One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out yesterday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually. I will go in order of the series, one review per day for the next seven days.
Here we go.
The Perils of Pleasure (Pennyroyal #1)
Published in February 2008 by HarperCollins/Avon.
Scandal has rocked the city of London. Colin Eversea, a handsome, reckless, unapologetic rogue is sentenced to hang for murder and inconveniently for Colin, the only witness to the crime has disappeared. Then again, throughout history, Everseas have always managed to cheat fate in style: Colin is snatched from the gallows by a beautiful, clever mercenary.
Cool-headed, daring Madeleine Greenway is immune to Colin’s vaunted charm. Her mission is not to rescue Colin but to kidnap him, and to be paid handsomely for it. But when it becomes clear that whoever wants Colin alive wants Madeline dead, the two become uneasy allies in a deadly race for truth. Together they’ll face great danger—and a passion neither can resist.
Let’s start with this: Julie Anne Long, across the entire series, has created an amazing world of characters that radiate out from Pennyroyal Green. In a recent book chat at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I asked her how she keeps track of all of these characters, their past adventures, their relationships, etc. and Long said she does it all by memory. That is quite the skill because it almost seems effortless in the way that she weaves together minor details from earlier books into major plot points later in the series. As you read along, people, places, events will seem familiar in a way that allows you to immerse yourself fully in this world. (can you tell I love this series?)
Onto The Perils of Pleasure specifically.
The first thing I love about this book is Colin and Madeleine’s adventures. They are great. And I don’t say this lightly. Often romance novels predicated on solving a mystery lack in the mystery department. It is either weak or convoluted or uninteresting. Finding out who hired Madeleine and then tried almost immediately afterward to kill her drives the story instead of as a tangential artifact that exists solely to force the characters into close, intimate quarters (though, of course it does that, too).
Overall, the story is irresistible because Colin is irresistible. And we fall in love with Madeleine because we so easily love Colin and he so easily loves her. It is all easy except for the problem of the characters’ perceptions of themselves.
The quote that is the title of this post (“You’re so very brave, Mad”) comes toward the end of this book. Colin and Madeleine (whom Colin eventually calls Mad) are two people whose hearts are protected in two distinct ways: he is sure that he will be giving it away to Louisa Porter and Madeleine is sure hers was all used up after the loss of her husband. And yet they like each other from almost the beginning, even when they are sure that they don’t.
[Here there be spoilers] Near the end, Colin decides that he wants to be with Madeleine if she wants to be with him. He tells her he loves her and refuses to let her walk away without admitting it aloud to him (and to herself) first:
“Say it. Say it to my face. And then walk away from me.”
She regarded him, unflinching. Oh, those eyes. Like midnight, like stars, like forever, like heaven, like everything, those eyes.
And he saw it in them before she said it, she allowed him to see it, and he knew it was true, as true for her as it was for him. And he knew it still didn’t matter.
“I love you, Colin.” The feeling in her voice shook him. He dropped his arm from hers. He understood then.
“You’re so very brave, Mad.” He said it gently. “The bravest person I’ve ever known.”
It was his way of telling her it was all right to be afraid of something, just this once. And love was, of course, the most terrifying thing of all, as well she knew, having lost it before. Colin couldn’t find it in himself to mock her for wanting to run from it, or to punish her with words, or badger with her or reason with her.
So it was killing him.
She had saved his life. And because he loved her, he said nothing more. And Colin found he had too much pride to beg. A declaration of love rather stripped a man down to the bone, after all. He had done all that he intended to do. He would allow her to walk away; he would allow her, just this once, to be afraid. His last gift to her.
This is not where the story ends (this is a romance novel). But it is a moment in the story that literally draws the breath from your body and squeezes your heart. Long has created a story that has bound these people to each other so intricately and then gives you a scene where you can imagine perfectly why they would choose to let each other go, how that closeness would actually lead them apart (even as you know exactly why it will not).
Well done, Ms. Long. A great start to this series.
I give The Perils of Pleasure 4 out of 5 stars (mainly because even if I think Long pulls off the mystery well, I’m not a mystery person AND because I am ranking it against the other Pennyroyal books).
Next up: Like No Other Lover.