Once and Always - Judith McNaught My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book. This one's got 3 parts.

After my 2nd reading of the book...

On the surface, Jason is the type of tortured hero I love to read generally. He lost his son when his mother (Jason's wife) was taking off with one of her lovers and the ship sank. His wife cuckolded him and I had no idea why! If you read about Jason, you'll know he's hot as hell and an alpha. Men, girls like to dream about. Then again, the woman may have been a silly twitt who didn't know what she had. Never mind, that's another matter I might consider discussing if I have some clue/idea to it.

Victoria (another red-haired heroine and it's kinda getting boring) just lost her parents and came to England from America with her younger sister Dorothy. Her great-grandmother, one Duchess of something or the other, made it clear that she's not welcome in her home. It's because she resembles her mother Katherine too much and the Duchess wasn't happy with her because Katherine defied her and married some Irish doctor against her will. Here, there are more twists. In the beginning of the story, we see a scene between Victoria's mother and father, something intimate yet sad which tells us that her mother was never in love with her father. I was really feeling for the guy but then I got to know why Katherine did what she did. Katherine was in love with someone else. Charles, the Duke of Atherton, was a rake/libertine but fell in love with Katherine just like that. I liked that part when Charles reminisces about his reltionship with Katherine. So, the Duchess and Charles just can't tolerate each-other (the reason is in that story). Then, the Duchess tells Charles that he can take Victoria in. Charles is more than happy to do that and has a plan. He'd seen Victoria's miniature and the resemble with her mother shook him so badly that he forms this plan to marry her off with his heir and nephew, Jason.

Now, there's another story waiting. Jason was living in India with Charles's youngest brother, a missionary and his awful wife before both of them perished. That woman tortured Jason when he was a kid, which made him a hard individual. Then when he made a fortune in shipping business and married, then got betrayed; his life is totally disillutioned. He becomes this cynical, jaded man, who doesn't give a s*it about women unless it's in bed. And, he gets plenty of that. Jason likes to use women who like to be used and then discards them. At least, that's the impression I got so far. It all started when he came to England, after a heirless Charles convinced him it was the best thing for his son, the one he lost afterwards. Well, it's because (no surprise there), Jason is actually Charles's illigitimate son, born to one of his mistresses, a French ballerina, when he was very young. And, then you know the rest of the story until now. Jason can't stand Charles but I know better since this is my 2nd reading.

So, after some funny incidents Jason and Victoria meet. Charles is more than happy. Jason was furious to know about his 'betrothal' from the Times, which was Charles's plan. Then Victoria got to know it as well. After many hot, cold and warm word exchanges (by those I mean Jason being really rude to her, Victoria getting mad, then they're quite nice to each-other etc etc), these two form some sort of truce. But, this doesn't stay the same because as I mentioned, Jason is very unpredictable. Victoria can't but feel something for him, for somehow she knows he's been through some really tought times but just won't let anyone in.

As a heroine, I like Victoria. She's far better than the other JM heroines I've read so far. But, that can change over the course of the story, just as the hero because so far, I'm interested in Jason as well. Then again, there is this tiny info I've read from some reviews that kinda making me apprehensive. I don't remember this from my 1st read but now that I know, I don't know if he'll be in my interested list for long!

There are a few scene I loved/felt for. One I already mentioned between Katherine and Patrick. Another was the scene where Victoria reads a note, aloud, to Jason from one of his whores. It was a great scene, I laughed much and enjoyed it vastly. I'm liking the way Victoria won the whole household staffs over and tamed Wolf the dog, which is part wolf (duh!). She's literally disrupting Jason's life and it's fun to read. But, I feel for her when her thoughts tell me how lonely she's inside. I also love reading the word exchanges between Jason and Charles. One other scene (and it's kinda goes with the mother's day, which was today), a childhood flashback of Victoria's with her mother. She was ill and almost dying and her mother tended to her ... I was in tears reading that scene. Mothers are the best thing in this world. Mine, too. Happy Mother's Day to all. :) [note: this part was done on the mother's day]

Would you believe if I say I've been phrasing and re-phrasing my review the whole day? After every few chapters, these are my reactions:

1. OMG, so ewww. (after chapter 11 and all the other chapters that contain he and his mistress)

2. I'm not even gonna waste my time writing a review for it'll be all nasty, like Jason. (after his crass treatment of Victoria, specially the wedding night)

3. S*it! I'm going to kill that piece of nothing. (after his cheating on her, something I'll NEVER FORGIVE!!)

4. Maybe I'll just say ... read my review of "Whitney, My Love" and "Until You" plz, you'll get the gist of what I exactly think of Jason. (at that point, I was resigned)

5. No no no, I'll write a review all right ... I'll flay him alive! :@ (my thoughts for the last few hrs.)

So, here it goes. I couldn't not write something when I'm this pissed off and my hands are positively itching to slap him hard.

Where I last left off, Jason and Victoria were forming some kind of truce. But soon afterwards, a letter from America that certainly concerns Andrew, the man Victoria was unofficially engaged to and wanted very much to marry, arrives and Charles (just like Andrew's nasty mother) did something so that these two are never together. He feigned illness and wrench out a promise from Jason and Victoria to marry. I was irritated as hell by this. Then Jason being the a-hole he is, started giving Victoria gifts (just as he treats his whores) for one of her kisses. Can you see me getting all red and splotchy? And it's not from blushing. I do look charming, don't I Jason?!. But, Victoria is a naive girl and she's confused, knows nothing about physical relationships. How come this simple thing didn't enter Jason's thick head I don't know. But wait a minute, maybe I do. For one, he's as self-centered and overbearing as his counterpart Clayton, and after some clues (I don't even know how to comment on this) decided Victoria is not a virgin and Andrew is the cause for that! So Jason, after all those yrs, screwing all those women, this is what your 'experiences' tell you??? *speechless*

In between, of course, he's been so crude, rude and awful to Victoria (all the women are same to him) that I only felt sad for her because she's a wonderful girl but horribly naive. She had fire, which was very skillfully being doused by the men (and a few women) around her, as the story progressed; all these by manipulation, by making her confused about things and then, by withholding vital informations. One was the fact that Jason's pretty disgusting when it comes to women, another is Jason's earlier marriage and his wife's betrayal and last but not the least, she was made to believe that men in England keep mistresses for their wives' 'convenience'. All these she learned just a day or two before her marriage, rather by accident. I know the last might be true for general Ton marriages but hey, this is a HR and I wanna see the h/h falling in love and sharing that love til the end, not the hero f*cking his mistress for the better part of the book, even after h/h get married. Then, when they finally 'made love', I felt absolutely NOTHING for Jason or his 'legendary lovemaking' and much pity for Victoria. The next morning, he gave her another of his goddamed gifts for 'an unforgettable night'. What can be more humiliating than that?!

I hated all the chapters that mentioned his mistress and their interactions. I was incensed seeing him fantasizing Victoria by day and screwing the mistress by night. It was so damned disgusting (oh, wait! Clayton and Stephen did the same thing). Then, of course, judging her for not being a 'virgin' which lead to that awful wedding night scene and a freakin gift afterwards. In this regard all the JM heroes are unanimous- how to abuse their heroines both physically and emotionally. I didn't mention this earlier- Victoria's chaperone, one utterly stupid old spinster, gave her 'directions' about the wedding night. The information was, of course, rather vile and then after the wedding night disaster, Victoria was scared to have sex. I couldn't blame her at all. That a$$ didn't consider her anything, then again he never does. He just thought she is thinking of Andrew, of course she isn't a virgin, she doesn't want his lovemaking and that's why she drank too much. So, when she said "I feel sick" in that moment, he ........ Oh, I don't wanna talk about it anymore. Then, after the wedding night, that piece of nothing went to London and stayed for five days screwing around hither and yon. OMG!! I just couldn't believe this! ... Then poor Victoria, even after knowing what he's been doing, had not the courage to stand up to him because I've already mentioned what she was told about the 'husbands' and she had this misleading thought that he needs her! Ermm, whaaat? Open your eyes, woman!!!

There is this one secondary character, a captain Farrell, who is a close friend to Jason and knows everything about Jason's past. Yah, I did feel quite sad when I read about those horrible things but when your learning from your experience is- to give it back tenfold to the people around you, specially your young, naive wife, I can't but find Jason loathsome. So, as Victoria turned to this friendly captain for advice, at first I thought, "some voice of reason, finally!" But nooooooo. That man twisted the whole thing (including Jason's infidelity) into something that should be overlooked (as all the others did, poor poor girl!). He made it look like it's Jason who's the victim here and it's Victoria who should be picking up the pieces (which includes seducing Jason, no matter that she's scared and he's THE REASON behind it) since she withheld the marriage bed from him! Hello??!?! :@ ... I mean really, THIS IS JUST BULLS*IT!!

I have to talk about the overeager servants of the Wakefield manor. I liked it that Victoria won them over but their prying on the master and mistress's intimate life was so annoying to read, I skipped quite a lot when they were expressing their opinions on it.

JM has this wierd tendency to make her heroines look like fools all through the story and everyone telling her what a catch the hero is, even after all his awful behavior towards her (which includes treating mistresses better than the heroine), just because he has a title and money. I find it all rather distasteful.

Guess I've tried covering what bothered me throughout the book up til now. I feel drained and exhausted. I want my HR heroes to give me sweet dreams, not nightmares... :(

Some of you, who feel things for Jason, might say "oh, the poor guy has been treated very badly when he was a kid, he was betrayed by his wife etc etc that made him what he is" and I agree to some point, too but that won't earn him anything from me. He had no right to treat Victoria the way he did since the beginning and somewhere inside his addled brain, that pathetic a$$ knew she doesn't deserve this ... He's insane and I hate him, it's as simple as that.

I'll come back with the rest of the story and the rating, which I'm afraid will go down from 5 stars.

I think the last 2 chapters of the book made me moon over Jason when I 1st read this book. In this reading, I have to agree that those scenes were marvelous. But the problem is, no matter what, he's gone so far down in my estimation that his grief and emotions were tough to believe by then. Where was this man for most part of the book? JM could've toned down his badboy lifestyle and given him more chance to redeem himself by grovelling and making it all up to Victoria, which definitely would've won me over (except the cheating part, that would've been hard to overlook :/). And, I couldn't believe the way Andrew was hurt in the end because all these problems were created by meddlesome people that ended in utter disaster. I do agree when some say that Victoria should've ended up with him. Andrew wasn't the type of guy he was made to look throughout the book. I wish he had his own book but since, this book came out long time ago and nothing of the sort/any hints from Ms. McNaught, I guess we won't be seeing his book. Have to say, I really hate to see a perfectly good individual getting hurt in a novel just the way Andrew was.

The ending of the book was rather odd and abrupt, which made me think we were supposed to have a book for Victoria's sister Dorothy and some Winston guy, whom we know only by mention. Nothing about that as well. I disliked that there was no epilogue because I was hoping for one.

3 stars (5 stars before) because I just couldn't warm myself enough towards Jason. Sorry about that. :/