Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of The Fall of a Saint (The Sinner and the Saint, Book 2) by Christine Merrill
Historical romance published by Harlequin Historical 18 Feb 14
I read Christine Merrill’s books for one simple reason: I know I’ll never be bored. Nobody can ever accuse her of writing the same book twice and certainly nobody can accuse her of being afraid to take risks. When I crack open a new book by Merrill, I never know what the heck I’m going to get, and as a seasoned genre reader? That’s pretty darn exciting. With this, the second book in The Sinner And The Saint duet, she takes her saintly hero and has him fall a long way down.
Michael Poole, Duke of St. Aldric, has spent the last several months in a drunken, debauched stupor. A case of the mumps has left him sterile, and in a bizarre quest to forget, or maybe to prove his virility, he’s taken to drinking in excess and bedding every willing wench within a 100-mile radius. Well, until he stumbles into the wrong room one night and compromises governess Madeline Cranston. Now Madeline has shown up on his doorstep bearing the news that he’s not so impotent, because turns out she’s got a bun in the oven. A possible heir to the dukedom! St. Aldric, having resigned himself to the fact that the title would die when he did, is flabbergasted, and having a bastard heir just will not do. So naturally, he proposes a marriage of convenience. Madeline, loathe to hitch her wagon to the man who so thoroughly ruined her, soon faces stark reality and realizes this is the only way to go. Plus, she can make St. Aldric pay handsomely.
Yes, ladies and gents, you’re reading that correctly. The hero rapes the heroine while in the midst of a drunken stupor. Or does he? This is an issue the author tap dances around a lot in this story, and by the end I still hadn’t made up my mind about what really happened. I suspect every reader who tackles this story is going to have to form their own opinion. It certainly sounds like rape. Drunken man goes into room at an inn expecting a liaison with a willing serving wench. Instead he gets the heroine, who is still pining for a man killed in the war. A heroine who wasn’t an innocent (not that this matters), who is lonely and craving a man’s touch.
“‘And in that time, I did some terrible things. But I have never forced myself on a woman.’
‘Other than me?’ she reminded him. It was unfair of her. There had been no force.
The author drops hints like that one, which seems fairly concrete to me. But then in the next instance we’re back to the “forced” issue. Did he or didn’t he? I don’t think we’ll ever really know – not for sure. Which makes this a problematic read. On one hand I think it very smart that the author keeps it vague, but on the other? I couldn’t ever totally lose myself in the romance because I sure as hell don’t want the heroine to fall in love with the rat bastard who raped her. I mean, no. Not just no – but hell-to-the-no.
However, I’ll be honest, even without ever really getting comfortable with this set-up, I sank right into this story. Merrill has a writing style that flows for me and I easily kept flipping those pages, all the while waffling between disgust and “oh wait, maybe it was consensual!” It’s all going along fairly well for me, considering, until the ending. When St. Aldric morphs into hypocritical jackass. The things he says, especially if you’re a reader who falls into the “he raped her!” camp? Beyond the pale.
Like I said, it’s a very conflicting read. But I have to say, I can’t remember the last romance I read that made my brain jump through this amount of mental hurdles, which that in and of itself is pretty noteworthy. Is this a book for everybody? No. I’m not even sure it’s the book for me. But I read it and don’t hate it. I’m not sure what that says about me, but then I still can’t decide if he raped her or not.
THE ONLY WOMAN WHO CAN MAKE HIM REPENT!
Honorable—and handsome to boot!—Michael Poole, Duke of St. Aldric, has earned his nickname “The Saint.” But the ton would shudder if they knew the truth. Because, thrust into a world of debauchery, this saint has turned sinner!
With the appearance of fallen governess Madeline Cranston—carrying his heir—St. Aldric looks for redemption through a marriage of convenience. But the intriguing Madeline is far from a dutiful duchess, and soon this saint is indulging in the most sinful of thoughts…while his new wife vows to make him pay for his past.
Other books in this series: