 of my Classic Romance Challenge! And I knew this was a good idea. These books are classics for good reason. To Have and To Hold is a beautifully written and really emotionally gripping book.

We start with a rake, Sebastian Verlaine, rich, cynical, and selfish. He's just inherited a property, and as part of his new position he must act as magistrate of this little village where his estate is. One of the first cases he hears is that of Rachel Wade, a young woman who is being charged with "indigence and no fixed abode" (sort of appalling that this was a crime back then). Rachel has just been released from prison, where she's been for 10 years since being found guilty of murdering her husband. As a convict, she has been unable to find any work. Something about Rachel intrigues Sebastian, so he surprises the whole court by offering her the position of housekeeper on his estate. Rachel is relieved beyond imagination that she won't have to go back to prison, even though she realizes that Sebastian expects her to also be his mistress. Which he absolutely does.

I have to admit that there were some parts of this book that made me pretty uncomfortable. Because Sebastian really is a bad man at the beginning (no fake rake here)--he hires Rachel because he's bored and intrigued by the idea of having complete power over this rather pathetic woman. And he exerts that power fully--and though it's a bit spoilerish I have to say that the first time they have sex, it is rape. She wants to keep her job; she just doesn't have any other option. Add to that Rachel's tons of emotional baggage from prison and an abusive marriage and you have to wonder how these two could ever move past this inequitable relationship to find mutual understanding and love.

But I totally bought it, and the romance was fantastic. Rachel must take a chance at life again, and Sebastian actually wakes up out of his cynical self-hatred to find that true affection can be a reality. Both characters were really complex and interesting. I think one of the reasons I'd been putting off this book was because these over-the-top dramatic and passionate stories can be too much for me. But this book (especially the second half) was just lovely. A bit sad and heartbreaking in places, but ultimately very warm and satisfying.

This is the second book in the Wyckerley trilogy. To Love and to Cherish is first and Forever and Ever is the last. I'll definitely be reading them at some point. :)


CindyS said...

Ah, another book in my TBR pile that I need to read. I'm trying to find a copy of the most recently published book. I have the original but it looks too frail to read.


nath said...

Hmm, this book sounds pretty good! I wonder if I can still find it or order it... although I heard that the third book wasn't great...

nath said...

by the way, Jennie, did you read this author's contemporary work? because I think I have a book by this author, but it's contemporary and I wonder if it's good :P

Jennie said...

Cindy--Yeah, I think the reissue (a trade paperback) was put out in 2005. It's the edition I have. You know, you should really read this one--I would even say that it's a bit Anne Stuart-ish. !! Dark and angsty hero and all that. :)

Nath--I don't think it's too hard. I'm looking forward to the first book, but hadn't heard anything about the 3rd. And yes, I read one of Gaffney's contemps--Saving Graces I think was the name. It was very women's fiction, less romance. And I'm generally not to keen on women's fiction. But it was okay.

Jill D. said...

Jennie, I liked this book as well. I think Gaffney is a very talented writer. I liked that both characters were well developed with lots of flaws. The journey they took to over come them made them become better people. When they do finally get their HEA it feels so worth it.

Kristie (J) said...

This one is quite controversial but I've always really enjoyed it. It's my favourite of the trilogy by far!
For a completely different vibe by this author, you really, REALLY (and I mean REALLY) need to read Wild at Heart. 'tis wonderfully charming and at opposite ends of the spectrum from THATH.

Jennie said...

Kristie--Ooh, thanks! I might have to see if I can get Wild at Heart. I really like her historicals (much better than her women's fiction), and something a little lighter could be good. :)

nath said...

Hey, I found a copy at the UBS! Yay for me! LOL

Talithareads said...

I just read this book for the first time, it has been in my TBR pile for a few monthes. I came across it being discussed somewhere online and was intrigued. It was really hard for me to see this book as a romance, at first, I thought that Sebastian was going to make me hate him, but I couldn't and watching them develop as people was great.
There were places in the novel that really troubled me, but I guess it a sign of how well written something is if it can reach you.
I thought this book was richly nuanced and the way that the charachters are developed made them feel real for me. I will hold on to this book! I also really wanted to find a place to rave about it. I found that I could truly beleive in their HEA.