8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran

Title: Bound By Your Touch

Author: Meredith Duran

Genre: Historical Romance

I need to get this off my chest. I detest this cover. It does a disservice to such a brilliant, sophisticated novel. It screams of unoriginality, it reeks of cheap thrills when what is inside is NOT that at all.

Publisher: Pocket
Publishing Date: June 30, 2009
Paperback: 368 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand Alone (but there is a secondary character who is getting a book of his own)

Why did I read the book: Meredith Duran’s first book, The Duke of Shadows was on my top 10 of 2008 and I was waiting for her second book with not a small amount of anxiety.

Summary: Silver-tongued Viscount Sanburne is London’s favorite scapegrace. Alas, Lydia Boyce has no interest in being charmed. When his latest escapade exposes a plot to ruin her family, she vows to handle it herself, as she always has done. Certainly she requires no help from a too-handsome dilettante whose main achievement is being scandalous. But Sanburne’s golden charisma masks a sharper mind and darker history than she realizes. He shocks Lydia by breaking past her prim facade to the woman beneath…and the hidden fire no man has ever recognized. But as she follows him into a world of intrigue, she will learn that the greatest danger lies within — in the shadowy, secret motives of his heart

Review:

Meredith Duran’s debut work, The Duke of Shadows was one of my favourite reads of 2008: it had an unfamiliar setting (India circa 1857) and an unusual pair of protagonists with a very nurturing hero and a heroine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Those, coupled with Meredith Duran’s beautiful writing are the reason why The Duke of Shadows is such a memorable book.

Bound by Your Touch is the author’s sophomore effort and I am glad to report, equally as good and memorable – but in different ways. If The Duke of Shadows took the story and reader to uncharted waters, Bound by Your Touch sits firmly within familiar territory. The story takes place in London and the two main characters are Household Romantic figures: the Rake and the Bluestocking Reformer. But this is as far as convention – if we can call it convention, the characters NEED to be something – goes. Because the writing is utterly, amazingly sophisticated and quite frankly, spectacular so that what would be otherwise ordinary, becomes extraordinary.

Lydia Boyce is the plain, stiff, spinster daughter of a famous Egyptian scholar. In the prologue we learn that Lydia was once in love with her now brother-in-law and mistakenly thought he was love with her as well – but he had been in fact wooing her beautiful sister all along. The sense of betrayal is something that Lydia still carries inside and is a wench in the two sister’s relationship. Now, years later, Lydia sense of self-worth in a society where women are married or not, comes from working for her father in England, looking for financial support for his expeditions and organising the import of his findings. She does some scholarly work as well and can tell a fake piece from a genuine. Which is exactly what she does when she first meets James Durham.

The disreputable rake, son of the Earl of Moreland bursts into one of her lectures to tease his father with what he thinks is a genuine stela (he will do anything in his power to make his father’s life miserable) only to be proven wrong by Lydia and in public. This first encounters sets the story nicely as James then decides to investigate further and finds out that the fake has been brought to England by Lydia’s own father. Lydia is adamant that her father is innocent and asks for James’ help (because he has nothing better to do with his time) in proving this.

And their relationship obviously expands from there – at first they are both very accusing. James thinks she is stiff. Lydia points to him that his life is all about being bored, being useless by choice and being fuelled by his worthless aristocratic consequence. Lydia’s speech is imbued with a sense of unfairness that leaps from the page: she had no place in society because she is a single woman (who was expected to live off one of her sister’s charity and become the auntie) , he is respected simply because he was a man. Regardless of the fact that what she perceives about James t is not entirely true as we learn later in the book , it is still all about perception when they first meet. As they carry on, their perception change.

And that perception starts to change in what I think is one of the best scenes I read this year ,when James and Lydia are in the a rooftop and Lydia observes:

“How had he acquired such confidence? His birth had given him privileges, of course, and so had his sex. But there was more to it than that. Eyes were always on him. The newspapers dissected his smallest shenanigan. Yet he bore such attentions as though they hardly concerned him. She could not imagine him hesitating on the threshold of a room for fear he’d be judged and found wanting. If someone tried to cut him, he would only laugh. To live a life of such bold assurance, never caring what others thought….why, it must be another species of living, entirely. No uncertainty. Invulnerable to jibes and slanders. What could one not do, when so free?”

And in that rooftop, she decides to experience a moment of abandon and freedom. Even if she is “always afraid of something” because she is a woman. Unbeknownst to her, the same urge affects James: so if she feels the freedom to experience sensations he has a freedom of speech. They both say to each other things that they wouldn’t say – they are both unguarded. She admits fear. He admits he plays a role. It is an incredibly poignant, touching scene, where the characters are first deeply revealed to the reader and to each other.

I find it ironic that the title of the book carries the word “bound” when the feel I got from reading it, is quite the opposite. They are, at first bound, yes. By the roles they play in society for example. She is bound by her blind devotion to her father. He is bound by his utter contempt by his. In fact, her admiration to her father is directly opposite to his utter revolt against his own. Her faith is freely given and he doesn’t understand that although he does understand devotion for his sister (which is what moves and directs his rage against his father). It is the need to be free from these bounds that allows for them falling in love with each other and making concessions by doing so.

What I think is fascinating though –is how the two don’t undergo a change of character, it is first their perception of each other that changes and then Lydia becomes a little less stiff and James a little less lax. What changes is their choice of role to play in society – and the freedom of finally leaving the roles they play behind. At least (and always) with each other.

There are quite a few, incredibly romantic scenes in Bound by Your Touch – including their first kiss and the final scene. Or how James is completely undone by the realisation that all that devotion that Lydia feels for her father can and will be directed at him as well.

In short: the romance itself and the writing are superb – and to me, Meredith Duran has joined that pantheon of Romance Goddesses and sits right up there with the likes of Loretta Chase and Julia Quinn.

Notable Quotes/Parts :

“Every person was his own country she thought, governed by a private language, a personal reason and custom. She was still discovering herself but she thought she might use him as a guide, Whatever passed through his mind, whatever drove him to kiss her like this he kissed her as earnestly as a prayer – it was right and good. And all of it, the complex curious intricacies of James Durham, were here, bound by muscle and warm flesh, in the span of her hands”

Verdict:Sophisticated, beautifully written and utterly romantic.

Rating: 8 excellent and one of my top reads so far, this year

Reading Next: What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

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23 Comments

  • Kati
    June 23, 2009 at 6:10 am

    You know, I’m one of six people on the planet who couldn’t read Duke of Shadows. In fact, it still sits on my TBR shelf because I’ve tried so many times thinking “Surely this time will be the time I get into this book.”

    But again the overwhelmingly positive reviews that I’m reading everywhere make me tempted to pick this one up. I’m thinking I will. Maybe this time Ms. Duran’s writing will work for me.

  • KMont
    June 23, 2009 at 6:34 am

    *Sophisticated, beautifully written and utterly romantic.*

    Could not agree more. Yes, absolutely and many times over, yes. A really beautiful romance for sure.

    I also sympathize with you on that cover, although I understand why it has that kind of cover. Still, I think you were right to point out its flaws in comparison to the book because it will either catch eyes that might otherwise have glanced over it, or it’ll turn some off because it makes the content seem frivolous. And you’re right because it’s not!

    Kati, The Duke of Shadows was a beautifully written book, too, but I couldn’t get into it as much as this one, because for me the first half was pretty depressing. I thought Bound by Your Touch was more well rounded.

  • KMont
    June 23, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Just wanted to add that by itself I do think the cover is very pretty. I love that blue color…but no, it doesn’t reflect the book very well. Still, nice art and all.

  • Maya M.
    June 23, 2009 at 8:31 am

    yes, yes, yes on the cover! as much as i am drawn to ms. duran’s writing i am equally repelled by the insinuation that the hero spends all his time abcrunching (ignoring the heroine and other parts of his life)and that she is a shallow gymbunny who is attracted to him only for aesthetic reasons – since it can’t be for his mind/personality, given that the part of his head that houses his brain isn’t even pictured!

    yes, i attribute a lot of meaning to covers. why do you ask?

  • AnimeJune
    June 23, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Ahhh, want want want. I’m definitely going to be checking Ms. Duran’s books out after (even during!) RWA Nationals next month.

  • Tracy
    June 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Loved it just loved it.

  • katiebabs
    June 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    So much love for Meredith it is not even funny. Love the rooftop scene.

    And from looking through Written, that is going to be one smoldering book!

  • Ana
    June 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Kati – I agree with Kmont, the change in the setting may well be what you need to really like this one.

    Kmont- I don’t like this cover at all. for this book or any other and I rather agree with M’s analysis of it. *shudders*

    AnimeJune- k nowing what you like to read? I have NO doubt you would love her books. and I know that she will be at RWA so maybe you get to talk to her even!

    Tracy and Kate – love is all around us!

  • Gerd Duerner
    June 23, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Pretty non-descript that cover, would suit one of the numerous sex-novels distributed each year. :/

    But I generally detest most of those covers with cut-off heads, I don’t like to see people reduced to characterless bodies.

  • heidenkind
    June 23, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Squeeeeeee.

    That is all.

  • KMont
    June 24, 2009 at 5:30 am

    What this makes me wonder then, in my grumpy morning way (so sorry about that I can’t help it *sob*), what IS the best kind of cover these days for a romance? What would be the ideal one for a book like this?

    I don’t like the more generic ones w/the pretty country house with or without the disembodied floating heads either. What’s the solution for romance covers? Plenty complain if there IS a head showing, saying it doesn’t look a thing like the characters (I was impressed that the model above has black hair – Lydia does too. Wow, score.). Seems there just is no solution.

  • Ana
    June 24, 2009 at 5:39 am

    That’s a good question. For example, for the cover at hand, if his shirt was not open, it would have been better.

    I also really like the UK book covers for Lisa Kleypas (points to sidebar) or the ones for the Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchess series like this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Duchess-Night-Eloisa-James/dp/0340961082/ref=pd_sim_b_2 << I mean HOW clever are these covers? and beautiful? I think right now, the UK is doing a hell of a better job in coming up with covers.Like Stephanie Lauren's : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mastered-Love-Bastion-Club-Novel/dp/0749940131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245847126&sr=1-1

    I like the new Julia Quinn cover (US AND UK).

    I think it depends what these covers convey. Take for example the cover of One Week as Lovers (sidebar) even though it features a heroine embrancing a semi-dressed hero, still the cover talks to me more about "romance" other than "sex" – look at them, they are happily embracing each other.

    Which brings me to point I want to make: for ME, romance is less about sex and more about the relationship. Yes, sex is important (duh.hello )but these covers to me, hit a nerve because it seems all they want to convey is "look, we haz smut, come and get it" when it's not all about that at all. " Especially when you couple that with stupid titles.

    phew. :mrgreen:

  • KMont
    June 24, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Oh man, that IS a gorgeous one for Desperate Duchess. Kudos to the UK art team on it. And the Lauren’s one too!!

    OK, so what IS it with these U.S. covers?! I know, I know, I am being…oh what’s the word, obstinate? Blind? We’ll go with that. Blind. You would think, hope, that the “sex sells” mentality in the U.S. would just freaking die already. At least in regards to romance covers.

    Thanks, I just love those examples. Sorry for the grumpiness. But I am grumpy lol, and now that I see those UK versions it makes me want to throw up my hands. Maybe I ought to just start buying my paperbacks from the Book Depository so I can lay hands on the nicer covers.

  • Ana
    June 24, 2009 at 6:01 am

    I just thnk that the UK marketeers are putting more effort so that they can reach MORE readers. Isn’t that clever? me thinks so.

    The way I see it, the US are only trying to reach the regular romance readers.

    I thin you should totally start buying your books with these pretty covers.

  • KMont
    June 24, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Well, and maybe it’s also that in the U.S. romance mass market has a HUGE share of the book buying market, the largest of them all. Maybe that enables the mindset that why fix what’s broke? If romances are selling that well, maybe those covers are working.

    I admit I don’t mind the shirtlessness sometimes, or even the headlessness lol. But I’m also a bit strange that way. I think I mentioned somewhere around here before that the Headless Horseman is one of my favorite characters ever, so… *shrug*

    But oh, man, yes, I agree. Those UK covers ARE prettier, they DO seem to have more effort put into them and they flat beat out the cover above. *high five*

  • Ana
    June 24, 2009 at 6:11 am

    You do have a good point there – it must be hard to get rid of what has seemingly worked for such a long time. But I also think that these covers are part of what gives romance a bad name. *shrugs*

    and I don’t like shirtlessness. at all. 😳

  • Simone
    June 24, 2009 at 6:31 am

    You know, when I first saw this cover I thought it was beautiful. Then I realized that I was looking only at the woman’s pretty blue dress and black hair. I wasn’t even looking at the man-chest!

    From what I understand, US publishers use images as shorthand on romance covers. Bare man-chest means romance. Lady in pretty dress means historical romance. Bare man-chest in kilt means Scottish romance. Et cetera.

    It isn’t about the story, or what’s in it, or what’s “pretty”. It’s packaging, the same way a Nabisco logo means you’re buying a Nabisco product. They want the reader to know exactly what they’re picking up by looking at a single image.

    I’m not saying they’re right. Just that that is what US publishers are thinking, I think.

  • Stacy ~
    June 24, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I so do want to read this one, and once again, your review is superb. You could probably convince me to read just about anything, even stuff I stay away from.

    As for the covers, I don’t hate them, but you’re right, they do detract away from the story as well as generate the constant distain and ridicule the romance genre tries to get away from. Something more subtle and evocative would be more appealing instead of the salacious. I fear it’s a battle that will never be won…sigh.

  • KMont
    June 24, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I’d forgotten like a bad blogging bud that the shirtlessness doesn’t work for you. *smacks forehead*

    And yes, I think you’re right again. They do give romance a bad name and contribute to the ridicule the genre is subjected to, especially by non-romance readers. But hey, at least we romance readers can take them with a grain of salt and poke fun when the covers beg for it. 😀

  • Ana
    June 24, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Simone, I do think you have a point there. It does feel like it is only “packaging “and the main problem with that, is that it is a mindless, automatic action that could well explain covers that feature a blonde woman when the heroine is brunette for example.

    Stacy – stop it. 😳 😀

    Kmont – we can and everybody else as well! 😕

  • » This book comes out tomorrow
    June 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    […] Chase’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE, you simply must read this book. Jane at Dear Author gave it an A. The Book Smugglers gave it an 8 out of 10. It’s brilliant and clever and tender and I think Duran is going to be the next Loretta […]

  • Vorkosigrrl
    July 29, 2009 at 8:00 am

    “But I also think that these covers are part of what gives romance a bad name.”

    Ana, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with that comment. I read obsessively, carrying my books along with me everywhere I go. I don’t like being embarrassed by a book cover! 😳

  • ninaa11
    April 13, 2011 at 6:10 am

    I want to read this book. I hear a lot of things about the author but I never had the chance to read his books, and I want to see what style does he have. He can try sell textbooks online to make publicity to his book.

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