<b>My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...</b>
Master of Love is the debut novel by Catherine LaRoche and I can honestly say that ClR has won me as a fan! This book had witty banters, some good twists, a drop-dead gorgeous (and genius) hero and a smart-to-boots heroine who loves books! I had loads of fun. ClR’s writing is really good, flowing and her word play is excellent.
Callista has seen her share of misery in life. Her book dealer father, who became a baron at a very late stage of life, couldn’t even enjoy his peerage status. Callista’s mother had already passed away but her father’s death left her devastated in the sense that afterwards it was revealed that she had not much of a financial support to speak of. As a book dealer and librarian, her honest father only made enough to get by. And now it’s all up to Callista to take care of her younger sister Daphne, their elderly spinster Great-aunt Mildred and the few loyal servants they had. Callista can’t think of losing the small but comfortable house in which they live because it held a lot of memories of their happy childhood with their parents. Since she was never going to be a lady of the peerage or come out as a debutante anymore, Callista, in her ‘advanced years’ of 27 takes the charge of her father’s small business. She had always loved and adored books and helped her father often enough to have a strong grip and understanding. But it’s not a friendly place for a woman, certainly not so when you’re an unmarried lady. She is always on the verge of ruining her reputation, or whatever of it is left. And so, Callista finds that many of her father’s loyal patrons are taking their support away since they don’t care to deal with a woman. Oh how I felt for this girl and yet, admired her so for maintaining a strong and cool head over her shoulders. But sometimes, reality weighs down hard on Callista. She’s in urgent need of money to pay off the latest bills and the rent to their house to the Duke who owns the land. This is when the opportunity to catalogue the books of Viscount Rexton’s library falls on to her lap. Callista is overwhelmed and yet, very relieved. The recommendation of her service comes from a previous patron of her father’s, Rexton’s uncle, who is sending Rexton a huge amount of books from his own library.
On her first day at work, Callista finds out that two snotty ladies of the peerage, who are apparently Rexton’s guests, gossiping about her maliciously. Everyone knows of Rexton’s lecherous ways, his title as the ‘Master of Love’ and Lord Adonis. He’s said to be a gorgeous specimen of male perfection. A suave charmer, he’s equally adept at seducing unsuspecting widows and ladies of the ton. He also hosts discussions of the Philosophical society, of which he’s a patron, as was his genius father. He doesn’t share his father in the cerebral matters of course. They say he’s all but empty in that area. Callista, so far, has only heard-tell from gossips but has never seen the man in reality. It’s not that she moves in the same exulted circle as his. Callista knows her reputation would be in ruins if words spread about her lone work schedules in Rexton’s library but a needy family can’t think of reputation when that reputation hasn’t done anything good for her. Still she fears for Daphne, a 13 yrs old. Callista is determined to give her a season and a better life. And yet, those malicious gossips, of which she unwittingly becomes privy to, hurts her a lot. Callista feels teary but in seconds she soldiers herself and returns to work.
Her and Rexton’s meeting was one amazing scene. Our prudish Miss Higginbotham is left all hot and bothered. She was taking an inventory of the books that have already arrived when Rexton makes an appearance. And oh my, he indeed is gorgeous; beautiful even, from the tips of his perfect (and shiny) golden brown hair to the tips of his shoes. He’s one of those people who are born to be admired for their Godly physical beauty. I could feel that aura radiating from Dominick. His witty remarks where Callista were concerned only proved the fact that his gorgeous face isn’t all he has to offer, whatever the world thinks of him.
Dominick was called Dom throughout the story and I was equally hot and bothered by that myself. *heehee* Somehow, I found it just... super! You know, his title, Master of Love and then, Dom... and umm, oh, well... Dom (as I will call him now) is so much more than what meets the eyes. Yes, he’s titled, fabulously wealthy and gorgeous but he has also a superb mind to go with his splendors. He is brilliant in fact. But because of his stupendous beauty, everyone judged the poor baby as an empty-headed pretty boy, whose only talent lies in the women’s boudoir. I just couldn’t get this, the matter of ‘why?’. Dom’s brilliance shone at a young age, but his jealous father pruned his confidence early as well. Yes, I couldn’t believe it when I read it . But for a long time, we didn’t know why he’s in hiding. Why he writes brilliant philosophical papers under the pseudonym of ‘Amator Philosophiae’. Gradually, some more things become obvious and I begin to adore Dom more and more. One was certainly his amorous reputation. He was NOT at all what he was called. If any, Dom didn’t like his Master of Love reputation, he didn’t like how he was judged and he certainly never took his dalliances beyond the flirtations in ballrooms. Dom never wanted to be the social butterfly, but having the life of a nerd who could just read and write to his heart’s content. Sometimes I felt so sad for him. It was his first lover, an elderly lady who seduced him at a very early age, had spread this ‘Master of Love’ crap. Dom had no chance of fighting this reputation since everyone sort of already judged him so.
And he let everyone believe so. Right now, Lady Barrington is his ‘escort’. She’s as beautiful as he is, and everyone already thinks of them as lovers. But Dom has no intentions of taking it any further. She mainly takes up the part of a hostess at his home since Dom entertains his philosophical society members a lot. Dom’s mother isn’t here and his sister is married. Dom doesn’t really know why his uncle send him these books, and why this particular librarian was recommended but he can’t help himself being interested in her. It can’t be her beautiful but sad eyes or glorious red hair (she would probably oppose and say it’s auburn), can it? He can’t help but poke and prod at Miss Higginbotham and fluster her with his comments. Dom plays his part and lets in subtle innuendoes which makes her go red and all. Must tell you, I loved these banters while Callista worked (or at least tried to work) in Dom’s library.
At home, Callista’s best friend, a French seamstress, Marie is also trying to help them. Marie is alone in the world and very practical. She doesn’t have the money to open her dream <i>couture</i> shop. Marie has a big heart and will take a protector, if that means saving the only family left to her. Callista’s family is a bunch of mixed baggage. Apart from Marie and Daphne, there is Great-aunt Mildred who likes to boast of her bloodline that comes from a Duke. She’s always encouraging Callista to flaunt that side of her so that no one belittles her. Callista patiently listens to her, but she’s not interested in flaunting. Then, the Duke, their landlord, sends his man, Garforth, to collect the rent. Garforth doesn’t shy away from showing his true face to Callista when he gets her alone in his office. She already knew that the toad had an eye on her, but now he makes sure that Callista knew that if her spinster self if not available to him, he would take the young Daphne. In exchange, he can settle something with the Duke about their pending rent that has suddenly rocketed high. Callista is left horrified by this implication.
Callista debates about informing Dom about Garforth but she’s scared of ruining their budding relationship, whatever it is. She is attracted to him, of course and by now, Dom’s emotion where Callista was concerned was deeper than anyone would think him capable of. Callista doesn’t confide in him but only asks for her all her contractual money in advance. Dom gives it without any questions. But he sensed her unease and later questions her young foot-boy Billy. Now, Billy’s story and how Callista saved him from the street, is another interesting one. Billy feels indebted and is a self-employed guardian of sort. You’d love his and Dom’s exchanges. Dom got the boy’s intention and admired him for it. And he also knew the boy would know that something’s amiss. Billy had the survival instincts one can only learn from being on the street. Later, even though Callista somehow saves her family by throwing the money at Garforth’s face, he wasn’t done with her. This only enrages him. Billy heard their exchanges and informs Dom about it. Billy had his initial ‘suspicions’ about Dom but by now he has decided that Dom’s worthy enough to help ‘Miss H’. Dom is a bit hurt that Callista didn’t confide in him and he pouts a bit too, though Callista can’t really guess why.
Dom makes sure that the Duke knew about Garforth’s doings. He also starts taking care of the budding rumors that were beginning to hurt Callista’s reputation. Poor man wanted her in his bed, and yet, couldn’t seem to stand that her reputation will be ruined. Even he knew how ridiculous it sounded. Dom knew a part of it was Lady Barrington’s doing and by now, he has distanced himself from her, his only focus on Callista. He calls at Callista’s home and charms Lady Mildred with his charisma. In one of the gatherings thrown by Jane, Dom’s sister, some people try to be rude and hurt Callista with insinuations. But Jane and Aunt Mildred come to the rescue. Callista’s close childhood buddy Lady Beatrice, who is now a rich heiress on her own right, also helps her out. We have this story of 4 girls who were once very close including Callista. Other two girls besides her and Beatrice are in other countries and she hadn’t seen them for a while. I have an inclination that the other girls would have their stories.
In between we meet Jane’s family; Dom’s nephews whom he loves so much and spends time with every day. See, people never really cared to know these sides of him that I found so adorable. Jane always suspected that her brother is so much more than what he lets on. Dom has learned to hide behind his mask so well, that sometimes even he doesn’t know which one he truly is. Only his prim librarian gives him hope. I could see what he craves; the kind of cerebral, mental connection and communication that he never could really have from his peers. Callista’s personality calls out to him, both body and soul; from the physical to the intellectual. And I could also see that he was falling, irrevocably and yet knew that he probably can never profess his feelings to her because of that damned mask that he has to hide behind. He makes it known that he wants her through his intense kisses. Callista is confused over the whole thing. She feels that he’s more that he lets on, and she just adores his secret kisses, yet, Callista knows that he’d never marry her because of her station. After all, Dom is so in demand for his title and beauty, why would he marry a book dealer? Still, temptation beacons her. She wants to give in, but can’t entirely.
Dom’s mother returns from her sojourns at this point. I didn’t really like this woman. She seemed way too flirtatious for my liking and just that with some of her POVs of life I don’t agree. She takes young lovers left and right (more than one at a time) and wears dresses that embarrass Dom. A celebrated beauty even in her mature age, Dom’s mother is all about <i>joie de vivre</i>. Dom loves her, of course but I’m not sure if she was a loving mother, because I thought their relationship distant. She’s just too full of herself. Now, I didn’t mention that Dom’s man of affairs Danvers has already become besotted with Marie, a feeling that was mutually returned. Danvers made it his mission to make Marie’s dress-shop into a successful one (you know the reason why *wink*). His first step was to introduce her to Lady Rexton, who is also a fasionista of the first order. Marie’s dresses are amazing and Lady Rexton is impressed by her work. She also loves any hint/talks of romance which is why she decides that she needs to liven these peoples’ lives a bit; Marie-Danvers and definitely of her son’s with Callista. Yes, she approved of Callista and understood Dom’s attraction. She’s the one who creates an opportunity for them.
When Garforth loses his job and acts on his revenge to bring Callista down, Billy runs to Dom for help. Gosh, that was some scene! I was wavering a bit since there were plenty push and pull going on from both Dom and Callista about their relationship when this caught me entirely. Loved the way he comes in to save her from Garforth. Afterwards, her whole family takes shelter in Dom’s house because they were thrown out of theirs on Garforth’s false accusations. There are more interesting developments in Marie-Danvers’s relationship as well as Great-aunt Maude and Dom’s Uncle George’s... OK this pair share a history together from a long-ago past (which I thought was sweet) and even though they’re in their advanced years, umm well, just lemme tell you I wasn’t all that interested in their new romance. Good for them, I moved on. Lol I was more interested in Marie and Danvers but there was no big development in theirs. I only hope that they get their story as well.
There were still more adventures to come, both good and bad. Callista and Dom finally consummate their attraction... in the library... I thought that was so very sexy and appropriate for them. I mean having sex in the library? My wet dreams come true!!! *daydreams away* But then they both start to frustrate me. Dom and Callista’s connection was apparent since the beginning. I must say that when they knew or realized that they shared this connection, their constant push and pull over their relationship, confusion and a healthy dose of stubbornness from both sides were unexpected. Being as intelligent as they both were, this was hard for me to comprehend. Callista also knew that Dom writes under the pseudonym Amator Philosophiae because at one point Dom confesses to her. She suspected that she has already fallen for this enigmatic man, and then, by happenstance, Callista discovers one day that the man she loves is in grave danger. Dom trusted another man with his documents for further study, a student from Oxford who might be hatching plans to harm him. Callista decides to take some drastic measures. She would do anything to save Dom’s life; even if it meant to divulge his secrets, even if it meant that he would hate her for this always.
At first I thought her plan was moronic and she’s going to mess things up. It was probably moronic, but a woman in love does everything for her man. And Dom, OMG, the adorable Dom, he doesn’t get angry at her. He’s disappointed, maybe but not angry. He takes Callista to his hotel room later (all the while thinking of her reputation), where she confesses what she knew. But she doesn’t tell him the man’s name. It’s a confusing story but the love scene afterwards... Hubba hubba! I loved what a teasing siren Callista has become with her confidence booster Master Dom. Jeez, that man couldn’t even see straight where his prim librarian was concerned, he was so enamored of her! How can I NOT LOVE THIS?? They decide to get married too when they’re seen by some acquaintances. Mainly Dom makes the decision; Callista isn’t unhappy but just scared that Dom would regret marrying her... None is really unhappy, yet too stubborn to confess their feelings. As I mentioned, I was pretty frustrated by this constant confusion. And, it takes the worse turn of events to make them confess their feelings at last when Callista is abducted later...
In the conclusion, gonna tease you by telling you that there are hints of bondage in some of the love scenes (which I thought was so fitting with Dom’s title and nick name :p). They were very sensual. I mean, did I mention I’m a new ClR fan? Yep I did. Now, I’m eagerly anticipating the next installment, Knight of Love, which is Callista’s friend Lady Lenora’s book.
<b>I was auto-approved for this ARC by Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books via <u>edelweiss</u> which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.</b> <img src="http://i1202.photobucket.com/albums/bb363/phrashid/93027523.gif" alt="thankyou"/>