Samuel Gerard does not know of his family origins. He suffered horrible abuse as a child before he was rescued by Lady Ashland. He grows up in the Ashland's house in Hawaii and is trained in the martial arts by Dojun, a Japanese servant of the Ashland's. The Ashland family, along with Samuel, travel to London for the celebrations of Her Majesty's Jubilee. There, while aiding his foster sister and mother in a dress shop, he meets Leda Etoile. She also grew up an orphan and was adopted by the prim and proper Miss Myrtle. Misfortune abounds for Leda and she winds up destitute. Samuel offers her a position as his secretary. (I have left out a few details in this summary, as to not give anything away).
The Shadow and the Star is an absolute gem of a story. I really liked both Leda and Samuel. Leda binds herself to the rules of society in rigid extreme. Throughout the whole book, she tries very hard to stay true to these mannerisms and never stray from the strictest etiquette. She is also very innocent and has been sheltered considerably in her lifetime. Never has she spent much time in men's company. (She is one of those heroines who doesn't know how babies are made, nor can she identify certain parts of the male anatomy). This aspect of her personality is very believable and crucial to her character. I don't think the author could have written it any other way.
Samuel, himself, has never been with a woman. He too, in certain aspects, is just as innocent as Leda. Samuel is so disciplined that he has never acted on his own sensuality. He is twenty-eight when he meets Leda. She provides a distraction unlike any other that he has ever encountered before and he finds himself losing control over his mind and body. I loved little ol' prim and proper Leda gets under the skin of tough, disciplined Samuel. I absolutely love it when the hero falls, and falls hard, for the heroine.
The sad part of this story though, is that Samuel feels that he is undeserving of Leda's love. They both have a bit of a martyr vibe going on, but Kinsale never takes it to the point where I want to throw the book at the wall. It did get a little too close at the end, but the heroine really pulled through for me. She grows a bit of a back bone and does not let Samuel bully her. Yay!!!
This story is not only great because of the characters, but for the exotic location and people as well. The reader is truly immersed in this unusual culture. Parts of the story take place in Hawaii where the locals speak Pidgin. This gives a very authentic feel to the story. Kinsale also intertwines Japanese history and culture into the tale of Samuel's training as he goes from being a boy to becoming the shadow warrior. I loved this story and I highly recommend giving it a try.
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I didn't really care for this book as a romance. As an in-depth character study of Leda and Samuel, it works just fine, but the author never really shows us how or why these two fall in love, the reader is apparently just supposed to take it for granted.
One of Kinsale's very best. Set in Victorian England and Hawaii. Samuel and Leda are memorable characters.
Three stars. Keeps you interested from start to finish. Unique romance.
This one is a hard one to rate, how well I liked it depended totally on what page I was reading. I spent the first half of the book wondering why so many people rated it so high. It seemed disjointed and somewhat confusing as the chapters jumped from Leda, the heroine, to Samuel's "family" to flashbacks of Samuel's life growing up. I had to make myself pay attention when there didn't seem to be much reason to.
About half way through, however, it did start to smooth out. All the bouncing around became more clear, making the plot much more interesting. From there, I really enjoyed the story. The depiction of Samuel, his character, his insecurities and the somewhat skewed way he looks at life because of his past is written with so much insight and understanding that one cannot help but love him. While I still am not a die-hard fan of the martial arts aspect, at least I can see why so many love this book.
From the back cover
Wealthy, powerful and majestically handsome, he is a man of dark secrets-a master of the ancient martial arts of an exotic distant land. Scarred by a childhood of shocking degradation, he has sworn to love chastelybut burns with the fires of unfaithful passion.
Lovely, innocent and nearly destitute, she is drawn to him by a fevered yearning she could never deny-following her enigmatic shadow warrior into a dangerous world of desire and righteous retribution.
This book appeared on a list in People Magazine that was put together by the gals who do the Smart B*tches, Trashy Books website -- it was listed as one of their top 5 romance novels. Overall, it was a good story, it's well written, the characters are likable. Was a little slow for me to get into at first, since the author alternates chapters with a flashback story that was a bit dull at times. This was my first Laura Kinsale book, and I'd definitely read more by the author.
As much as I loved Flowers from the Storm, this book, Shadow and the Star was a real disappointment. Off to a slow start S&S introduces us in small steps to the hero and heroine. The style of the writing is nice, each chapter switching between hero and heroine, the hero's exposition happening in the past, chronicling his backstory while alternating chapters move the couple forward.
However over halfway through the book I was still not convinced the couple is meant for each other. He's exceptionally inexperienced with women (a virgin). She's innocent and virginal to the point of silliness at times. I was never convinced of her attraction to him. She thinks he's handsome, but you don't FEEL the intensity of her interest. He wants to have sex with her but you don't get that he has any care for her as a person.
Ultimately they marry but throughout the book he believes himself in love with another. He admits to himself his overwhelming sexual attraction to Leda but he thinks this is wrong, and you are never part of his internal dialogue when he realizes he loves her.
In the end, perhaps because I was so disappointed and frustrated with this book that should have been so good, I started nitpicking the story as well. This man, orphan though he was, was raised by an English couple in mostly Western tradition and a quite happy home. And while he found great comfort in his relationship and apprenticeship with Japanese Dojun, I couldn't quite understand why he was ultimately more comfortable in Japanese style, Japanese tradition, Japanese beliefs. As if the people who raised him had no influence on him at all. He'd never been to Japan, what does he know of any of that?
And Leda simply looked like a foolish ninny by the end. She can't take a hint, acts completely clueless and foolish, and never seems to turn the corner into acting like a woman.
He is a man of dark secrets-wealthy, strong, majestically handsome-the master of the ancient arts of a distant land. Scarred by a cruel childhood, he has sworn only to love chastely...yet he burns with the heat of unfulfilled desire.
She is innocent and nearly destitute, yet she possesses a beauty as incandescent as a heavenly orb. And she is drawn to this powerful stranger by a need she cannot deny.
Never has such passion so consumed a man and a woman. But by giving his heart freely, the Shadow risks everything he believes in. And to follow her enignatic warrior means the Star must enter his world of intrigue, vengeance, and desire-and surrender to the most dangerous love there ever could be.