Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HAPPY HUNKY-DAYS, DAY 2... Jeweled: A Dazzling Gem

TWELVE HUNKS OF CHRISTMAS....on the second day of Christmas, my book club gave to me...another tasty piece of eye candy...

It's been a crazy few weeks getting ready for Christmas.  Since I hate shopping, I reward myself by reading a book everytime I have to go to a store!  So... I've been getting a lot of reading done.  If you click on the "Bookshelf" tab above, you can see my most recent reads. Today I am focused on Anya Bast's latest fantasy romance, Jeweled.  I thought it was a gem (wink! wink!). Enjoy the review and tell me what you think; i.e. COMMENT BELOW!!!

A world-building queen, Anya Bast has remarkable talent in creating distinctive worlds that incorporate unforgettable characters. Her newest fantasy romance, Jeweled, is a top example of Bast’s talent and is a must read. Her world building is fantastic with magic richly woven throughout the story, slyly creating the basis of the story’s conflict. And as the characters evolve, so does their world.
Evangeline is taken from her family as a small child and trained to excel in magic, categorized by her ability to manipulate emotions. Since the nature of a person’s magic causes the opposite reaction within themselves, Evangeline becomes closed off from her emotions. She has existed to advance in her position as a jeweled using her magic, is ruthless and highly calculating and has achieved great success. But Evangeline is not a likeable character as she uses others as means to attaining her goals, lacking compassion and devaluing her worth as a woman. It is only when the reader understands that using her magic has made her like this that we can accept her as a creature of her upbringing. While I believe it was Bast’s intention to create Evangeline in this light, my dislike for her made the first few chapters difficult to get through.
The action picks up when a revolution occurs and the common people overthrow the monarchy, leaving Evangeline’s world in disarray. Everything she knows is taken away, royalty are beheaded and she becomes just another of the hunted because of her magic ability. Thankfully, Anatol, always having longed for Evangeline, comes to her rescue. Anatol saves her not just that first day as they fled the palace but also as they settle into their new life together, particularly as Evangeline begins to feel emotions and is so uncertain.
And as she learns to accept her emotions, I begin to accept her. Through Anatol’s eyes, the reader develops an appreciation for her as a newborn baby, exploring her new emotional world that she doesn’t understand. It is equal parts frustrating, touching and fascinating to watch her gain understanding of her emotions. Anatol acts as her guide and main support system through her emotional re-birth and this endeared me to him. Their romance flows parallel to Evangeline’s emotional re-birth. Evangeline slowly came to care for Anatol, felt loss and pain when he was taken away and was swept up in love when he was safe again. Their intimacy was sweet as even the emotions associated with passion were new to her.

Anatol was a perfect friend and lover, always considering Evangeline’s needs before his own. He was honorable, steadfast and loyal – he was my favorite character in the whole book. Anatol’s magic ability is to see the truth within a person. This is what allows him to see into Evangeline’s true character and connect him to her so thoroughly. Though there were no redeeming qualities in Evangeline when they lived in the palace, it is this truth that only he can see which causes him to fall in love with her. Soon enough after living on their own in this changed world, Anatol realizes that Evangeline's emotional needs are too much for him to satisfy alone. He accepts that he may need another man to help ground her.

Enter Gregorio. Towards the final third of the book, we learn more about Gregorio, the leader of the revolution. He believes in democracy but is an idealist, not considering that his writing and call for actions could result in the bloody reality of the revolution. He is disheartened by the rebellion, regretting that his dreams ended in bloodshed rather than spurring democracy into action. As he develops a relationship with Anatol and Evangeline, taking them in after they are discovered, he is prompted by their enthusiasm to begin working at controlling the people and beginning the democratic ruling party he’d imagined. All three characters take part in the evolution of the government and slowly their friendship grows into a sexual relationship wherein they each find love, though on their own timetables. While sometimes jealous and territorial by nature, the men learn to share Evangeline. It is only as a three-some that they will each find happiness. Bast weaves this complex story so tightly, it is impossible for the reader to believe any other outcome would suffice.
It took me a few chapters to buy into the premise of the book, mostly because of my dislike for the heroine. But once the storyline took off, I was swept up in the story. I give Jeweled 4 chocolate dipped strawberries (and plan to read the next in this series if there is to be one).
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