When Passion Rules by Johanna Lindsey (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

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Forced to flee Napoleon’s rampaging army on the continent, orphaned Alana Farmer and her eccentric guardian make a new home for themselves in London. There, Alana enjoys every privilege a daughter of the nobility could hope for, plus an education fit for a queen. Now, on the eve of her debut into London Society, she learns the shocking secret of her birthright. Can it be true? Is she really the lost princess of the European kingdom of Lubinia? Persuaded by her guardian to return to their homeland to quell a bloody revolt, Alana finds herself in an isolated, mountainous country whose customs strike her as medieval!

With controversy and intrigue brewing around the beautiful newcomer, Christoph Becker, the captain of the palace guards, arrests Alana on suspicion that she is either a wily imposter or a seductive spy working for the shadowy figures determined to depose the king. No stranger himself to seduction, Christoph uses every means at his disposal to draw the truth from his alluring prisoner, even if he must lay his own life on the line to protect her from harm. Now, as a fiery passion flares between Alana and the man who has wrongly imprisoned her, the fate of a nation rests in their hands and on their hearts.

Rating: B- overall

C for the story and A for the performance

Okay. So I admit that this isn’t a book that would normally have been near the top of my TBR pile.  I haven’t read it before, haven’t read any reviews and only had the synopsis to go on; and decided that while it sounded okay, I wasn’t going to bust a gut when I’ve got so many other things I want to read.

BUT.  Then I discovered that Rosalyn Landor had narrated the audiobook, and as I’ve been glomming her stuff big time lately, I changed my mind.

This is one of those times when I think the performance elevated my enjoyment of what would probably –in print – have been a fairly ordinary book.  The story starts out with an assassin deciding – rather like Snow White’s huntsman – that he can’t kill the princess, but unlike the huntsman, he takes her away with him to England and brings her up as a lady rather than leaving her to roam the woods and shack up with seven vertically-challenged forest-dwellers.

On Alana’s eighteenth birthday, her ‘guardian’ (known as Poppy) sits her down to tell her the truth.  She’s not his niece and she’s the heir to the throne of Lubinia (a fictional country somewhere where there’s lots of snow and hot guys in tight uniforms with sexy accents).

Alana is devastated by the news and doesn’t believe it.  But there is unrest in Lubinia due to the king’s lack of an heir and the country is facing civil war – so there is only one thing to do.  Alana must return to take up her rightful place, and Poppy is going to find out once and for all who paid him to kill the baby princess.

With Poppy’s warnings about the need for caution in her ears, Alana heads for the palace to present herself to her father.  She goes alone – if Poppy (formerly Leonard Kasner, aka “Rastibon”) is discovered he will be imprisoned or shot on sight, so he leaves her to her own devices while he heads off to track his quarry.  After all, as well as learning to sing and embroider tablecloths like any other English lady, Alana has been trained to fence, shoot and box, so she can take care of herself.

After a long wait at the palace, Alana encounters the captain of the guard, the mouth-wateringly gorgeous Count Christoph Becker.   After mistakenly thinking she’s come to the palace looking to find herself a powerful ‘protector’ (nudge, nudge) he then informs her that she’s the latest in a line of imposters who have presented themselves as the princess and then proceeds to interrogate her and behave like a complete asshat.

But the thing is, because of Ms Landor’s exceptional acting abilities, I couldn’t dislike him for it!  She gave him a sexy accent with just the right amount of arrogance to be attractive and brought out the humour in his frequent double-entendres and suggestive comments; so while I was listening knowing I should be rolling my eyes at his total lack of PC (or, as Alana would have said, his “barbaric tendencies”), I wasn’t.

Once the two of them met (which was a fair way into the story) things started to move at a cracking pace.  Christoph doesn’t believe Alana’s story for almost the whole of the book, but he fancies the hell out of her does at least decide to give her the benefit of the doubt.  There are a couple of plot twists and turns which make for an enjoyable romp (one of which I didn’t see coming) and some rather charming scenes featuring Christoph’s family – all of whom were superbly and distinctively voiced.

While I found Christoph rather attractive (I know *hangs head*.  He’s an alpha-asshat, but so disarming with it!),  Alana was rather annoying at times.  She slept with Christoph and then kept him at a distance while desperate for more; insisted on thinking of him as a barbarian, which he plainly wasn’t and didn’t get to display her kick-ass fighting skillz, which I thought was rather a shame.  On the positive side, she was brave and intelligent (mostly) and the banter between her and Christoph – while being a little too modern at times – was probably the best thing about the book.

The best bit?  For me this came late on, once Christoph has brought Alana to the king and he’s acknowledged her as his daughter.  The king asks Christoph if he’d done something he (the king) had suggested previously – namely to seduce Alana to get information out of her. Oops.  You have to feel sorry for Christoph at that point – in the dog house for shagging the king’s daughter (even though he didn’t do it for information ;-))

The ending is rather rushed.  Alana is restored to her father and he immediately wants to marry her off to the head of the opposing faction in order to secure peace.  As she’s in love with her gorgeous captain, she is naturally not best pleased – but this is a romance, so it all works out in the end.

I’m sure that if I’d read the book, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it half so much as I did listening to it. Rosalyn Landor’s narration was as well-paced and beautiful as ever, and she invests even the minor characters with their own distinct voices.

When Passion Rules isn’t something I’d recommend if you want a book to take seriously, but it was a fun romp for when you want to put your brain into “park” and have a rest and a bit of unabashed fun.  And failing that, you can just stare at the cover model. Because. Day-um! 😉

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