Thursday, August 24, 2017

Judith McNaught - Once and Always

Suddenly orphaned and alone, Victoria Seaton sails the vast ocean, eager to reclaim her heritage at Wakefield, the sumptuous English estate of a distant cousin, the notorious Lord Jason Fielding. Bewildered by his arrogance yet drawn to his panther-like grace, she senses the painful memories that smolder in his eyes. When he gathers her at last into his arms, arousing a sweet, insistent hunger, they wed and are embraced by fierce, consuming joy -- free from the past's cruel grasp. Then, in a moment of anguish, Victoria discovers the treachery at the heart of their love . . . a love she had dreamed would triumph not just once, but always.

Comment: Having read The Kingdom of Dreams several years ago and enjoying it enough, I was quite eager to read another book by the author and see how the writing style and the appeal would have hold on in all these years. 

In this novel, the so called first installment of what is considered the Sequels series by author Judith McNaught, we have the story of Victoria Seaton, a 18 year old who finds herself (along with her younger sister) an orphan after their parents die in an accident. Because they have no other family except a grandmother in England, both ar shipped from America hoping to find someone who can help them but the grandmother only wants to take Victoria's sister, Dorothy. 
This means Victoria is going somewhere else, an "uncle", which happens to be the man her mother loved but never got to marry. Now Charles sees in Victoria the same face of her mother and plans on marrying her to his son, since he didn't take his chance when he was young and in love with her mother. 
But will Charles' son want to be part of all this scheme to unite two families?

This was a pleasant book to read, very engaging and I liked to immerse myself in the adventures of these characters and how an apparently simple situation got to be so confusing but still saved because Victoria is a great heroine.
From what I remember of reading a book by this author, the writing style wasn't a favorite of mine and the writing also showed the dating, meaning one could see this is not the type of book that could survive time, some details are very dated and by comparing to her other book I've read, that shows.
At the same time, the stories have this difficult to explain timeless quality so they can be appreciated and enjoyed despite any other little details.

The plot is one of those that can be seen as too far fetched but it was the suspension of belief that also made it more interesting and fun at times. The reasons why certain things  happened are a bit too obvious a misunderstanding, easily solved but well, one can accept some weirdness for the goodness of a lengthier plot.
I was also curious to see how the story would be solved when all parties would be aware of the truth. I confess, when it came to the romance, that things went pretty well, but from a politeness POV, some actions weren't the most trustworthy, especially when we think about the attention things like honor and one's word were considered by people from the 19th century.

The romance isn't an insta-love, something I appreciated quite well and this isn't exactly the bodice ripper alike of some years. I also liked the hero and the heroine aren't complete opponents in all aspects, namely the age gap: Yes, he is older but not in a way that we would see it in every nuance of their behavior, of their speech and their take in life. Basically, I really liked how balanced they seemed to be, despite their differences. Many older books feel wrong when it came to relationship dynamics because they weren't real "equals" in all aspects, thus stressing the way women were often considered "weaker" and "less": but here I was very happy Victoria was depicted as someone strong and despite her youth she was also clever, funny, sensible and sassy at times. She was not perfect, often a bit too clueless, but I liked her in general.

Jason is a more complex character I'd say, simply because he is darker when it comes to deal with emotions (although understandable) but in the end, he and Victoria are a good couple and match one another quite well in strengths and weakness and their mutual support is something we can imagine going beyond the HEA.

This is not the best book ever but I was surprisingly addicted to reading and maybe I've changed or my impressions did or this book is simply better but it was much more rewarding reading this than the other I've read before. This one seemed more balanced overall and even the silly scenes here and there only felt quirky and not under qualified comedies. 
I see there are two more books and I hope they can be as interesting, romantic and filled with engaging situations as this one was.
Grade: 8/10

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