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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Masquerade by Kristi Ahlers

The Masquerade by Kristi Ahlers
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Hot
Rating: 3 Books
Reviewed by Ivy

Arianne Deveraux travels to Paris, France in 1788. At her first masque ball, she literally runs into a dark stranger whose touch sets her heart to pounding and her mouth to run amok. Arianne eventually returns home to the family plantation outside of New Orleans, her time in France a cherished memory. She never forgets the man who gave her, her first taste of passion—a man named Julian.

Julian Chièvres, Marquis of Amien is tired of his aristocratic existence. The world is changing around him and he knows there is little he can do but survive. When the revolution sweeps his country he escapes to the new world. He has no idea fate has brought him once again into contact with his petite fairy. Will he be able to accept the gift that destiny has given him or will guilt at surviving keep him from his heart’s desire?

When Arianna meets the disguised Julian Chièvres at her first Parisian masquerade, she has no idea her scandalous moonlight kiss is only the beginning of her obsession with her future husband. After the couple is reunited in New Orleans, their marriage seems doomed from the start thanks to a vengeful ex-suitor and Julian’s obligation to return to France to rescue aristocrats from the Terror.

The Masquerade starts with a bang, catapulting two intensely attracted strangers into an erotic fairytale romance. However, I felt the relationship developed too quickly, and lamented the lack of emotional development beyond the physical attraction.

Arianna is young and innocent. Julian bears those titillating Mr. Darcy-esque qualities of passion and aloofness. I felt that initial romantic interludes could have been somewhat tempered, (as well as their descriptive services), and did not find our virginal heroine’s initial response to her first intimate experiences to be quite believable. At times the characters seemed to respond or act out of character, and some of the friends and shadowed family members in the background, for me, never quite developed at all.

Despite my lack of connection with the characters, the historical detail in The Masquerade works. I enjoyed the detail woven into the prose. It does not lecture, but casts a subtle reflection of the time period that is strong enough to be believable, and actually quite pleasant. Unfortunately, there was some lax attention to dialogue, which goes in and out of the era, and often feels forced or cliché.

Ms. Ahlers plots a credible storyline with romance, action, and a villain black enough to make you retch. I appreciated her skill using the couples’ nemesis to maintain a steady force in moving the story forward. Her strength in conjuring up a creative story offset where the novel fell short for me. Personally, I feel that more attention to the development of characters and dialogue would make for (even) stronger fiction writing. Her writing has merit and shows potential for drawing in a readership as her talent grows.