Dark Persuasion by Vicki Hopkins (audiobook) – Narrated by Lorna Bennett

darkpersaudio

Charlotte Gray couldn’t believe that anyone in high society would care to introduce her to potential suitors. After all, a cruel accident left her blind at the age of eight. However, Lady and Lord Rochester, her aristocratic neighbors, have taken a peculiar interest in her welfare and offer to hold a debutante ball in her honor.

Inexperienced in the ways of men and vulnerable to a fault, Charlotte begins to traverse the unfamiliar world of courtship. To her surprise, two brothers become rivals for her affections. One she favors because of his gregarious and flattering ways. The other she spurns due to his unappealing demeanor and desperate attempt to win her heart.

Pressured by her family and brokenhearted over the risqué conduct of her first choice, Charlotte is persuaded to accept Patrick Rochester’s proposal of marriage instead. Her surrender introduces her into the world of passion at the artful hands of a mysterious man. When the dark and alluring husband finally conquers her heart, a shocking secret about his true identity unfolds. As a result, Charlotte learns that love can be blind for everyone-even her.

Rating: C for narration, C for content

While Dark Persuasion has an interesting premise and the potential to explore some of the darker emotions – guilt, jealousy, obsession – the book never overcomes a number of failures in its execution. It’s not a very “romantic” romance, and there is practically no chemistry between the leads. The characterisation of the hero lacks depth, and I found the heroine difficult to like, largely due to her treatment of the hero.

Charlotte Grey was blinded at the age of eight as the result of an unthinking, cruel act by a boy four years her senior. Ten years later, she meets two brothers at her come-out ball, Patrick and Rupert Rochester, who are as different from each other as chalk from cheese. Patrick is a quiet and rather serious young man, while Rupert is a cruel, conscienceless rake who wants nothing more than to irritate and best his brother in whatever he does.

So when Rupert sees Patrick taking an interest in Charlotte, he determines to seduce her. Never having been the subject of male attention before, Charlotte is easily taken in by Rupert’s gregarious and flirtatious manner, and instantly prefers him to his brother. In spite of her sister’s urge to be cautious, Charlotte is in the grip of her first infatuation, and dismisses Patrick as dull and humourless.

When Rupert shows his true colours, it’s left to Patrick to pick up the pieces. He loves Charlotte and wants to marry her so he can take care of her, but he shrinks from telling her the truth about the cause of her blindness. Instead, he confesses to her father, who afterwards gives Patrick his permission to ask Charlotte for her hand. She accepts his proposal, telling him bluntly that she does not love him and that she is only giving him her assent because she knows she is unlikely to receive another such offer.

I had a hard time determining just what Patrick saw in Charlotte other than her pretty face, and the fact of his desire to atone for his childhood brutality. One minute, he is seeing her for the first time in ten years, and the next, he is desperately in love with her, and there is no sense of an evolution of feeling. Patrick is very underwritten; we see him as a boy and then as a young man, but there is no real explanation as to how or why he changed from that irresponsible boy to the honourable man he is now.

I also didn’t care much for Charlotte as a heroine. While she certainly deserves admiration for the way she overcomes many of the difficulties facing her as a blind person, there are other aspects of her personality that make her a less than sympathetic character, not least of which is her poor treatment of Patrick. She never lets him forget he is not her first choice, and, because she never really talks to him about the help she will need to help her to acclimatise herself to new surroundings, blames him when he fails to take her blindness into account.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

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