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Touched by Fire by Kathleen O’Reilly

Monday, March 19, 2012

Touched by Fire

Kathleen OReilly
Historical Romance
Published in 2001

H/h - Colin Wescott, the Earl of Haverwood/Sarah Banks
Setting: London, 1815.

Read in Mar, 2012.
My rating:

                                              [spoiler alert]

I had real mixed feeling while reading Touched by Fire. This was my 1st Kathleen O’Reilly book. Whatever I at first thought about the story, the writing, in the end I couldn’t help the big loopy grin and a wistful sigh for Colin and Sarah. I must say, a variety of emotions those were. Let’s just get into the review first.

Colin is an Earl but he’s not the old, deceased earl’s son. His lifestory is kind of sad, to say the least, when I think of the circumstances of his birth. His mother was raped by a notorious highwayman, who was hanged later for his many crimes, and the end result was Colin. His mother suffered all her short life because of this, with mental instability and so on. We don’t really get a lot of narratives on this but I guess it was for the best. Most of it comes out of Colin’s many musings on his life and his own insecurities- because he was the son of a nasty criminal and what would happen if his identity is revealed to his peers. Colin’s mother died, leaving him young but the old earl never, not once, let him forget where he came from as if it was Colin’s fault. My god but the guy tortured him with his words and insinuations from a very young age (and I had this urge to bring the nasty man from his grave to kill him again!). Colin went on the war with the French, came back, and inherited as the old earl died. I think the only person who knows about his real parentage apart from his mother and the old earl was his trustworthy, middle-aged butler, Giles. Giles was more of a father-figure to Colin than any of the man who should’ve been and I’ll talk about Giles later in the review since he plays his big role throughout the story. Anyway, I already talked about Colin’s vulnerabilities. He is always in a conflict with himself, I can totally believe the kind of psychological pressure it was for a young man to have learn such nasty things about his parentage and then hear about it all the freakin’ time! Because of what his highwayman father did to people, especially women, Colin has always kept his passion in check. Yes, he’s still a virgin because the idea of bedding a woman brings back some scary thoughts, like what if he’s like his father and abuses the woman at the height of his passion. It came over and over again in the story, at times frustrating me because he kept pushing Sarah away. Colin coped with his stronger inner emotions with his metaphors of dragons and Dragon Slayer. I was, at first, a bit baffled because it seemed childish for a grown up like him. But, as I got deep into the story, I begin to see the points and sympathize with him. Dragons are always bad, as far as the story goes while Dragon Slayers solve the problems by killing them. But to Colin, he is the dragon in his mind, though he tries to convince himself that he’s the Dragon Slayer who kills dragons and saves the world. See this conflict he has with himself? It was really heart tugging at times, when he wasn’t being frustrating to me.

He and Sarah meet in an opera for the 1st time after Colin returns from the war. This 1st meeting, somehow, didn’t make the strong impression on me, as it apparently did to them. So when Sarah began her tenacious campaign of having Colin no matter what, I was a bit baffled, again. I mean why? They don’t know each-other, at all. It wasn’t really a ‘love at first sight’ kind of meeting... why? Now I have to talk about Sarah. Sarah is a bit notorious on her own, but again, it’s about where she was born and not what she did... well maybe, a little of what she did. Lol Sarah’s late father used to be an infamous gambling club owner. His wife left him because of this and Sarah was his only child. Sarah has always been in a gambling club from a very young age, and now is the owner of this gambling club, with the assistance of a French Viscount, whose wife cooks for the club. Because of her lifestyle and her birth, Sarah was never welcomed in the elites of the society but has always been maligned and spurned by them. In reality, Sarah doesn’t deserve this. She’s smart and strong, even though a spinster now, she’s not even promiscuous. Yes, she’s beautiful, which is why a lot of those elite men made dirty propositions to her. Some would want to marry her for sure but that’s all because they are fortune hunters. But Sarah wants her own family, wants a man to call her own; someone who would love and care for her. By now Sarah thought she’s inured to those insults. Her father somehow convinced her that a man with sherry colored eyes is the strongest and most honorable. So when she meets Colin in the opera and looks into his eyes (which were sherry colored, duh!), she instantly thinks he is THE ONE. Can you tell I was wee bit, er, not happy about this? I mean doesn’t it sound just… childish? Yes, for the 1st few chapters of the book I was confused as hell because the writing felt a bit choppy too. I was confused about Sarah and Colin’s intentions. I was confused about Colin’s numerous dragon metaphors... and was wee bit on the bored side.

Sarah was pretty sure she’s going to have Colin, if only he didn’t back away from her the moment she thought he was going to kiss her in the opera. What she didn’t know was about Colin’s troubles about women. She interpreted it wrong and was seriously unhappy about it. But her middle aged maid Iris, who was a fun character along with Colin’s butler Giles, understood her dilemma. Iris was Sarah’s friend, well, sort of. As the stories of Sarah and Colin’s meeting goes viral on gossip pages, both Giles and Iris knew they have work on their hands and they plan. But the first plan comes from Giles, who is quite secured about his position and knows no matter what, Colin would never fire him. Even though I should’ve been really pissed about the kind of mischief Giles and Iris did together, I wasn’t really. I felt that both of these servants have only one goal in common, and it was a good cause- to bring two lonely and unhappy souls together. They saw that Colin and Sarah needed each-other, even though their’s was a bad start. Trouble was, after seeing the gossip pages, Colin is determined to marry some insipid miss, the sole goal of which is that this miss would never inspire any kind of passion in him the way Sarah does. It scares him to hell; just relate this with his thoughts on what he might do to a woman and you’ll understand. He just doesn’t want to hurt Sarah and see hatred in her eyes. We all know it’s all in his mind so I couldn’t really blame him for this. Giles, outwardly, shows that he would help Colin in his endeavor to find a wife but on the inside, he’s planning. His plans, needless to say, go wrong most of the times. One time he goes to Sarah with an apology from Colin about something, Sarah knew he’s lying. He tries more of this and then, finally he decides to seek out Iris’s help. I really liked these two together, how Iris was kinda waspish towards Giles at first but came together eagerly as long as it means happiness for Sarah.

Sarah attends a ball, only to find Colin. She just wanted to show him that she can be as good as any other Ton woman. But this outing doesn’t go well. Colin keeps his back on her (just think about the dragons that dwells inside of him because honestly, the only thing he wanted was to make love to Sarah… sadly, of course, Sarah didn’t know) and Sarah is hurt. The French Viscountess accompanies her but she cautions Sarah against Colin. Then the mother of Colin’s almost intended makes insinuations about her and Colin’s relationship. So, yes, this outing was a disaster! Then Giles and Iris finally make plans of inviting Sarah in a dinner. There was a dinner at Colin’s where his intended was also invited with her family. Giles brings flowers and such with Colin’s name and lies again about Colin inviting her. Sarah’s fool heart is dancing and she believes in it. This meeting goes kinda awkward. The insipid miss’s mother again makes insinuations towards her. And, Colin? He inadvertently ends up hurting Sarah again by showing his reluctance. It almost ends in a disaster when an angry Sarah was trying to find her carriage and someone tries to kill her with another. Colin, who was chasing after, saves her.

In the meantime, a Frenchman, Etienne was meeting with Colin. Etienne is a friend of Colin’s from the wartime. He brings news for Colin of another possibility of war. Colin decides he would go to war once again when the call comes. In his subconscious mind, it’s really important for him to prove himself anything other than a brutal highwayman’s son. Colin is essentially a good man, although he didn’t believe in it. He runs this orphanage which is named after St. George. He loves this orphanage and to properly obtain it he must marry soon. After the carriage incident Colin is very worried about Sarah. It was plain to see he cares for her, now if only he’d listen to his heart rather than his head! He meets Sarah again, in her house this time. He couldn’t help but kiss her. After this meeting, Colin takes Sarah to an amphitheater show. No matter what he’s feeling at the moment for Sarah, Colin is still strong about marrying that insipid miss he’s chosen. While going home from the amphitheater, Colin and Sarah’s carriage is accosted by a highwayman. Not that the man could do any real harm as Colin kills him. But after two incidents, Colin keeps thinking, is the person after him or Sarah? Then Colin meets up with Etienne again, asking for his help about this situation. He asks Etienne to keep an eye on Sarah for her safety. On the trail of his investigation, Colin goes to this rundown inn in the shady area of London, where he saves a young girl who was being used in prostitution by the greedy innkeeper. Colin feels sick seeing this but he also gets some information from the girl. Apparently, she was sold from another orphanage by the manager. Colin takes note of ‘taking care’ of the man and moving the children to St. George (he does both later) but he takes the girl, Nancy, to Sarah hoping she’d give her some tasks and keep her. Sarah does of course. Now, Colin knows Sarah wants him as much as he does. In this meeting, even after they kiss and such, because of his vulnerabilities where Sarah was concerned, Colin again pushes her away and hunts her. Honestly, I was getting really pissed at Colin for hurting Sarah so. I wanted to shake him, pinch him... do something so that he makes up his mind!
Meanwhile, their confrontation with the highwayman comes out and the insipid miss comes to visit Sarah. She’s not actually bad or rude and it’s apparent that she’s in love with someone else. She tries to convince Sarah to do something so that Colin takes off his attentions from her. This ticks Sarah’s mind, as in why not? She wants him and she’s determined to have him (I salute her for being so willful where he was concerned cause if paid off big time in the end!) and so, she plans to attend another ball, even though she hates those. We also get to see St. George and what’s Colin’s generosity is doing to the house. It was really nice and it gave Colin a sense of well-being, that he’s doing something good for these children. Anyway, Colin of course attends the ball and things don’t go very well. Sarah is kinda desperate at the moment. If Colin doesn’t make her his, she knows she’ll spend her life mourning her loss. In the garden, when Colin follows her outside, Sarah finally makes a proposition; something I didn’t like but I could see where it was coming from- to make her his mistress. Why not, the society already thinks she’s his mistress. Why not, as long as she gets to be with him. Oh, it really made me sad. When some drunkard makes slurring comments about them, Colin asks Sarah to go inside. Once inside, Sarah give a thought to this whole mess and decides she can’t really do this. Sarah goes out again to find Colin and let him know her decision. In the meantime, Colin took care of the drunkard and meets up with Etienne and one Colonel Scovell, who was his officer in the war. But Sarah didn’t know it and sadly, she’s kidnapped by someone else. The dirty guy knocks her senseless and takes her in a carriage. Coming from the meeting, Colin sees her being taken in the carriage and he follows like a mad man. The kidnapper tries to abuse Sarah in the carriage but isn’t quite successful. Colin and Etienne, who’s acting as his coachman for sometimes now, find them soon enough (thanks god for that!). The kidnapper flees and Colin takes an unconscious Sarah to a nearest house. After this, Colin kinda gave in to the fact that he has to marry Sarah, if only for her safety.

Sarah is ecstatic about this news. They travel to Colin’s country estate and marry soon. But trouble begins as Colin won’t make love to her...... yes, ugh, I know. It’s not that he doesn’t really want to, it’s not that Sarah doesn’t want to... and yet he won’t. He keeps saying that she needs to recover from her ordeal with the kidnapping. Sarah gets frustrated and damn well she should! But Colin does some really great gestures for her. After the kidnapping, Sarah couldn’t stand the smell of roses since before the kidnapping, she was given a bouquet of roses in Colin’s name. When Sarah wakes up in the country house before their marriage, she became sick with the sight and smell of the roses in her room. Colin comes in to soothe her fears away. One day, Sarah makes the discovery that Colin has ditched all the roses in the estate and buried them! This makes Sarah melt more for him (me too). I mean this is the kind of small but sweet gestures Colin continues throughout the story, which is why even though I should’ve kicked him for being so frustrating, I just couldn’t. Sarah, in the meantime, gets to learn about Colin, the man and his fascinations about dragons and other kinds of mythical serpents. Colin takes pride in discussing his knowledge about those. BTW: did I tell you that Giles was immensely happy with the turn of the events? Soon Iris and Nancy join them all here. Back to their marital trouble of not making love. This time, Sarah takes the bull by the horn. She does something and makes Colin lose his control. Even though, by no means, their first time together was perfect, it was great for me nonetheless. I knew Colin just needed to learn that he won’t hurt Sarah. Sarah, by now, sensed a little of his vulnerabilities and keeps saying to him that he won’t hurt her.

Soon enough, letter from the war office comes and Colin knows he has to go away soon. So he decides to finalize everything about St. George now that he’s married and all. He and Sarah, with Nancy, visit the place. This meeting doesn’t go well, to say the least because we finally come face to face about the scoundrel who was trying all these kidnapping and so on. I did love the way the whole thing was handled by Colin on Sarah’s insistence. I loved how he talked to her about his true parentage. He was scared that she’d run from him but why would Sarah? The fear of scandal doesn’t matter to her in any way! Then Colin goes away to war but promising Sarah that he’d return to her no matter what. Oh, the final chapters were just sooo good! I kept sighing all over them!! Whatever I felt about the book in the beginning just melted away in the end. I loved it. I finally saw why Colin was as he was and his complex thought process. I saw that dragons can be as bad, as they can be sad... Dragon Slayers can have their tough times too. It was actually great that Sarah never gave up on Colin, because no matter how exasperating he was for the better part of the book, he was a man worth having. He was adorable... I’m happily giving this book a 4 star.

PS: I told you I hated the old Earl. Almost at the end of the story, Colin reads a letter from the vile and pathetic old SOB, in hopes that maybe, just maybe his parentage wasn’t as the earl made it to be. Maybe in death, the man confessed or something. But alas, no. This letter full of hateful words hurts Colin, again, if I might add. Even dead the man couldn’t leave the poor babe be! He made Colin cry!!!! Lord, I was mad, soooo MAD on his behalf! :@

Can’t finish off my review without something like this, can I? BTW: I just adore the cover. That man, YUM! ;)

The Dragon vs. The Dragon Slayer


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