Desert Isle Keeper Review

The Proposition

Judith Ivory
1999, European Historical Romance (1890s [Victorian] England)
Avon, $6.50, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380802600

Grade: A
Sensuality: Warm

The Pygmalion myth gave George Bernard Shaw the idea for his play Pygmalion which was turned into the wonderful musical My Fair Lady. Judith Ivory takes this story and gives it a twist, (and a lot more romance than grumpy old GBS did). Edwina Bollash, linguistics expert and tutor of gauche young ladies in the social graces and proper speech is to take Mick Tremore, a Cornish/Cockney ratcatcher and pass him off as a gentleman.

Winnie is the daughter of the Marquess of Sissingley, an expert linguist and heir to the Dukedom of Arles. Her mother deserted the family and Winnie was loved, but ignored by her father. She lived a lonely life, raised by a series of governesses and has had almost no fun in her life. When Winnie's father and grandfather both died unexpectedly, her cousin the new Duke would have nothing to do with her, so she has made her way in life by her own intelligence and hard work. Winnie is not a beauty. She is six feet tall, with golden red hair and freckles. She has small breasts and large hips, but she has beautiful long legs. All these disparate physical features combine to make a striking woman who is very attractive to her pupil Mick Tremore.

As for Mick - such an adorable man! He grew up in Cornwell the oldest child of a fey mother and an absent father. Since he was very young, he has been the support of his 13 siblings whom he loves very much. His childhood may have been poor, but it was filled with love and Mick is one of the most naturally happy men I have ever met. Mick embraces life and all it throws his way. "Life be rich. Why don't you bite yourself off a piece"? is Mick's philosophy. Winnie is simply blown over by him. He is tall and handsome and loves to laugh and dance and throws himself into everthing he does, whether work or play, with total joy. Mick proves himself to be smart as a whip, easily able to mimic proper speech and behavior, and takes on the role of gentleman with total ease and assurance.

The Proposition is a textbook example of how to generate sexual tension. It's there from the beginning and just keeps building and building. But the sexual tension is not dark or sinister. This is one of the lightest and happiest books I have read this year, yet neither is it fluffy or mindless. It's, well it's just plain unique.

When Mick and Winnie make love, it is in a scene filled with joy. So often, lovemaking is presented as a deadly serious thing full of storm, stress and sweat. In real life love can be playful and fun and full of laughter and that is how Mick approaches it. He and Winnie have lots of fun, especially when he gets in the rude with his widge hanging out. Such an adorable man!

The Proposition is full of wonderful scenes. When Mick takes Winnie to The Bull and Dun tavern and she ends up dancing on the tables while the customers shout approval of her beautiful long legs, I laughed out loud. When Winnie and Mick go to a fancy tearoom and he successfully passes himself off as the Viscount Bartonreed (he got the name from a piece of silver), I applauded. The book is simply full of scenes that are tender and comic, with the smallest touches of conflict and reflection - just enough to keep it from becoming too sweet.

The ending is the perfect touch to this wonderful fairy-tale of a book. In the hands of another writer, I suppose it could have been a cliche, but Ivory leaves enough ambiguity as to Mick's true origins to keep the reader wondering. She still gives him and Winnie an HEA plus the moon and stars and everything else. But of course they deserve it. Such an adorable couple!

If you are fond of dark and gloomy books with dark and brooding heroes and tortured heroines who anguish and wring their hands, you will not find that in The Proposition. What you will find is one of the happiest, sweetest and most totally enjoyable historical romances of 1999. To paraphrase Mick, "It's a loove of a book".

-- Ellen Micheletti

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