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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Sweet Folly

***** My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale. Historical romance.

I'm slowly working my way through Kinsale's backlist. I have all the books--I just ration them because they're so good.

And My Sweet Folly is no exception. Folie Hamilton begins a correspondence with her husband's cousin Robert Cambourne when she responds to a letter he'd written to her husband. Over the course of a few years, the letters provide a source of comfort and joy to the lonely young wife and the unsuited military officer stationed in India. That all changes when Folie's husband dies and she writes Robert that she's coming to visit him. His curt response informs her that he's been married all along.

Then his wife dies and he returns to England, at about the time Folie is trying to launch her stepdaughter into society. Now head of the family, Robert commands them both to come to his estate.

Where Folie discovers a completely different Robert than the one she'd come to know through his letters. He's sullen, angry, paranoid, autocratic... mad. There are glimpses of the old Robert, but only enough to be confusing rather than reassuring.

Robert seems convinced, in his lucid states, that someone is doing this to him--poisoning him. Or is that just madness talking? And how can Folie trust him when she has her stepdaughter's future to worry about?

As is typical (if typical can be used to describe such inventive variety) of Kinsale's work, My Sweet Folly is intensely emotional. The reader isn't spared any of Folie's or Robert's pain or confusion, or, in the end, their joy. One can assume, of course, since it is romance, that Robert will be sane at the end of the book, so it's a real trick to make one doubt that in the middle. Kinsale accomplishes it.

Folie is a wonderfully believable and sympathetic heroine. I loved watching her grow through the book, from the young idealistic woman escaping the duty of her marriage, through Robert's first betrayal, she grew up and turned her focus on her stepdaughter. When they meet again, she wants to believe him, but madness seems more likely, and it's the classic conflict between what the heart needs and what the head knows.

Robert is even more poignant. Spurned by his beautiful wife, he knows he's unloveable, and now it seems he's going mad. He retains enough self-preservation to be suspicious and paranoid, but can't be sure that's not also madness. It's a frightening thing not to be able to trust your own mind, and I could feel that right along with him.

I also loved the contrast between the first flowering of their romance--a sweet, naive, hopeful love story that could have been a whole book on its own, and the eventual HEA that was forged in the fire of adversity. (hyperbole, yes, but it seems to fit) It's like a fable about the difference between puppy love and real, lasting mature love. I'm not sure how the love between that young couple who wrote such lovely letters to each other would have survived the inevitable trials of life. The couple who ended up together at the end of the book, however, will survive anything.


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I'm slowly reading Laura Kinsale books as well. The only book I have read by her is "Flowers From the Storm". You know I don't read too many historical because usually it not my cup of tea anymore. But "Flowers From the Storm" have left me with good impression on it, that I kept the book in my book-keeper shelf.

I do however, have "For My Lady Heart" and "Shadow Heart" in my TBR pile. Just haven't gotten around to reading it yet :)

Great review, Darla as always :)
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