PATHS OF DESIRE by Shannon Donnelly

PUBLISHER’S BLURB: 

NO MAN’S MISTRESS…She wants a rich lord for a husband–she won’t end like her mother, abandoned and broken. NO WOMAN’S FOOL…  He wants to prove to his friend she’s the wrong woman–he knows too well the pain of a bad marriage.

WHEN AN ACTRESS CROSSES PATHS WITH AN ADVENTURER IN 1813 LONDON… With too many secrets in her past, and too little future as an actress, Theodosia Newell wants one thing more than all else–security. She’s seen her mother abandoned, her younger brother die, and she’s vowed never to be poor. But then her path crosses that of a man who tempts her to abandon caution and all thought for the future for a passionate affair. Can she find the courage to break from her deepest fears? And will her love prove enough to save them both? Born with a soul for adventure, David Llewellyn cannot resist a challenge–and his enthusiasm for life is as magnetic as his personality. But two women share his life, and only one can be his. Will his stubborn refusal to make a choice between them lead him to lose everything? Or will he find, in the journey to the lost city he dreams of discovering, a path to a deeper love than he thought possible?

 RHFL CLASSIFICATIONS:

Regency, Heat level 2 (Moderate Sexual Content)

REVIEW RATING : 4 stars

REVIEW BY CAZ

I’m going to own up and say that a story where in an actress meets an adventurer wouldn’t normally be at the top of my TBR pile; but I’ve read and enjoyed other books by this author and so I thought I’d give this one a go.

I’m glad I did.

I was hooked and pulled right into the world of the story from the very beginning. We’re in 1807, in the bustling and dog-eat-dog world of London theatre, and our heroine is no milk-and-water miss, impoverished widow or lady fallen on hard times.  Thea is an actress, at a time when the word “actress” was synonymous with “prostitute”.   She’s in her mid-twenties and is already at an age where she’s regarded as past her prime for the major female roles, and has already been relegated to bit-parts and breeches roles.  She’s practical and is trying to find herself a rich, amiable husband before she loses her looks and has to find other, even less respectable modes of employment.  But she’s fiercely independent, too – telling the hero at one point that she has no intention of being a “kept woman” because she knows how things are likely to end.

Our hero is indeed an “adventurer” having travelled to what at that time must have seemed like far-flung lands; Egypt, Syria and the Middle East. He’s lived amongst desert tribes and has experienced strange and exotic  customs, and as a result, is a bit of a celebrity.  He’s in London trying to finance his latest expedition and is a particular friend of the man that Thea is angling to marry.  Needless to say, once they meet, the sparks fly and even though Thea is determined to resist him, it proves impossible.  But he’s married – and if you’re put off by an adulterous relationship, this might not be the book for you.  That said though, it’s handled well and we get to see the marriage from both perspectives.  David married Francesca, the daughter of his friend and mentor, because he felt he had caused her father’s death; she married him because she liked the idea of ordering his life and being married to a famous adventurer.    And they are so horribly mis-matched;  she has no interest in him as a man, and her utter lack of passion and her focus on duty threaten to suffocate David’s spirit and zest for life.

The story covers a ten-year period in a non-linear way; about a third of the way through, we jump forward to 1817 and from then on we see events “out of order”.  I know that might be off-putting for some readers, but I rather like the way it creates and maintains dramatic tension.

Shannon Donnelly succeeds admirably in evoking the atmosphere of the world of theatre in the early years of the 19th century.  I really liked the way she contrasted the illusory with the real; for example, the way she describes the shabbiness of the Haymarket theatre as seen in the stark light of day and how it is transformed every evening through lighting and other theatrical trickery.  The hero and heroine are well-rounded characters who come vividly to life and whose actions in the story are very clearly character-driven; and even David’s  “wronged” wife, a character that could easily in some hands be made into a pantomime villain, is written sympathetically and again, her actions, while the reader may not agree with them, are completely right and in character for her.

The eventual  HEA is hard-won, and well-deserved.  Thea and David had really got under my skin by the end, and coming away from this book, not only was I sorry to leave them, I felt that they had forged a strong and lasting relationship, which was built not only on physical attraction, but on trust, understanding and friendship.

Highly recommended.

At time of reading/writing, this title is available from Amazon UK for £0.77 – and well worth it!   $.99 in the US.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader.  I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back!  I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. Current favourite authors include Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas and Cecilia Grant.

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