Kissed By Shadows
by Jane Feather, historical (2003)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58308-5


Jane Feather doesn't just push my hot buttons with this book. She pretty much ties me to a chair and forces me to swallow live grenades. If you want to read this book, be warned that this book is no easy going down affair. In fact, this story is about a woman falling in love and committing adultery with a man who abetted her rape and lives happily ever after with him.

You want me to repeat that again?

He is there every night when she is raped. She loves him in the end.

Phillippa "Pippa" Nielsen, like most of this author's heroines, is a strong woman with strengths and flaws that make her come off like a human being rather than a character specially designed to fit a formulaic romance plot. Set in the time when Queen Mary of England and King Philip of Spain have wed and the threat of the Inquisition is a blade around the neck of every Protestant in England, Pippa is caught in a truly sickening conspiracy. Her husband, a pathetic gay man who uses her in exchange of his being able to rendezvous with his lover, drugs her at night and brings her to bedchamber of Philip, upon which our "hero" Lionel Ashton will deliver her to the king. Philip is using drugged, unconscious Pippa to bear his heir when it's obvious that sickly Mary won't be up to the task.

Pippa doesn't understand why her husband makes love to her only when she is asleep. Hah, if only she knows. She thinks that he has a mistress - oh boy, oh boy - and wonders how she is going to salvage her marriage. At the same time, she thinks that she recognizes Lionel. Of course she should, albeit in a hazy way. She opened her eyes in the prologue after Philip was done with her, and she saw Lionel as he loomed over to pick her up and take her back to her husband. When she realizes that she is pregnant with whom she believes to be the child she and her husband conceived - kill me, people, please, I can't take this anymore - she hopes that this may save her marriage.

When Pippa stumbles upon her husband making love with his boyfriend, she flees into the arms of Lionel, who is a double agent charged with ensuring that the royal heir she is carrying never falls into Philip's hands. She loves him. After he helps her escape with her kid, she decides that she really loves him and they live happily ever after, right after I heave and throw up everything I've eaten in the last three days onto my new lovely Persian carpet.

I actually begged to be spoiled when I was at page 86 - thank you so much, those who wrote in - and while I'm flustered at knowing how the plot of the story is going to turn out, I keep reading because I'm hoping that an author of Jane Feather's caliber can pull this off. There has to be a grand repentance, there has to be some heartbreaking epiphany, anything surely to justify this story.

I like Pippa. I actually find myself reading this book in one sitting, and it's so well-written that I am drawn into this story, every word, every page. But as much I enjoy the author's skillful prose, I am also nauseated by the extent Pippa is victimized in this story. I actually feel so angry for Pippa's behalf. Where are her sister and mother? Her brother is too busy playing footsie with Lionel's ward. It is Pippa who has to fend for herself, but how can she when everyone including the hero is against her from the start? The joke, I'm afraid, is on her.

Lionel is too cold. He shows little remorse at his own actions. In the end, no correct words were spoken and no gestures of remorse were shown. But maybe that's for the best, because I don't think anything can get me to forgive if I'm violated like Pippa in this story. I appreciate the author taking risks, but I feel that this time she has crossed too far over the line. Kissed By Shadows is more like Raped By Lowlives. Would - could - you applaud a woman falling in love with the chauffeur who drives unconscious her to the man who raped her, just because he also happens to drive her away from the rapist? I can't. I want Pippa to get away from every lowlife in this story that fails to support and help her when she is at her lowest, even if she has to row her way all the way to America.

Jane Feather, what the HELL are you thinking?!!

Rating: 46


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