Passion Wears Pearls
by Renee Bernard
Victorian-era romance. Eleanore Beckett is a prim and proper middle-class young lady fallen on hard times. Josiah Hastings is a frustrated painter, slowly losing his sight. When he runs into Eleanore by accident, he realizes that with her bright red hair, she is the colorful muse he must paint before he goes blind. But being an artist's model is not proper employment for a modest young lady. How can he convince her his intentions are honorable? And what if she secretly wants him to take liberties with her?
I wanted to like this story, but I just couldn't get into it. If you are looking for a "wounded hero" romance this does not really fit the bill. Josiah worries a lot about losing his sight, but his worsening vision does not actually impact his activities (except in his mind) until the very end, when he suddenly, with no preparation or training, develops magical blind person skills. He can "do things no sighted man could"! What nonsense. Eleanore catches on to his condition early, in a bit of clunky exposition, but never acts on or thinks about that knowledge until the very end. Even then, her only advice to him is to keep painting, even if he has to put his nose to the canvas to see it. Uh, way to help him adapt. There just wasn't enough character development for either of them dealing with his blindness to make for a satisfying read. Dev factor was almost zero.
I found the hero and heroine rather flat. Eleanore's big conflict is whether to give up propriety and give in to her desire for Josiah. But since it is a foregone conclusion that she will, it doesn't add much tension to the plot to have her agonize over this for pages and pages.
The quality of the writing is average for a romance novel, and the plot is strictly by the numbers. The historical details are pretty good, although there are several jarring lapses into modern language. There is a LOT of sex, so much so that it seemed more like erotica than a romance, as character development and forward momentum of the plot were often sacrificed to long sex scenes in purplish prose. All in all, I found it rather dull.