Genre: historical romance, 1913.
Amanda Caulden led a sheltered life on her father's California ranch -- until the day Hank Montgomery stormed into town. A hot-blooded union organizer with a taste for ladies and fine champagne, he sensed the fire that smoldered beneath her prim, virtuous beauty...and he vowed to make her his.
Hank's assault on her orderly life made Amanda furious -- and all the more enticing. Slowly, he drew her into a world of sensuous pleasure: sumptuous meals and moonlit dances, carefree laughter and stolen kisses...gently stirring the sleeping embers of passion. But even as a fierce love rose between them, violent rebellion threatened to destroy the Caulden ranch -- and their lives!
I have been a fan of Jude Deveraux books ever since I read the first one in my early teens. I have collected them in Dutch as hardcover, and now I am collecting them in English in paperback. I have just finished this book, and I have no idea what to think of it. I don’t have the feeling this is a romance novel. I did not particularly like any of the characters in the book either. And the background story was very severe, and yet I was totally captivated by the story and did not want to stop reading.
This book takes place in America in 1913, when Unions are being created, standing up for the very poor working conditions of the many foreign workers in the country. In this particular instance, for the harvest of hop. And those working conditions were so very bad, such gruesome things happened.
Hank Montgomery is an economics professor, who is working to improve working conditions for manual labor in the country, setting up unions and such. He is been asked to go to Kingman, California, and see what can be done about the hop harvest and the working conditions. It is a very hot and humid and heavy job, and the working conditions are abysmal, the landowner really exploits the workers.
To his surprise, he gets invited to stay at the ranch, so he can see for himself what happens. What he doesn’t know, is that the owners daughter Amanda is to keep him occupied, and tell her father and fiancée what Hank does for the union, so they can stay one step ahead of him.
Hank is one of THE Montgomeries, his family is filthy rich, only he doesn’t like that to be known. He is just a professor at the university, but in his free time he loves to race cars. And sleep with a lot of women. But he really does care for people, and tries to help them if he can.
Amanda she really is an unusual heroine. When she was 14 years of age, her father took her of the village school, as he had hired a tutor for her, a distant poor relative. Taylor has dictated her every moment since then. Educating her to become his wife. He dictates what she eats, what she wears, when she wears it, buys her clothes for her, tells her when she is allowed to use the bathroom and how long. Everything she does is according to the schedule he makes for her daily, and she is to follow it to the letter. She studies all day long, and he gives her tests. She is fluent in languages, in politics, both American and foreign, as she is to be able to politely converse with him over dinner, and read to him in the evenings, until he sends her to her bedroom. Not once has he touched her, or kissed her. Still, Amanda thinks herself in love with her teacher/fiancé. He just told her they were to be married when he thinks her ready, and she was grateful for that. After all, he is the only man she knows besides her father. And she doesn’t get to see her father much, and her mother almost never, as Taylor thinks her a bad influence on Amanda.
At first Hank thinks Amanda a spoiled little prig, who can do nothing else but spout her bookish knowledge at him, like she is lecturing. But when he finally opens his eyes, and sees that it is Taylor who totally controls her, he tries to make her rebel, to live a little. And I really, really dislike the way he does that, with no thought to Amanda at all, how he kisses her and grabs her, and later one even makes love to her, when she has changed her mind already. He just thinks about what he wants, never about what would be better for Amanda. When Amanda disobeys Taylor, or disappoints him, or scores badly on one of the daily tests, she gets send to her room without food. And so Hank forces rich food on her all the time.
And when in the end of the book, they love each other, I really could not believe in it. After all Hank is a total womanizer, he even dates and kisses other women while being obsessed with Amanda.
Then there is Taylor. His father was hopelessly in love with his mother, who was fat and drunk most of the time, so Taylor is determined never to fall in love, and to have his wife obey him. Which makes him control Amanda’s every moment, every bite, every thought. He is training a ragdoll. Of course he doesn’t love her, he doesn’t know the real her, but neither does Amanda, who was quite happy with her life before she met Hank as she did not know any better.
After letting Amanda see that she is living in a prison, and she is 22, and had a better education than any woman in the country, but she will never graduate, Hank sets out to show her how evil her father is in his treatment of the fieldworkers. Amanda loves her father, who never spends any thoughts on her though, or eats with them. And so she defends him, and believes him when he tells her how good he is to his workers, how expensive it is to grow the hop and such. Hank sure makes her eyes go open, but he does that in such a wrong way.
And finally, the spineless mother, who lets her daughter be taken from her, who keeps to her room for years, and never tries to help Amanda. Only now, when Hank Montgomery has been opening her eyes and Amanda comes to her with questions. And still she does not really help Amanda, just tries to make trouble for her with Taylor, hoping they will break it up and he will leave.
Yes, Amanda did wake up, she did smell the roses and everything, but to fall in love with a womanizing bully? Why? Because he is handsome and the second man she ever sets eyes on?
Okay, I did not like the characters, but the story itself was captivating. I also think I kept hoping to start to like the characters a bit more. Did I like the book or not? I really cannot say. And this book should be part of the Montgomery series I love so much? If so, only because his last name is Montgomery. Perhaps it would have been better advertised as a stand alone novel. I do know, this one will not be re-read.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian