“My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I was really excited when Penny Jordan released her two book Russian Rivals series. Russian heroes are an Achilles' heel of mine, after all. Pulled this one out of my bookcase as an impulse read yesterday evening as part of my Harlequin Presents Read-a-thon. Overall, pretty good, but not great.
First of all, I think the late Ms. Jordan (who is a long-time favorite of mine) went overboard with the metaphors in which she compares the emotions and the characteristics of the main characters to aspects of Russian. Don't get me wrong. I love Russian-ness in my Russian reading, but it felt kind of awkward and excessive the way she does it. For instance, she refers to Alena's eyes as the silver of the frozen River Neva a couple of times, and there are other instances where she inserts these awkward metaphors. Okay, we get the idea that this book is about Russian characters and don't need to be beaten over the head with it.
One thing I appreciated is that Kiryl is actually a very credible villainous hero. It was hard to see his deliberate seduction of Alena, knowing his goals. She was like a fly in a spider web, and that wasn't comfortable to read. However, I could see how he wasn't unaffected by the powerful attraction between them, even though he uses it to his advantage against Alena. He does feel a bit conflicted about his cold-blooded plans towards Alena, but they really don't stop him from doing something that dirty to her. In the end, he comes around, and that was much more meaningful, because I saw how he really did change because of her love. Her words to him were pointed and harsh, but needed. He had fixed his whole being on proving his father wrong, and in the process forgot all the good that his mother had instilled in him. Alena told him exactly right, and that took a lot of courage to do.
Alena is a very young heroine, which might not work for some readers. Nineteen-years-old and very sheltered by her older brother. You feel like Kiryl is kicking a puppy. While I can understand her brother's desire to protect her, he did her a disservice allowing her to be so naive that she fell so easily for Kiryl's ploys. Despite her young age, she does show some self-determination and a maturity that transcends her young age and the mistakes she makes along the way. In the end, I ended up liking Alena a lot more than Kiryl, although he showed some strength of character in the end.
This wasn't a fantastic book. It was pretty decent, but I was disappointed with the unnecessary metaphors, which bogged down the narrative instead of enhancing them. More than anything, I was intrigued with Vasilii, Alena's older brother, and it made me want to read his book immediately, which I ended up doing.
I think it's a good read for fans of Russian heroes who are not nice guys until love changes their hearts. The Russian scenery is really great as well.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.