Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Under the Covers with Paul Marron: the Warren Court!

Perhaps growing weary of his life as a multi-millionaire shape-shifting bounty-hunting alien werewolf bondage slave (yeesh - who wouldn't grow weary of all that from time to time?), our hero Paul for a brief while returned to Merrie Olde England where he'd been relatively happy once before. And what more natural identity to assume once in England of 1809 than that of Lord Byron?

In truth, it was only a matter of time. Our Paul shares so many traits in common with Byron, after all - stunning physical beauty, identical height and body type, same husky, suggestive timbre to the voice, same compact yet fluid physicality, same studied-yet-involuntary sensual appeal (and perhaps one or two other things that slip the mind at the moment). For the better part of a decade, Byron held a wide reputation for being the most handsome man in England. The amazing thing is that it took romance writers so long to make the connection.

And the wait isn't over yet, because the Byron our Paul turns out to be this time around isn't that Lord Byron - he's Lord Cade Byron, one of the brothers of the Duke of Clybourne, and like all his brothers, Paul - er, Cade - probably spends half his waking hours telling people he's not related to the famous poet. But although they're not related, the Byron brothers share something of the poet's mythos - they're headstrong and provocative (well, all except for egghead brother Drake, although even he has his moments), and they often choose to be snidely dismissive of the great society's norms. Also, like the poet, they attract trouble and temptresses in equal measure.

In other words, we've entered the world of Tracy Anne Warren, who writes some of the most charmingly escapist Regency romances currently on the market, and whose covers had a brief, torrid affair with our chisel-cheeked hero back in 2009, starting with Tempted by His Kiss, which opens with pretty young orphan Meg Amberley seeking shelter from a blinding snowstorm at the remote estate of the aforementioned Lord Cade Byron. Cade is holed up away from the convivial haunts of his family, brooding over his capture and torture on the Continent six months earlier at the hands of a French agent known as Le Renard. Paul only barely escaped from that encounter, and he's sequestered himself in his northern estate to let his scars (and his crippled leg) heal and generally feel sorry for himself. Meg's arrival jars him out of his reverie, and soon he's back in London - where he's shocked to recognize Lord Everett, the hero of the hour, as his former torturer. Of course nobody believe him - except perhaps Meg, and it isn't long before the two of them are facing Everett's loaded pistol, and Paul is getting a treatment that seems a bit familiar:
Everett motioned Cade toward the chair. For a moment he looked as if he might resist, but a glance at the gun Everett was still pointing her way obviously changed his mind. Moving with a more pronounced limp than he had shown for a while, Cade crossed the room, pausing to lean his cane against the nearby wall before taking a seat. At the servant's urging, Cade placed his hands around the tall back of the chair so his wrists could be tied together using a stout length of rope. Nearly finished, the man gave a last, hard tug that made Cade's muscles visibly tense against the strain.

Readers of this series will recognize the tenor of revelations about Cade/Paul. "He knew all about how it felt to lose control," Warren tells us. "To be denied free will while one trembled on the brink, a second shy of breaking, of begging, of agreeing to violate one's most sacred oaths in order to make the agony stop..."

Yes indeed!

With admirable flexibility, Paul has no sooner conquered the villain (the old knife-up-the-frilly-sleeve trick that's no doubt got him out of many a tight spot in Brooklyn) and taken the girl in his arms than he's pivoting, dodging into the nearest storeroom, and emerging as ... an entirely different Byron brother!

In Seduced by His Touch, Paul is going by the name Lord Jack Byron, a wastrel who falls so deeply into debt to a wealthy London merchant that he has no choice but to agree to marry the man's daughter Grace in exchange for a clean slate. Naturally, Paul worries that this Grace has gone unmarried all this time because she's, as he puts it, a "gorgon," but the truth turns out to be far more pleasant, as romance novel truths invariably do (Warren, who can't keep her sunny native ebullience out of her prose even at its most serious, writes infectiously happy books, despite the brutal backdrops of some of her plots). He finds her charming, and of course she returns the favor:
Glancing across the room, she found him talking with Edward and Cade. The three Byron men were all handsome, but to her, Jack far outshone his siblings. He was the epitome of masculine beauty, standing tall, dark, and dynamic in his stark black and white evening attire, his neatly combed hair already showing a charmingly rebellious bit of wave.

And lest you think Paul's quick identity change frees him from the family duty of constantly clarifying, think again:
Her aunt's eyes grew round. "Byron? No relation to the poet, I suppose?"

"No, ma'am. That particular gentleman and I share no familial ties, nor do I claim to have so much as an inkling of talent in the art of penning sonnets and odes. Let me say, however, that it is a distinct pleasure to make your acquaintance." He bowed with a practiced flair that made her aunt's cheeks pink like a schoolgirl's despite her nearly sixty years.

Ah, our Paul! Such a charmer! Where will he turn up next?


Artemis said...

Hot Dayum! What a stepback! Didn't know he was there. He is my favorite! He has been on quite a few lately. I missed this one.

infinitieh said...

What I miss while my computer is in the shop... Great post! I have this series just for Paul and I should really read them at some point.