Friday, January 30, 2009

The Art Of Desire by Cherie Feather

Title: The Art Of Desire
Author: Cherie Feather

Type: Erotic Romance
Published: 2008

Blurb: Museum director Mandy Cooper is obsessed with nineteenth-century artist Catherine Burke and the artist's erotically charged relationship with Atacar, her enthralling American Indian lover. But Mandy's link to the legendary couple runs deeper than she knows. She's having a heated affair herself with Jared Cabrillo, Atacar's handsome great-great nephew who knows precisely what it takes to seduce a woman.

He's in possession of Catherine's explicit journal. He knows every intimate detail of what she wanted and needed. But he also knows how desperately Catherine had loved Atacar and how dangerously he'd loved her. The journal is timeless and tragic, and the secrets contained within its pages can bring Mandy and Jared together, or just as surely destroy them both, desire by shocking desire.

Why: I added this book to my TBR list after reading a blogger review. And I cannot find that review. I'm going to have to start writing my sources down.

Thoughts: Historically, I've not had good luck with erotic romance. Aside from Megan Hart and early titles from Sarah McCarty and Lora Leigh, I've been consistently disappointed. Until last month, when I read three titles from Deanna Lee. [Still trying to figure out which blogger recommended those, BTW.] Emboldened, I reviewed my TBR list for more erotic romance recommendations and selected four to be purchased with my last holiday gift card. Feather's The Art Of Desire was the first I picked up to read.

A very good read. Feather doesn't reach Hart's heights, but she does deliver (like Hart) a sexual relationship ultimately stretched beyond its bounds by emotions both foreign and uncomfortable to its participants. Tough to pull off, no question. How do you give characters emotional depth when their experiences, by definition, are designed to avoid emotion?

How do you start them off with that detachment and then, believably, peel away the layers to reveal the emotions, be they repressed or simply hidden from the other's view? Tough. Hart manages it through a single point of view and dialogue that is often harshly economic. It's like she reveals more through character denial than she does through character thought or action. IOW, her characters are not even honest with themselves, let alone the reader.

Feather does not keep it all as close to the vest as Hart does. She offers a POV from both characters and counters their loveless affair with flashbacks to an affair that is filled with love and deeply romantic. It seemed to make for a shorter, lower-impact route to the acknowledgement of feelings. But it also brought their emotional struggle closer to the surface, giving the reader a better view.

Because Feather writes very, very well, the view is compelling. There is very little waste, very little clutter here. Feather keeps the focus on their relationship, involving secondary characters pretty much only when necessary. I say pretty much because there is one scene that appeared to serve strictly as a sequel builder--setting readers up for a BDSM romance for Mandy's colleague. While Feather's segue back to Mandy and Jared was very smooth, I still felt like I'd been unnecessarily sidelined for a moment.

That upclose view of the romance I mentioned is also very titillating. The erotic scenes--and there are many of them--are wrought with need. Their desire for one another is palpable, their addiction to each other easily understood and accepted by the reader. Even when it is edged by dominance. And this is a sticking point with me, personally. There is such a fine line between sexual dominance that is arousing or seductive and sexual dominance that is repelling (abuser repelling). Feather stays firmly and honestly on the sexy side of this line. Jared may be twisted up about some things, but he is not twisted.

Which leads me to think of him and Mandy individually. So far, my comments apply very much to them as they are together--believable, combustible. Separate them and the impression becomes less clear. I think Feather gives us better insight into Mandy than she does Jared. But still, for both of them, the focus remains on what they have and do together. When we spend time alone with either one, that single-minded focus is still there. Each is thinking about the other. Interesting, when I think back, that I never really got a sense of either one of them on their own. More interesting that I didn't notice it. It didn't matter. In Feather's telling, the power lies in their attraction to one another. It simply overrides everything else. Beautifully.

As for the book's other romance--the one played out via flashbacks or entries from a personal journal--it was equally compelling, just as beautiful. But still, secondary. The reader learns upfront that theirs is a great love story and that Jared is related to them in some way. And as the story nears its conclusion, we begin to see the parallels between past and present seductions. Feather ties that all together nicely. Still though, as the reader, I was glued to Jared and Mandy, curious to see where they would end up. And pleased with the kind of HEA Feather ultimately chose for them.

So, overall, a very good read for me. Not flawless, but very satisfying. I will absolutely be reading more from this author.


  1. Interesting. I started this a month ago and just couldn't continue. Maybe I'll give it another try. Then again, maybe not. I'm not a fan of Hart like you are.

  2. You know, Feather didn't read like a Hart to comparisons were probably not fair. It was the storyline--a no strings sex affair--that called Hart to mind initially. The comparison should have stopped there I guess. Hart's books are darker--emotionally. Feather's book was much more traditional in its journey to and arrival at the HEA. Make sense? I guess I'm extra critical because reconciling sex with emotion is a big deal for me, and I've not had good luck finding erotic romance that succeeds on that point.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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