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The Jezebel by Saskia Walker

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Jezebel
Taskill Witches #3

Saskia Walker
Historical Romance/Paranormal/Erotica
Published in 2013 (ARC review)

H/h - Roderick Cameron/Maisie Taskill
Setting: Scotland, 1715.

Read in Apr, 2013
My rating:

                                         [spoiler alert]

Book 3 of Taskill Witches series, The Jezebel was a good read, I give you that. Once again, I loved the back-story of the witch-hunt and how everything was woven in the story in general. What I thought was missing was a good romance between Maisie and Roderick. Oh yes, there was sex aplenty, as any SW book but I thought between all the suspicions due to Maisie’s abilities and trust issues, they didn’t have enough time to connect... at least I didn’t think so. I’ll try to elaborate in my review.

Although these books can be read as stand-alones, I recommend that you start from book 1, The Harlot because you might feel lost otherwise.

I loved book 1, The Harlot and was eagerly waiting for the sequels. In it, we meet Jessie, who is born a witch, living a life of sin. She was torn apart from her siblings, her brother Lennox and twin Maisie when she was very young. Their mother came down from the Highlands in search of their father, who left them as he couldn’t take the truth of his family having these heathenish abilities, only to be captured and burned with the condemnation of practicing witchcraft. All the siblings were forced to watch this, and in their mind, this remains as a horrific memory till this day. Jessie ran away from her abusive adoptive parents, and became a prostitute. She was called the Harlot of Dundee once. But whatever she was, I liked her because she was pretty honest about herself, and what her magic inspired. Their magic is channeled through nature and the closer they are to nature, the better for them. Also, sex is a way of empowerment. The more sex they have, the more their magic grows stronger. In that regard, Jessie has no problem since she’s as lusty as they come. She meets Gregor in a crazy hullaballoo when she’s arrested in the witch-hunt. Gregor has already seen her, knows her reputation and wants her no doubt. He’s a lusty sailor too and a good sport is always welcome. Jessie is a beauty, and she knows what she’s about. Gregor wants to have sex, but he has another use for her too. He wants her to work for him on a mission that is connected to his past. He will train her for it. Jessie tells him she wants to return to the Highlands where her own people still reside. She needs Gregor’s help and they struck a bargain. As they go about, it they have all kinds of adventures, physical, emotional, and finally, the mission Gregor wanted her to use for. In the end, Jessie and Gregor flee the place right after Gregor’s problem is solved on their way to the Highlands. Gregor knew Jessie’s abilities by then and wasn’t scared or offended by it. They plan to marry as soon as they found Jessie’s siblings and/or her clan there.

Book 2, Lennox’s story, The Libertine takes place simultaneously. He was living under a false name with his own coven. Lennox is also all about love’em, leave’em, and he’s called the Libertine. He mostly hates the ‘normal’ people who have been after the likes of him (with magical abilities, we’re talking about 1715 here), condemning and killing them, much the way his mother was killed. He wants revenge and one way of exacting revenge is demeaning their women, especially married ones, by having affairs, then leaving them. He gloated (as it was hinted) when those were exposed and the men were ashamed of their wives. But he cared for his own kind, going as far as to save whoever he heard of in trouble with the authorities.

When he meets Chloris, a married woman wanting to have children, Lennox planned the same fate for her to rile her cousin, a man who hated all the heathens. I started disliking Lennox immediately. Then I found that all the lead male characters are horribly manipulative, using Chloris for their own purposes. This includes Lennox, Chloris’s cousin and her husband. Lennox seduces her easily and a big part of it was manipulation through his magic, initiating an affair. Chloris, who hasn’t really known kindness or affection in her life, fell for it like completely. I also felt for her and wanted to beat Lennox up for this treachery. Somewhere along the way things change though and for the good. Lennox fell for Chloris too, her goodness seducing him in return. I loved the second half of the story, the way Lennox finally sees Jessie again, with Gregor on tow and how they all save Chloris from the clutches of her evil, cheater d*ck of a husband and obsessive cousin. Gregor also informs them that the captain of the ship he owns is coming to visit him soon. The guy’s his business partner and a good friend. They all set out for the Highlands, together, waiting for some news of Maisie.

Maisie, on the other hand, was running away. There was something sinister about that part of her life, so much so that she was forced to escape and find a passage to a ship bound for the Highlands; her ancestral home. Maisie always wanted to go there, but she never could, again, thanks to that man. We weren’t told what became of her in the other two books but hints of something like she was taken by some rich man from the scene of their mother’s death. But before things begin unravel about her whereabouts of the past 10 yrs., we find an anxious Maisie targeting... yep, you’re right, Roderick who was on his way to find some female company after a long time on the sea. She subtly uses her magic on him to pursue him to take her on board. But Roderick is a hard nut to crack… or so he seemed at first. He kept denying her request because it’s a strict rule; no woman is allowed on board. Yet, when Maisi touches him lightly, and coyly talks about exchanging her virginity for the passage... well, that is something Roderick can’t deny. He doesn’t know who the woman is because of her cloak and the darkness of the dock but he can sense that she’s from a noble family. Before his mind starts functioning again and applying logical, Roderick gives into the temptation and permits her to sail with them. They run quickly towards the ship since his ship was carrying smuggled goods and men were after them.

Roderick faces some difficulties from the men for ‘Maisie from Scotland’- only thing he knows about this Maisie because she won’t confide anything else. Now, some men like her, some don’t and some have mixed feelings about taking a woman on board. I would’ve loved if they spend sometimes talking and at least connecting, but nope. That night Roderick and Maisie end up having sex. Maisie takes caution to hide her valuable things; no, no trinkets or anything but the magical stones that are needed to bind her power to her when she loses her virginity. She was already in the Captain’s room, where Roderick meant to keep her on that week-long journey. She even manages to get the stones under the mattress before he comes in. Maisie is attracted to the captain, as is he to her. Roderick sees a well-bred and good-looking woman who wants to have sex with him all week without any strings attached, so why not! Lol He had question about her, a lot but she won’t tell him anything. Roderick thinks he shouldn’t care... yet, once they end up having sex, he can’t but think about her. The first time was interesting as Maisie’s unraveling magic makes their room lit up without any light, also her eye-color enhanced, much as Lennox or Jessie’s. Roderick couldn’t be sure if he was imagining things or not.

I liked the portrayal of the story on board. Roderick’s first mate disliked Maisi from the start, and always was trying to make trouble where she was concerned. But there are some who liked her, like that young Dutch boy with whom Maisie spend times with, helping him in his less sailor-ly chores. Also an old sailor named Clyde. He’s the one who names her Jezebel, as he does to every other woman. At first, Maisie thought he was referring to her ‘relationship’ with the captain, which is not the case. Women are all Jezebel to Clyde! She and Roderick keep having sex. In time, Maisie keep having the urge to confide about her past to Roderick but she couldn’t. Her guardian, Cyrus Lafayette is a possessive and vengeful man, and he will not stop until he removes everyone in his way to get her back.

I also had some questions about Maisie’s virginity and it’s connection to her magic. If the sex was what made their magic so powerful, then how come she kept it till now? I know one reason was her overbearing and manipulative guardian. He won’t let anyone touch what he deems his. It was indicated that Maisie’s virginity loss was a big thing, but we never get to learn any such thing about Jessie or Lennox. In fact, we aren’t even told when they lost it or how or how important it was to the strengthening of their magic. Also, if this whole thing (the stone I mentioned before) was supposed to have bind her to the person she gives virginity to, how come Jessie or Lennox’s first were not special that way? I was never sure of this part throughout the story.

As the story progresses, we get to learn more about Mairie’s past 10 yrs. in almost captivity. A gilded cage is where she was, under the guard of Cyrus. I, at first, thought she was a sex slave or something (my fertile imagination... *heehee*), until I got to the virginity part. Turns out, Cyrus and his wife, Beth took Maisie in right after her mother was put to death. He has been taking care of her as her guardian ever since. Beth was a loving woman who took Maisie as her own since she hadn’t any children. But for Cyrus, it was all a bit more convoluted. He knew of her power, and had grand plans for her. Even Beth suspected but Cyrus would never confide anything of such import to his wife. He let Maisie study the ‘normal’ subject with a governess, almost anything and everything that she needs to learn. But the magic related studies were his arena. He would teach her, let her study the books on her own, observe her shrewdly, even courage her to practice. Maisie thought her guardian was a gracious man and felt free with him because he seems to understand her. But she didn’t know that it was all for more nefarious reasons; to use her later for his own gain and… to make her his own when she reaches her womanhood. To make sure she’s cowered with fear, he nurtured that part about witch-hunting and ‘normal’ people’s fear and hatred of her kind. It worked, because fear and worry would instantly spring inside Maise’s mind in the slightest of trouble and she would begin to doubt herself. When she reached to her womanhood, Cyrus started making advances. Maisie felt very uncomfortable because one, she never ever thought of him that way and two, she loved Beth dearly and this felt like a betrayal. But Cyrus seemed oblivious of Beth and always, somewhat very intensely, focused on her. In the recent months, Beth fell very ill and he won’t let her treat Beth even though Maisie had the healing power. Then things started falling into pieces for Maisie when some old incidents, where she used her power on his ‘encouragement’, came back to haunt her. She knew that some of those results were negative; some people were hurt and ruined. She was young and was manipulated by Cyrus into believing she’s doing something right. And then one day, he finally announces that he wants to marry her as soon as Beth breaths her last.

And so, Maisie had only one thing to do; escape as soon as possible. But she knew Cyrus would follow her and try to bring her back wherever she goes. Which was correct. Cyrus was mad, worried, utterly annoyed with Maisie. I know he was a creepy jerk but his obsession over Maisie was, at least I found a little... erm, hot. I know he’s the bad guy, and did bad things to get his goals but he genuinely wanted Maisie. She was his, end of the story. When she loses her virginity to him, her magic will bind them together. Now, if he was a little younger (I guess there was at least 15/20 yrs difference of age), if he didn’t do some of those evil things, and if Maisie wanted him the same, this would’ve been really hot IMO.

I wasn’t really feeling Roderick and Maisie’s romance that much so my fertile mind went on to imagine a different kind of outcome... Hmm...

But I digress. Cyrus was on Maisie’s trail, he was impatient to get to her, really worried that someone might hurt her and take away what’s his; even Beth’s death couldn’t deter him. Maisie was right to be worried that he’s gaining on her. On Roderick’s ship, there were some incidents. To manipulate the weather, Maisie sometimes would use her power which was now stronger than ever because of her daily dose of you-know-what. They spend some good times together on shore as they anchor to get supplies. Then Maisie heals that young Dutch boy when he suffers a terrible accident. The healing was so well that the men, who were already suspicious of her, start making accusations. The first mate was the worse because he now had something to blabber about. Maisie and Roderick both were hovering about their ‘feelings’ (does he? does she?... can it be? Will she? etc.). Especially Roderick never thought a woman of Maisie’s station would want to be involved with him even if he wanted to marry her… which was a shocker because Roderick thought he’s married to the sea. Getting landlocked wasn’t a part of his plan but now, his mind seems to have a different kind of yearning.

Before they got to the Highlands, things go out of the hand. When the crew members are on the verge of a mutiny, Roderick is forced to lock Maisie away in a dank and dark cell. She doesn’t hide her true self to him anymore, and tries to explain to him. I felt a bit down, seeing the way Roderick locks her there, binding her hands and securing her eyes with a piece of cloth so that she can’t ‘wield her magic’ to manipulate them. Maisie could feel the essence of the sailor who died in there. It was kind of creepy, cruel and yet, I knew Roderick didn’t want to do it. As I tried imagining from Maisie’s side, it just felt wrong and horribly upsetting; that she’s always on the verge of that kind of danger and even her deep feelings for Roderick seem like couldn’t save her from this trouble. This is what I meant by the lack of romance and connection; there was just too much misunderstanding and mistrust between them, mostly incited by the harsh reality and those judgmental people around them. I couldn’t blame either of them, and yet I can’t honestly say it worked to my satisfaction at the end.

Roderick doesn’t have to hold her too long since Cyrus’s ship gains on his right afterwards. I liked the last few chapters because there were actions. Cyrus forces Maisie to go with him with the help of the Royal Navy guards. To save Roderick, she complies. She does some other things too, to help him on his way. Maisie, this time, manipulates Cyrus with her magic to take her to the Highlands. Roderick, on the other hand, was confused. Yet, once she’s out of the sight, he’s feeling lost and very determined to get her back, then sail to the Highlands. As they reach the shore on a stoppage, Roderick finds a letter from Gregor waiting for him about his impending marriage. He’s surprised, as well as happy about his friend’s marriage, but what strikes Roderick the most was the name of Gregor’s bride. It connects with Maisie... he can now remember her asking him about Gergor and if they ever had a woman on board etc. At that time, those felt like random questions, but as Roderick begins connecting the pieces, and now knowing her past her and her last name, he becomes certain that this Jessie Taskill is Maisie’s long-lost twin.

Even though I liked that the mystery about the Taskill sibling’s father, for whom their lives changed so drastically, was finally solved, I still wish that in the end, there were more chapters on the reunion of the siblings. It was just too hasty IMO. There was almost zero development about their lives together with their spouses, or any kind of interactions of that sort after so many years apart. Not even that much of a glimpse was there. Someday, I’d love to see a spin-off this series.

PS: I did catch that the sex scenes of book 2 and 3 were pretty tamer than book 1, centered only on the main couple. 4 stars.

This ARC was provided to me by Harlequin/HQN via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.


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