Craving Beauty by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Once again, Nalini Singh worked her magic on me. At first, I wasn't sure what to think. Hira was so mercurial, frigid ice princess one moment, vulnerable, exotic girl-child another, saying hurtful things to Marc. I was thinking I would be disappointed with this story. However, I began to see that Hira was protecting her heart from more damage like what had been inflicted over many years by a father who was a real misogynist, who treated her mother terribly, and restricted Hira's life severely, despite maintaining the appearance of being a loving husband and father. She had been treated like she had nothing to offer besides her beautiful looks and gorgeously-curved body. Her father used her as a business pawn, forcing Marc to marry her if he wanted to court her. Of course, she didn’t know that Marc wanted a real relationship with her. She thought he just wanted a sexy trophy wife.
As the book unfolded, I could see why she kept Marc at such a distance, and was so icy to him, although I hurt as Marc did. By the end of the story, I loved Hira, and I admired her for the strong woman that she was.
As for Marc, I loved him pretty much from the beginning. In fact, I wanted to take him and give him a long, fierce hug. He has a lot of the traits I just adore in a hero. He was a fierce, strong man, a real survivor, but with a gentle loving heart that hid behind steely, cold armor. He'd been abused really badly by his lousy alcoholic parents, who sold him to a thief. He lived on the streets, and was wounded grievously more than once, which was why he had scars on his face and body. I adored this man. Like Hira, his scars were badges of honor to me. This man worked his way up from nothing. Truly, he did have a chip on his shoulder against beautiful women. A stupid rich girl played a cruel joke on him, teaching him he wasn’t good enough without his money and power. Since then, he kept his heart protected. He felt inadequate because of his scars and his ignoble Bayou origins. But, like Hira, being a man who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and makes something of himself, being a strong, powerfully magnetic man spoke highly to me. She called him her fierce desert chieftain, and I felt this was a fair assessment from her viewpoint of admirable men (unlike her father). Also he is very possessive. Another plus in a hero. It gives me tingles! Golden boys born with silver spoons in their mouths don’t resonate with me the same way. If you like Lisa Kleypas's self-made heroes, you would probably like Marc. He definitely gave me that vibe, which always have the power to turn me into a melted pile of hormonal goo. Marc really was the perfect package for a hero to this reader.
Initially, this seemed a little melodramatic, (which ain't necessarily a bad thing since I like drama), but I wasn't sure what to make of it. Hira's innocence and unwordliness seemed too over the top. I had to readjust my worldview and consider how truly inexperienced and sheltered Hira was. Once I got my vantage point straight, I was all in. The intense, honest emotions and the heart-wrenching angst of Marc and Hira's pasts, and how they reach out to orphaned children to give them love (I cried on those scenes and the ones about Marc’s tortured past), and the fiery passion between them (which had me fanning myself as I read), well this was an irresistible package that won me over!
I can't say that all people would enjoy this book. Even those who are fans of Nalini Singh’s newer works, the Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunter books, might not necessarily love this book. However, I believe that the elements that make her a favorite, auto-buy author to me are very apparent in this lovely romance morsel. I’m very glad I got the chance to read this one. It’s going on my keeper shelf with my other Nalini Singh books.
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