Libertine's Kiss by Judith James
Why isn't there more talk about Judith James out there? It didn't dawn on me until I started to write this that she is the same author who wrote Broken Wing, which I never read but received rave reviews. Somehow this author has managed to avoid my radar... but no more!!! She's now on my list to look out for!
Libertine's Kiss is inspired by the life of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester - and if you're interested, there is an incredibly bad movie on his life starring Johnny Depp, The Libertine. Anyway, he (Wilmot not Depp) was a brilliant poet hedonist who died at the age of 31 from a combination of syphilis, gonorrhea and liver problems brought on by his drinking. So, this is another dark book, with a deeply disturbing hero. One of the problems I had with this book was the fact that it was inspired by Wilmot! When the hero kept saying that he and Charles (that's II to you) had only pox-free women in their bed, I found this statement hard to swallow. Puleese, William, you have a problem sleeping at nights, so your solution is have sex every night. But you are not a man famous for his constancy, so wouldn't you eventually run out of women that were pox free? That is what my mind got stuck on and that is one of the reasons I couldn't give this a higher rating.
I am enthralled with the time period, the British restoration is one of those times in history that is rich in texture and so overlooked by writers. There was so much going on and the morals, at least in the court of Charles II, were a tad bit loose (to say the least.)
William de Veres is a real rake, not one of those fake rakes. He's not cruel; he just can't tell Elizabeth what she wants to hear. The love story here is based on a childhood friendship, in which both William and Elizabeth find the missing part of themselves in each other. Later, even though they are surrounded by the licentious atmosphere of the court of Charles II, I found their feelings for each other to be quite tender. There was a silly misunderstanding and a bit of old Romanceland jealousy thrown in, I guess to add some tension, but it was not needed and it was a bit of a distraction from the otherwise wonderful romance. Warning! Not everyone is going to like William!
So, except for my problem with Wilmot as the inspiration, and the jealousy thing, this is a truly remarkable book and a fascinating look into a time in history that is disregarded by many. Judith James is definitely worth keeping an eye on: this is a solid romance. There is a wonderful secondary character, Captain Nichols, who gets his own book, The King's Courtesan, coming to a store near you Spring 2011. Looking forward to that.
And, Wilmot's poetry is scattered throughout the book.
Time/Place: Commonwealthl/Restoration England
Sensuality Rating: Hot