~ A pleasurable read with wonderful leading characters - though darker and more risque than I had expected! (3.5 stars) ~
TEMPTED ALL NIGHT is a very enjoyable read, though I was a little surprised by certain aspects of the book. There are some very dark undertones (sexual slavery) and some surprises that I wasn't quite expecting (bondage-domination ... which led to inconsistencies IMO - see spoilers for detail), however I have no compunction in recommending this book as a great historical romance read. (Note: I haven't read Carlyle's latest books that involve overlapping characters but this was not an obstacle).
There are a lot of things that could be included in the following descriptions but that I would have to term spoilers, so for people who want to avoid those, I have only detailed them at the very end (with a proper warning!!) for those readers who like to know some things beforehand (like me, lol).
CHARACTERS, Tristan and Phaedra ("Phae"):
Tristan Talbot (30) is a rake of the first order - he's a shameless flirt who literally beds every willing woman he meets. This wastrel devil-may-care facade, however, does hide a more serious side (still waters run deep type of thing) and Carlyle does a good job of writing this believably and making his feelings for and reaction to Phaedra read authentically. He's intelligent, witty, honorable, tender, passionate, sometimes deliciously possessive and jealous (his reaction at the card-game will have you grinning), and all in all completely sigh-inspiring - give me a Tristan any day!
Tristan is technically Lord Avoncliffe, since he's the son of the Earl of Hauxton, but he does not have a good relationship with his father and doesn't like to go by his title. His mother was of Mediterranean peasantry and though Hauxton married her, their marriage was not a happy one and ended in Tristan's youth. Though he's legitimate, one would almost think he wasn't by how he's treated by his extended family, his father, and society.
Lady Phaedra Northampton (21) is a great heroine - somewhat reserved but caring, intelligent, witty, likeable, and very easy to root for - all you want is for her to finally be happy. (I did find parts of her story/character very puzzling, but that's covered in the spoiler section at the end.) She's 21, though I found that I often had to remind myself that, since I felt she was written much older. I always love unusual heroines or the quiet-wallflowers, and Phaedra is this type - although 21 is hardly firmly on-the-shelf (even then!), she is the farthest thing from a social-butterfly, considers herself a bluestocking and unfashionable, hides behind plain gray gowns and spectacles, and is often wonderfully forthright and tart.
I felt that she was a good counterbalance to Tristan's wildness and their relationship was very believable; they have an intellectual and emotional/physical connection, are both wildly passionate and heartbreakingly tender with one another - it's really quite sweet (and I'm not the maudlin/corny type).
~ This book involves a mystery subplot - though action subplot would be more accurate, since there's not really the unknown-villain factor. On the whole it's written well, is interesting, and definitely moves the plot forward, but at the beginning of the book it takes too long for Carlyle to give us a picture of what is going on (that Missie is missing, Phaedra is looking for her, their connection to the first dead man, etc.).
~ The secondary characters are three-dimensional and well-written; not every relationship is tied up with a pretty bow at the end, and this gives a further feeling of authenticity to Carlyle's story and her hero and heroine's relationship.
~ A better proofreader was needed: there were typos, words missing or out of order, and consistency mistakes (at one point Tristan's title is raised to that of Earl Avoncliffe, before returning once more to Viscount).
~ I think that Tristan's proposal could have done with just the ring - leave the diamond and purple velvet handcuffs behind! That was too much for me, frankly ...
~ We don't know Phaedra's deep, dark secret for so long and maybe I'm just impatient, but I was annoyed by this; I kept on having to stop myself from skimming forward to find out what it was. Then, what the secret actually was didn't fit with other things in the story ... (see spoiler).
**BIG SPOILER STARTS**:
Phaedra's secret: Right after she turned 15, one of her brother's friends seduced her (ie. raped her, though that word is not used). She was so young that she didn't really understand what they were doing or that they were having sex (or what sex was). She gets pregnant as a result, though again she doesn't realize it or recognize what it means, and then is given an abortion (again, not really understanding what is happening). Something goes wrong, she gets a bad fever, and as a result is told she will likely never be able to conceive. She pretty much withdraws from society, thinking that since she's barren she will never marry.
Second issue: Now, I like the hot and heavy scenes as much as the next historical romance reader and am disappointed when there isn't enough chemistry or passion, but I guess I'm somewhat prudish in that I do prefer my heroines to not initially be too bold or sexually aggressive at the beginning of their relationship with the hero. Here, however, I was completely unprepared for the bondage/domination aspect of Tristan and Phaedra's relationship and haven't read this in any of Carlyle's books before. It was well-written, though, and I think it mostly just caught me off guard.
Having said that, if you're somewhat turned off by this, don't be - as I said, I'm not the really raunchy x-rated type of reader, but I was not disturbed by it - only pleasantly scandalized, lol. The thing that I did find somewhat disconcerting/odd was that both of these things (Phaedra's secret and this aspect of their sexual relationship) were taking place in the same book/relationship. After what she experienced, would Phae really so soon in her sexual relationship with Tristan (and in her first sexual experience since her rape) be comfortable with or desire/need to be bound/dominated? I found it hard to reconcile these two things, as I would find it more probable that Phaedra would be hesitant about sex because of what happened to her.
**BIG SPOILER ENDS**
I really ended up enjoying this book. It was by no means perfect, or even a favorite Carlyle, but I was pleased. I liked how I didn't really know what was going on at first. We (the reader) found out what Phaedra's involvement in the murdered Russian was at the same time as Tristan did. It was a definite change of pace from the more introspective characters.
Phaedra was a well written character. I liked how she was mature and not as needy as a lot of other romance heroines. I enjoyed watching Tristan have to be the one to ask when he'll get to see her again. Her `let's keep it casual' attitude toward Tristan was a nice change of pace. I didn't have a problem with the kinks Tristan found out she had, but I thought it got a little too clinical at times. I wish it would have been a bit more engaging and a little less dry. I was also surprised by her aggressiveness toward Tristan when I found out about her past tragedy. The tragedy was unexpected. Usually I can predict what so-called past tragedy an author is going to assign to a character, but this one was different. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever seen it used before.
I did have a minor nitpick about Phaedra's characterization though. She makes a comment about not being sure that Tristan was the drunken gentleman she met in the beginning of the book. It says that she couldn't be sure because she didn't have her glasses on. Later Phoebe mocks her to Zoe (Phaedra's friend) and says Phaedra only wears her glasses to look smarter than everyone else and only needs them to read. Throughout later parts of the story she goes without her glasses and doesn't have any problems seeing. I found it odd that she would comment to herself on her need for her glasses but then never really need them.
Tristan was an interesting character. I have to say, I have a weakness for characters that are thought to be empty-headed but are really very clever. It always makes me feel as though I'm in on the joke. I thought Tristan was a lot of fun. He was up for whatever anyone wanted to throw at him. If you wanted to fight, he'd fight. If you wanted to make out, he was ready. If you wanted to think he was an idiot, he was more than happy to let you. He just seemed so casual and willing to go with the flow. It made him fun to read about. I wasn't really impressed with his willingness to make out with every set of lips that crossed his path (even if most of them ended up being Phaedra in one form or another) but it was in the beginning of the story and it's just a personal dislike. It was easy to get past.
I liked that Tristan never resolved things with his father. I thought that was more realistic than a sudden father-son bonding moment where they forget all their past troubles. I would have thought less of Tristan if he would have made up with his father when his father was never sorry about how he treated his mother.
I found it odd that Phaedra had so much freedom. I know that her mother focused on Phoebe mostly, but it really seemed a little unbelievable. I kept forgetting that Phaedra was 21 and was startled whenever it was brought up. On one hand it was nice that she acted so mature. I can't even remember how many books I have given up on because the characters acted too immature and irritated the life out of me. On the other hand I really don't think that she acted 21. Maybe her past made her grow up in a hurry. I don't know... It was just a jarring note whenever it was mentioned.
Overall it was a good book. I had some minor nitpicks, but they were easily ignored. I would say it was a good representation of Liz Carlyle's work. The world building isn't too detailed, but the characters caught my attention enough that it didn't matter to me. The prose isn't nuanced and doesn't really give a flavor of the time period, but there's something to be said for to the point prose. I'll be on the lookout for the next one in the series.
Excellent effort from Ms. Carlyle; one of the better Regency romances that I have read lately. The storyline moves along at quite a clip, with even a bit of action. I loved the main characters - proud, ultimately honorable, but still flawed (ie. realistically human); even the secondary characters were interesting. (I can't wait to read Zoe's story) Even the romance (um, I mean sex scenes) were well written, and fit well into the plot, as an important part of the story. And we all love a happy ending - thank goodness it wasn't too sugary or sappy, just happy. Enjoy.