Hostage by Madeleine Ker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Intense Vintage Harlequin Romance that reads like a Harlequin Presents. It certainly has all the trappings: incredibly beautiful but cold and unawakened heroine, dark, brooding, and scary hero. Revenge, oh the revenge. Leo, the hero calls himself "The Eagle", and he tells Sabrina that he's her enemy. Actually, her father is his enemy. But he died before Leo could exact his revenge. Sabrina wasn't that fond of her father, either. In fact, she hated him for who cruel he was to her and her mother. But Daddy Dearest left all his holdings to Sabrina, and she's not going to sit idly by and let the board do all the dirty dealings her father was known for. I was very impressed with Sabrina in how she went into the board meeting, and showed the good old boys that she knew her stuff. She made them well aware that she wasn't going to stand for their old way of doing things, while they were willing to put a thousand people out of work, and maintain their high expense accounts and corporate cars. She got a bravo for that.
In her dealings with Leo, Sabrina was in over her head. Leo is definitely on the cruel hero side. He's a take no prisoners hero. Very ruthless in his dealings with her business and with her. When the big reveal comes about how he loved her since he first saw her, it's a bit hard to believe, based on how he treats her (although he doesn't ever hit or harm her physically and doesn't rape her). When he makes her believe he filed for a quicky divorce, I thought that was fairly cruel. But, he maintains he did it so that she'd admit her feelings for him. Sabrina doesn't get off the hook. She says some pretty cruel things to Leo as well. I tried to remind myself that as far as she knew, they were truly enemies, and Leo married her for revenge alone.
So why the four stars? The drama, the intensity, the good writing. The climax was written to make both characters well aware of what they were at risk for losing, and Leo comes through wonderfully when Sabrina's life is in jeopardy. I probably read some of Madeleine Ker's books when I was a kid. I read pretty much every Harlequin and Harlequin Presents I could get my hand on growing up. Unfortunately, I forgot many of those books. But, Ms. Ker's writing is excellent. She paints vivid pictures, and they are quite iconic. The drama level is built through every interaction between the characters. It's never garish, but has a natural intensity. I could see Leo as the Eagle, and Sabrina as the Ice Maiden. Even though the love scenes weren't descriptive, you could see the passion there. So, I was very impressed with this story.
If you want a good old school Harlequin that will bring on the drama, but in a very elegant fashion, I'd recommend this one. Reading this book makes me long for more new books in these lines that have this same level of intensity, passion and risk. It's why I search long and hard for these oldies to enjoy. I hope to find more of Ms. Ker's books to read.
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