From the BLURB:
In the heart of Tuscany's centuries-old wine country, three half-Satyr brothers receive a letter that sends them in search of three endangered half-Faerie brides. The daughters of a dying king, they present a unique opportunity for the wealthy, charismatic Lords of Satyr to beget heirs to inherit their Italian vineyard and ancient secrets..........
For not just any woman will do as a Satyr wife. Each month at Moonful, the brothers change physically, becoming more powerfully potent. They're driven by the darker side of their natures to indulge in a nightlong ritual in a sacred gathering place ringed with statues of Bacchus, nymphs, dryads, and fauns...........
Eldest brother Nick considers it his duty to sire heirs. But he prefers to keep his conjugal visits to Jane, his new FaerieBlend wife, proper while engaging in more carnal activities with experienced courtesans...........
Unaware that she's half-Faerie, Jane is desperate to rid herself of the terrible abilities she acquired when she turned thirteen. Only then will she bear Nick's children and find a true home with him. Until then, she must deceive him...........
As the grapevines begin to bloom, an ancient cult hatches plans that could destroy Nick and Jane's blossoming happiness.
This is one of the worst romances I have ever read.
The main problem with Elizabeth Amber’s ‘Nicholas’ is that the characters are cold.
A month into his marriage to Jane, Nicholas is back in the arms of his regular courtesans and mistresses. He has fleeting feelings of guilt, but is otherwise arrogant in his assumptions that ‘whores’ and ‘wives’ are separate in a man’s life.
You could argue that this is just Amber being true to the times – indeed men in the 18th century, no matter how enamored of their wives, would think it was their male right (and pride) to keep a little ‘somethin, somethin’ on the side. But that’s not why I read romance. Infidelity and promiscuity may be the reality – but it doesn’t have any place in the romances I read. It could work if a more accomplished author made a husbands infidelity the central focus of the plot, but Nicholas’s promiscuity is quite vulgar and a cheap chance for Amber to write smut.
Even though Nicholas and his Satyr brothers are sometimes equipped with two penises, the sex scenes aren’t even hot or flattering. Nicholas uses Jane like a scratching post – and their first few couplings as man and wife involve Jane lying rigid while Nicholas ruts away. So poor is Nicholas’s technique in the marriage bed that Jane’s first introductions to pleasure are at her own hand, when her husband has retired to his own room. Hot.
Nicholas thinks that pleasurable sex is only to be had with mistresses, while marital unions are for the begetting of children… and furthermore, wives aren’t built the same as courtesans in that they don’t enjoy carnal pleasures. Ummm… WHAT? Admittedly, Nicholas gained these insights from his (clueless) father, and clearly the lessons stuck. But you would think that at some point, after having so much sex, Nicholas would have had a light bulb moment and realized – ‘hey! They’re *all* women! All built the same, with the same appendages – what are the chances they *all* enjoy sex?!’. But, sadly for Jane, no.
“Why did you choose me?” she whispered bitterly. “Of all the women you might have chosen.”
He stretched his legs across the carriage floor, irritated. “It was time I took a wife and begat heirs. I believed bedding you would please me.”
She tamped down the pain his careless words caused. “And does it?”
“Angling for compliments, Jane?” he reproved.
“I’m attempting to determine how you envision our future together.”
“Much as it is now.”
To be honest while I gawked and guffawed at Nicholas’s high-minded ‘whores are for fucking, wives are for children’ teachings – I didn’t really care about the impact on Jane. Sure, I sympathized with her for having such a dumb-ass husband, but I really didn’t care about what happened to her – even with the threat of unknown ‘danger’ and her hurt at Nicholas’s promiscuity. I could care less, because Jane was so boring (hey – way to live up to being ‘plain Jane’).
It’s a shame, because Jane started out very interesting. Nicholas finds Jane impersonating a gypsy fortune-teller; complete with fake hunchback and cackling voice. But after that initial character quirk, Jane fades into the wallpaper. She really does degenerate into this placid wife, who doesn’t get particularly angry when she learns of her husband’s infidelity, but rather asks him to use her body as he would a whores. Way to go, feminism!
Elizabeth Amber isn’t a particularly good writer either. She summarizes so many scenes – pages and pages of paragraphs detailing Nicholas’s whoring, Jane’s botany expeditions, Maenad orgies… so many summaries and not enough scenes. Amber’s editor needs to have a sit down and explain the importance of “show, don’t tell”.
I also had a problem with character interiority. Jane is a virgin when she comes to Nicholas’s bed. And in their first few sexual encounters, she doesn’t reach fulfillment but rather clumsily navigates her own body after Nicholas has rutted and left. Yet in her internal monologue she talks about her ‘clitoris’, ‘climaxing’ and ‘coming’. These are terms she wouldn’t know for bodily functions she wouldn’t be able to articulate – and I found such narrative to be jarring and clumsy.
Finally, the whole Satyr plot degenerates into ridiculousness. I was willing to give the idea of Satyr protagonists a go – I thought it could evoke a ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ type atmosphere. Sadly Amber doesn’t seem to know enough about the Satyr race and towards the end the entire plot degenerates as Nicholas insists that Jane have sex with his brothers because “that’s the Satyr way”. Uh-huh.
This is a really, really awful book. ‘Nicholas’ reads like a ‘what not to do’ guide for romance authors. Primarily - romance readers don’t want a male hero who cheats on his wife. They also don’t want a protagonist whose only concern is his own climax, not his wife’s.
I think I only got through this book because I was amused to see just how much worse it could get… suffice to say; pretty damn bad.
I wouldn’t touch the other 4 books in this series with a 10-foot pole… even if the covers are really, really tempting.