Bodice Ripper Review: “Dangerous Obsession” by Natasha Peters

Dangerous ObsessionDangerous Obsession by Natasha Peters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“You will travel far to find love, only to find that love has traveled with you.”

Dangerous Obsession is the sequel to Natasha Peters’ first book, Savage Surrender, although the relation between the books is not revealed until midway through this 630-page epic.

Like so many great bodice rippers of epic scope, Dangerous Obsession takes us through various years and continents. It spans 12 years in the life of Rhawnie, the blonde daughter of a gypsy and a Russian noblewoman. Rhawnie is not a simpering, treacly-sweet girl or spunky, foot-stamping heroine. She lies for the hell of it: to strangers, to the people she loves, she lies to herself, she even lies on her (near) deathbed! She is an unrepentant thief. Early on Rhawnie is caught stealing from an innkeeper and Seth, the hero, is forced to remove the purloined items hidden under her petticoats: a bottle of vodka, a wheel of cheese, a large loaf of bread, several sausages, a large knife, and a whole chicken! When caught red-handed she denies ever touching the stuff and accuses the innkeeper of framing her. In this Rhawnie reminds me a bit of my daughter who lives by the motto: “Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations.”

Rhawnie is not just a mere mortal…she is beautiful, a professional thief, a fortune-teller, a gambler, a card cheat, men duel and die over her, she is mistress to a king, a threat to a nobleman’s power, a baroness, a world-famous singer, a saloon owner, savior of an orphan and a wronged woman, and the love-object of two brothers, who are as opposite as day and night.

The male protagonist, Seth Garrett, is a piece of work and it took me a long time to warm up to him. He’s no Sean Culhane from Stormfire or Domenico from The Silver Devil, but he’s both cruel and vicious and unfeeling and cold. He wins the right to Rhawnie’s virginity in a card game, but passes on the offer, as she is only 14 or 15. In angry retaliation, Rhawnie gets beaten and kicked by her lecherous older uncle and Seth just sort of stands there. Then when her uncle rapes her a few pages later, Seth is too late to save her–even though he’s in the next room and can hear what’s going on. He destroys any chance Rhawnie has for legitimacy in Paris society by publicly claiming her as his mistress. And what Seth does in Chapter 10 simply calls for a karmic justice which never occurs. But he does properly declare himself at the end and gives himself completely to Rhawnie. Seth is not perfect, but neither is Rhawnie, so together they are perfect.

Dangerous Obsession is written in 1st person POV, but as Rhawnie is a great narrator, with so many wonderful quips and observations, this did not detract. There was an appropriate blend of action and introspection, but no excessive self-absorption of feeling too often found in modern romances.

However, the action does get a bit too much at the end. The book is a hefty door-stopper and could have been 50 pages shorter. Rhawnie and Seth embark on a search for Seth’s missing sister that takes them through the American West. They get on TWO different boats that explode and sink into the river, Seth gets injured and Rhawnie nurses him back to life, Rhawnie gets cholera, so Seth has to nurse her back to life (on a regiment on camphor, cannabis, and caviar, no less). They travel for months through the mountains and have many misadventures, she survives a great fire, gets kidnapped, addicted to laudanum, gets rescued…and before you know it–whew!–it’s over.

This book was so close to perfect, but like so many bodice rippers, at the end, it falters under its own hefty weight. It’s a 4 1/2 star read, but I’m rounding it up to a 5 solely on the basis of the heroine, Rhawnie, who is all kinds of awesome.

A-

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Originally posted on Goodreads