Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran
Despite the truly sucky cover (and it does suck), this book is excellent.
As this book is so character-centric, I think any summary of it should start with a description of the characters.
James, Viscount Sanburne, is a complete and total non-conformist. One might get the impression from reading the back of the book that he's a "bad boy," but he's really not--he just makes a concerted effort not to do anything that other people expect of him:
...whenever he found himself in a situation where his position gave him advantages, he tested himself with Phin's rule: Is this interesting?--which soon came to mean, Is this original?
Because of this, at the beginning of the book, James seems like an animé character--which is awesome. He takes drugs (side note: don't do drugs, kids!), barges into dinner parties uninvited and demands to be seated, dresses flamboyantly, wears tons of glittering jewelry, and doesn't wear a mustache (!). James hangs out with a clique of high-society elites who like to party and break the rules. Although they sound like a bunch of degenerates, it's actually a very a close-knit group of friends.
Just as there is more to James' friends than first meets the eye, there's also a lot more to James and his personality than just flash--as we find out during the course of the book.
Lydia Boyce is a very intelligent and practical woman who has completely given up on finding a husband due to her bookishness and the fact that she doesn't think she's pretty. Instead, she's devoted her life to helping her father with his scholarly research in Egypt. Unlike Sanburne, Lydia always follows the rules; but then, being a woman and not a member of the aristocracy, she has to.
While it's easy to fall in love with James right away, Lydia is more difficult to warm up to. After about fifty pages, however, she started to grow on me; and then she began to remind me of someone I actually know. It was spooky, actually, but that's how well-drawn her character is.
Being an extremely intelluctual sort, Lydia is not going to fall in love with someone based on how beatiful they are (which she can't help but notice James is), or on physical attraction (which she and James definitely share). She's only going to fall in love with a person with whom she shares a true melding of the minds; and through some strange chemistry, Lydia and James develop this as the novel progresses.
The romance in this book is absolutely perfect. Even though I spent a good portion of the beginning wondering how in the world these two people were going to get together, I was completely convinced by the progression of their relationship and how they finally fell in love. Although Lydia and James seem like completely disparate personalities on the surface, it becomes clear (though only at the very end of the novel) that they are actually quite similar.
I also loved Duran's writing style. She doesn't lay everything out for the reader on a silver platter, but puts the pieces out and expects us to be smart enough to put them together. What the hell am I talking about, you wonder? Simply that Duran shows and doesn't tell, and she shows in a very elegant way. One of the more memorable examples:
"You seem to like it," he said.
His tone was so mild that he might have been commenting on her reaction to a flower arrangement. But as the meaning registered, a flush swept her. She cleared her throat. In a low voice, she said, "A cold bath does the same."
His delighted laugh ghosted along her neck. "You are so amusing," he purred. "Let me put my lips there, and I will convince you of the difference."
That a small snippet of one of the most memorable scenes in the book, and it has such a strong impact because of the way Duran sets it up and writes it. It's sexy and suggestive, but it's not salacious, which is exactly the right tone for this novel.
The book is also very well-researched, and took me as a reader to places I've never been before. The visit to the gin house, with the art on the walls and the oddly-named drinks, was particularly fun.
The only thing I didn't like about Bound By Your Touch was that I thought it had pacing issues. The beginning is a bit slow, and it seemed to take a long time before the narrative started moving. Then, all the lose ends of the plot are wrapped up in the last fifty pages. Seriously, at page three hundred, I was honestly concerned about whether I was going to get a conclusion to the two subplots or if they were going to be left hanging. I did get my conclusions, but they sort of felt tacked on at the end and a bit haphazard, at least in comparison to the rest of the book (although I did really like the ending). And speaking of, did the the copy editor stop reading at page 250? Because there were at least five errors I noticed in the last hundred pages.
That didn't really detract from the overall wonderfullness of this novel, however. I would highly recommend Bound By Your Touch to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, whether they like romance novels or not. This definitely not your typical romance novel; and for me it was a keeper.
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