The Price of Pleasure
by Kresley Cole
(Pocket, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-7434-6650-0
****
Victoria Dearbourne is almost thirteen years old and on the adventure of a lifetime, sailing all over the world with her parents when a storm capsizes their ship. Tori and her governess, Camellia Scott, must figure out how to survive alone on a deserted island in the South Pacific. Now fast forward eight years, when Captain Grant Sutherland and his crew arrive on the island, determined to find and rescue Tori, and take her back to her grandfather who has spent his entire fortune looking for his family. Grant has promised him that he will not rest until he either finds the Dearbournes or finds proof positive of their deaths. In return, when Toriís grandfather dies, Grant will receive his huge estate.

When Grant sees Tori on the beach, he canít believe his search is over, and even though he is a stern and closely controlled man, he gives in to impulse, leaps out of the dinghy before it gets to shore, and chases after Tori. He has no way of knowing that she has learned to fear and hide from the sailors who have come to the island at all costs. But Grant is unlike the other sailors. He doesnít attack her in spite of his instant attraction to her, and finally manages to persuade Tori to leave the island and go back to England with him.

While they are at sea, Cammy strikes up a friendship with Ian, Grantís wayward cousin, and begins to blossom. Meanwhile, Grant struggles with his attraction to Tori, and she realizes that she is in love with the stern captain who is her polar opposite. Tori is an impulsive, open, generous, loving, honest and capable young woman, who goes after what she wants without counting the cost or taking heed of the niceties of English society in the late 1880s.

Grant is intense, dark, brooding, predictable, and controls his emotions so rigidly that his family worries he will just snap one day, and schemes to get him to show his feelings. He doesnít seem to know what love is, and rejects any emotion or action that he does not control, which is why he is so disturbed by his uncontrollable passion for Tori. She returns that passion, falling deeply in love with a man she doesnít realize is incapable of feeling that emotion. After they finally make love, and Grant proposes to save her from ruin, offering a marriage of lust rather than love, Tori rejects him, remembering the joyous passion her parents shared, and that she has always longed for. After they land in England, Grant takes Tori back to her grandfather, and resolving to never see her again, sets off in search of Ian, who has gone missing. But the connection between these two is too strong to break, and Grant eventually returns to try to win her over yet again.

Cole has created a memorable character in Tori: strong, independent, determined, stubborn, and capable in ways women generally werenít during this time period. She lives life to the fullest, whether it is playing in the snow or struggling to keep herself and Cammy alive. She doesnít care much about fitting into society, preferring to go her own way. When Grant will not admit to loving her, she rejects him, demanding the love he doesnít even realize he is feeling for her. Grant, on the other hand, needs a slap upside the head to make him realize that instead of envying his brotherís happy and fulfilled relationship with his wife, he should just open his eyes and his heart and accept what Tori is offering to him instead of continuing to deny his love for her. The lack of perception he shows gets a bit tiresome before he finally has an epiphany and realizes what everyone else has known for hundreds of pages.

Coleís writing is intense and full of descriptions, and the plot has several interesting twists and turns before it ends without tying up all the loose ends, leaving a few free for a sequel. Her strength is in her characters, who are four dimensional, and far from predictable. Ian is a charming rake, pining after his lost love, and Cammy progresses from vague, sick and weak, to a woman who is as strong in her own way as Tori is. Grantís family is also well-drawn and believable, even making Grant himself more likeable because they love him so much. The love scenes are full of passion and intensity, but donít overwhelm the rest of the plot. Overall, this is an involving read, combining characters, scene, plot, and passion into a mix thatís hard to put down. The Price of Pleasure and those who are willing to pay it will not be easily forgotten, especially with the loose ending left dangling at the end. Readers will anticipate Coleís next book and finding out what happened after the happily ever after.

--Joni Richards Bodart


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