by Meredith Duran, historical (2009)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-9311-9
The plot of Meredith Duran's Written On Your Skin introduces two characters who take a long and tortuous road to their happily ever after.
Phineas Granville first met Mina Masters four years ago when Phin, an undercover British spy in Hong Kong, attempted to take down her stepfather for being a bad, bad British citizen. When he was poisoned during his mission and accidentally blew his cover to Mina thanks to his delirious yammering, she nonetheless helped him escape. There was no love lost between Mina and her stepfather, after all.
They will meet four years later when Mina shows up in England looking for her missing mother. She suspects that her father is behind her mother's disappearance. The British government is after Gerard Collins too, but Mina is not sure whom she can trust other than Phin. After all, she knows for certain that Phin was not working for her father four years ago. Therefore, she decides to get Phin to help her in her search for her mother. Phin can't refuse, of course, because he owes her a great deal for her help four years ago.
Written On Your Skin has everything I normally would enjoy in a romance novel, so I'm still wondering why I don't love this book as much as I should have. Phin is tortured - he is, after all, tortured (his repertoire includes opium addiction) but Ms Duran manages to balance the man's darker demons with a genuine personality. This is to say, Phin isn't just all about the angst, he also has his strengths and flaws that come across very clearly to me. Mina is also an interesting heroine. She's certainly resourceful and intelligent enough to build her life again from scratch after the mess with her father, and yet, she is also a character with realistic vulnerabilities to balance off her strengths. The chemistry between these two sizzles, the love scenes burn, and there are a few romantic scenes that are just exquisite to read. Ms Duran certainly knows how to twist and rend my heart when she puts her mind to it.
Yet, at the same time I find that there is a quality to the writing in this book can cause a distance to form between the story and me. My brain recognizes and likes what I read, but somehow, despite the presence of a few amazingly written scenes, this book on the whole leaves me feeling indifferent. I am still not sure why, exactly. Perhaps it's because for a long time, the author focuses so much on her characters' feelings that the pace of the story slows down to a crawl as a result. There are many instances when I wish that the characters will stop going into these long internal dialogs with themselves, especially when they tend to repeat themselves after a while.
Still, while I can't say that I love Written On Your Skin to pieces, I do appreciate and enjoy the well-written aspects of the story, so this book is still a success where I am concerned.
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