Thursday, December 9, 2010

Portrait of a Lover

Portrait of a Lover by Julianne MacLean 1124

When Annabelle Lawson meets Mr. John Edwards on a train to Scotland she immediately senses a connection and decides to take the biggest risk of her life. For an entire summer she and Mr. Edwards meet secretly for fishing, paintings, and cuddles under the sky. She is heartbroken when she discovers that John is really Magnus Wallis, her adoptive brother's cousin and worst enemy. Magnus is in love with Annabelle but because he had been cast out of by the Whitby's he does not have much money and does not move in society. He thinks he is not good enough for her so he claims that he was merely using her and runs off to America. For thirteen years they both try to forget each other until Magnus comes back to England and wants to show one of Annabelle's paintings at an art gallery he recently acquired. She is wary of the meeting, but Magnus is not as he is determined to prove to Annabelle that he is good enough and that he is finally worthy of her trust and convince her to marry him.

It is not long before the two are back in their old rhythm of discussions and heated conversations with sexual overtones. He knows that her art is something special and his confidence in her abilities inspires her and awes her. But her brother, the Earl of Whitby, is in the back ground if not in person, marring their happiness with the knowledge that her brother will never accept a match between them. She takes a risk by escaping with him for a weekend and she knows that he is all she ever wanted in her life. There is so much bad blood between their families as she and Whitby have been told that his father was a murderous madman and that Marcus himself killed Whitby's older brother, while Marcus is resentful that the family kicked his father out for not being as strong as the old Earl expected. Marcus is a changed man and he no longer feels the need to be part of the ton, so when Annabelle offers to bring him into her world, he worries that she does not know him at all. Both must risk their pride and take a giant leap of faith for them to end up together.

These two were featured in Love According to Lily where Magnus was portrayed as a downright scoundrel and I was worried that MacLean would not really be able to resurrect him. However, MacLean does a superb job as she quickly puts to rest any fears that Magnus really was heartless. It was so clear that he loved her and that it was only his insecurities that kept him from staying with Annabelle. His situation was made even better because he eventually came into his own and became confident in himself that Annabelle's station and his lack of station, no longer mattered. He desperately wanted Annabelle to trust him and sometimes it became a little unbelievable that he expected her to trust him again after only a week or so of being reacquainted. I understood that his explanation to her was thorough, but it really made me dislike his character a little. I did admire that he was, for the most part, a self made man and it was a nice change of pace from the lords that populate most romance novels. I also admired his change of heart about being accepted by his family and how he was confident enough not to need their acceptance.

Annabelle was not quite as well rounded as her main plot line in this story was her fears about trusting Marcus again and she seemed to be searching for a reason not to trust him. At the same time this was a tad annoying, it also seemed very wise on her part as it showed she learned from her mistakes. I admired her loyalty to her family and how she did not want to just throw them over for the man she loved; she went digging and coercing in an attempt to get the two men she loved to find some common ground. Although I really don't consider myself much of an art aficionado, I liked that she had her own talent and that it didn't take over the book with talk of paintings. There was an undercurrent of sexual tension throughout the book and I really liked how it simmered just below the surface; it created some quite nice anticipation to the story. There was one extended sex scene that was quite sexy and hot and incredibly romantic. I also really liked that she featured characters from her previous novel in important, yet not overwhelming. It was clear that they were living happily ever after but it was in the back ground, and I did not feel like it was being shoved in my face.

Rating: I liked the emotions that really carried this book through and I admired both of the main characters, although the book could have used some more excitement.

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