Friday, October 21, 2011

Breaking Free by Anya Richards

TITLE: Breaking Free
AUTHOR: Anya Richards
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 90k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $5.50

Widow Claire Montjoye has resigned herself to a life of solitude, since her reputation is mostly in tatters from the events of her marriage and her sexually depraved husband. Then she meets widower Xavier Westbourne and experiences desire for the first time in years. Each is drawn to the other, until Claire decides to be bold and offers to show Xavier how best to pleasure a woman. All he wants is Claire, so he’s thrilled to accept her proposal, but it quickly becomes clear their carnal arrangement won’t be enough for either of them for very long…

Sometimes, loving a hero will carry me much farther into a story than might otherwise happen. That certainly occurred with this particular novel.

Claire Montjoye married young, but her innocence didn’t last very long. Her husband had huge sexual appetites, and the more he got, the wilder he needed it the next time. Claire was but a pawn in many of his sexual games, ranging from orgies to BDSM, so when he dies, her reputation is left in tatters. Two years on, she still doesn’t like venturing out into society, even though she craves having her respectability back. On a night she arrives for the opera, she is saved from being run over by a carriage by Xavier Westbourne. Her attraction to him is immediate, but she knows nothing could ever come of it. She’ll not taint anybody else’s reputation by sullying them with her association. Xavier, on the other hand, is entranced by her. Normally very shy, he finds it easy to talk to her when they meet again, which culminates in a request to join him at the opera. There, Claire learns about how his marriage had been so unsatisfactory, how his wife didn’t enjoy physical relations, and she decides to be bold and satisfy both of their needs. He accepts, but in the background lurks a man who’s been obsessed with Claire since long before her husband’s death.

The set-up isn’t that original, though it’s a welcome twist to see the woman as the more experienced, teaching her contemporary more about the art of lovemaking. I can’t say that I actually really liked Claire that much, though. I found her behavior inconsistent, and her constant self-deprecation and loathing regarding how depraved she was and how harmful her presence was to anyone decent was really annoying. Every time it seemed like she was ready to grow beyond it, she slid two steps back to create conflict within the story.

What saved all of it was Xavier. I fell in love with him almost as soon as he was introduced. It was a combination of his chivalrous nature and his shyness that really got to me. That shyness is the bedrock of his characterization, and the way it was portrayed was masterful. His reactions were believable, consistent, and absolutely endearing, even when he lost his temper. When the prose sometimes turned a little purple for my tastes, it was Xavier that kept me going. As the story progressed, I found it increasingly difficult not to skim through scenes that were just Claire, but he rooted me back in the story every time he showed up on the page.

Another reason it got harder not to skim as the story progressed was because not enough was happening that wasn’t all about the sex. Claire was too one-note to make them very interesting by that point, and the fact that the cartoon villain had more page time (a necessary development to keep the plot going, even if his characterization was so very stereotypical and predictable) meant I had even less reason to be engaged. I wasn’t surprised to see the word count when I was done. In all honesty, it felt longer than that, which in this case, is not a compliment.

Still, I adored Xavier, and when Claire wasn’t pulling her self-loathing act, fell into their romance. That was enough to make this a slightly better than average read, because I’m sure Xavier will be one of the more romantic heroes I remember for a while.


8/10 – A little too purple in some spots for me, and the sex scenes get tedious by the end


8/10 – Shy, strong, and wonderful


5/10 – Inconsistent and annoyingly fixated on her self-hatred

Entertainment value

7/10 – Mostly because of my love for Xavier, the cartoonish villain and a heroine I never really warmed to held this back

World building

7/10 – While the historical aspects were good, so much of what went on with this so-called terrible lifestyle she had with her



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