Taken For Revenge, Bedded For Pleasure by India Grey
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
With Taken for Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure, India Grey gave me what I wanted in a rainy Sunday Harlequin Presents read. There is fiery passion, intense emotions, painful self-discovery, and the union of two lost souls whose families have been enemies for fifty years.
Olivier Moreau appears to be the standard Harlequin Presents hero at first glance: devastatingly handsome and virile, rich, powerful, and utterly ruthless. He was without question a sexy man, but not especially likeable initially. I liked that Ms. Grey peeled away the layers to this cold, manipulative man and allowed me to feel for him, to come to believe he was worthy of being loved by Bella.
Bella is the damaged, lost, rich girl. She never felt like she had anything of value to offer her powerful, politically active, aristocratic family. She was used by her last boyfriend, and he exposed her and the Lawrence family to pubic ridicule in a way that lead to her attempting suicide. Since then, she has been trying to rebuild her life and her sense of purpose, one step at a time.
For Olivier to settle on Bella as the instrument of revenge would presumably cause automatic hatred, if not dislike for him. However, with the manner in which this story unfolds, I didn't feel that way towards him. I wasn't sure how much I liked him, but somehow I could understand his drive for power, when he'd lived under the thumb of the aristocracy and saw how his father, Julien, had been destroyed by the Delacroix family, because of his affair with their matriarch, Genevieve, who is Bella's grandmother. Julien created a painting in which he poured all his love and devotion for a woman who was forbidden to him. He also lost his chance at fame as a painter when he injured his hands in a fire set by a Delacroix, trying to save the painting that was the work of his life. So he was left with nothing. Olivier lost his father before he'd ever known him, growing up with a shell of a man; and his mother left when he was two. Olivier doesn't understand what love is. He only understands power and control. His pursuit of Bella is seemingly driven by revenge, but something about her calls out to him. It only makes seducing her a more pleasurable duty in his mind, but no more than that. Clearly, his behavior is far from honorable initially.
As this book unfolds, there is a very complex tangle of emotions and motivations present in the relatively short 184 pages. I wondered where things were going to go, and it wasn't predictable. Surprisingly early on, Olivier seemed to grow a conscience, and had a self-loathing for his actions that surprised me. I am used to the heroes in these books being so unforgiveably arrogant and blind to the truth, until they receive a last-minute epiphany. In this story, it's more of a gradual, and believeable evolution in Olivier. Instead of thinking Bella is not good enough for him, he knows he's not good enough for her.
Bella has a vulnerability that I found distressing at times. She never quite managed to grow a thick skin, despite what had happened to her. She was a little too honest in expressing her emotions and the allowing of them to show, despite coaching herself otherwise, for my comfort. But maybe this was as her grandmother said. She wasn't meant to be hard and cold, unfeeling, and empty, like she tried to be. As her grandmother told her early on in the book, she was meant for love and life. Perhaps that was what helped Olivier to turn away from the dark path he had dedicated his life to. To choose love and a sense of emotional connection, for once.
This book is rife with evocative imagery and the passion between Olivier and Bella simmers off the page. I loved the descriptions of high class, glitzy London, and even more, the French countryside. It was most enjoyable seeing Olivier out of his big city environment, revealing his French pastoral roots, cooking freshly picked mushrooms with wine and rice, or an herb omelet. I freely admit my love for men who cook.
Although I am admitted fan of this line of books, it's especially rewarding when I read one that has a lot of substance along with a fun, drama-filled read. I thought that Ms. Grey created a very vivid hero in Olivier, a man who I grew to like as I watched him struggle to realize what was truly of value to him. I would feel hesitant to see a fragile flower like Bella, a girl that I couldn't help but like and feel protective towards, end up in the hands of a cold-hearted bastard like the old Olivier. Fortunately, he showed glimpses of who he truly was deep down, encouraging her to be her sweet individual self, and choosing her as the most important thing to him, in ways that weren't necessary to his plan for revenge. So, in the end, I was more than happy that they found their happy ending together.
After reading this book, I'm going to add India Grey to my roster of authors who I can look to for delivering a satisfying, evocative, and satiating read in the Harlequin Presents line. This book proves her mettle. Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.
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