: Blue Paramour (Blue Ridge Saga: Volume One)
Author: Ligon and Maine
Publisher: Voir Media Publishing Group
Pages/Word Count: 344 Pages
At a Glance: Blue Paramour is the perfect example of a fine book that unfortunately didn’t work for me.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When Brayden, a devastatingly handsome heir to a prominent Southern family, is caught in a compromising position with his handsome male lover, Jackson, life as he knows it comes crashing down. Exiled from the only home he’s ever known and separated from his love, Brayden is ordered to live in Boston where he is expected to become a true man and a proper successor.
But life will show him that things don’t always go as planned…
When Brayden encounters the mysterious and powerful, Vincent Gallaud, he instead embarks on an unforgettable adventure with his newfound king in the tantalizing world of New York City, forsaking everything he has ever known. Taking him on an unexpected journey that teaches him lessons Daddy would never approve.
Back home, Jackson has no choice but to consent to marry Brayden’s greatest adversary and twin sister, Annabelle Steed. Consumed with greed and longing for revenge, Annabelle will stop at nothing to destroy Brayden’s life and rob him of his birthright, Blue Ridge.
But everything comes at a price.
Review: Set in the time leading up to the Civil War, Ligon and Maine’s Blue Paramour introduces the story of two families, wealthy Southern plantation owners whose lives are intertwined by arranged marriages and the teenage love affair between Brayden Steed and Jackson Wilmington, heirs to their family legacies.
The mark of a good historical novel is its ability to ground readers in the time and place of its setting, something the novel does from the outset in its depiction of life in the south during this time in America’s history, a time when slave ownership was the way of life, when the wealthy lorded over their estates like royalty, and life for the privileged was spent in idyll as they reaped the riches gained from the blood and sweat of another man’s back. This is the life Brayden Steed has been bred to carry on and defend, though it’s not a legacy that particularly suits him.
This story begins at a languorous pace with the introduction of its principal players, slow enough that I had a difficult time becoming invested in and remaining engaged by what was unfolding on the page; though, the tempo does pick up eventually, as Brayden and Jackson’s relationship hits its dramatic and climactic arc. Along with our romantic couple, two key secondary role players are introduced in Annabelle Steed and Patricia Mae Wilmington, sisters to Brayden and Jackson and the intended brides who will join the Steed and Wilmington estates in marriage. Patricia Mae plays what might be considered the Melanie Hamilton standard–the ideal of the Southern woman–well bred and demure–while Annabelle takes on the characteristics of a Scarlett O’Hara–beautiful, shrewd, conniving–though Annabelle lacks any of that Southern belle’s charm, often portrayed as more a caricature than a person. But, this story needed an antagonist and Annabelle fills that role in her own melodramatic way, as both Judas and Cain rolled into one excessively avaricious and resentful woman.
In fact, to a great extent, Annabelle’s portrayal is the epitome of what this novel is built upon—a soap opera-esque level of drama which weaves its way through the inevitable and predictable discovery of Brayden and Jackson’s illicit teenage affair; Brayden’s forced exile; Jackson’s descent into the bottle as he sinks into the depths of depression over Brayden’s disappearance and the realization that he loved Brayden far more than Brayden ever loved him; and his impending marriage to Annabelle—much like a man facing a firing squad and then sort of hoping someone pulls the trigger and puts him out of his misery. The characters are all fairly well written to type, all but the one man who was most certainly the exception to the rule of a black man in the 19th Century.
In a departure from its rather seemly and staid beginning, Brayden’s banishment from Blue Ridge stirs the plot and livens it up a bit, landing our young hero on a train heading north, at which time he meets a wealthy businessman, Vincent Gallaud, a free black man who immediately intrigues Brayden and lights the eighteen-year-old’s senses on fire. So much so that Brayden defies his father’s orders and rather than carrying on to Boston, jumps ship (train) in New York City to follow Vincent to his place of business, where the two begin a cat and mouse relationship in which Brayden plays the prey to Vincent’s more experienced predator.
Vincent takes on the role of sexual mentor to Brayden, at which point the novel takes a decidedly erotic turn as Brayden becomes an enthusiastic and willing pupil of Vincent’s Svengali-like tutelage. Their relationship is built largely upon sex, with Vincent playing alpha, but it soon becomes complicated by feelings that remain unspoken and misspoken, lies, secrets, and then ends in an a way that lovers of such dramatic spectacle will eat up as long as one is able to suspend belief a little and accept the events that happen as part of the novel’s milieu. I personally never made a connection to these two men as a couple, based largely on the failure to see where they had anything in common apart from sex, though it did all come to a spectacular end, so the lack of engagement was fortunate. I did, however, like the juxtaposition of their role reversal as a white and black man in that time period.
Blue Paramour, Volume One in the Blue Ridge Saga, is the perfect example of a fine book that just didn’t appeal to me, owing in total to the manner in which the story is conveyed, which, of course, is entirely a personal preference and doesn’t at all make it a bad book (outside of it needing a much more thorough editing). None of the characters, apart from Vincent’s maid, Sara, held much appeal for me, but Sara was a breath of fresh air among a cast of rather cookie cutter archetypes.
Having cut my historical reading chops on books such as Gone with the Wind and John Jakes’ North and South Trilogy, among others, I’m shocked this story didn’t resonate deeper with me, and I can only owe that to the plot being staged in such a theatrical and over-the-top way, not bad, though, if that’s a delivery you love, in which case Ligon and Maine deliver with a deft and generous hand.
Blue Paramour ends on a to-be-continued, so if you don’t like loose ends, beware. Brayden’s transformation has only just begun, and this book leaves him at an all-important turning point—convincing readers he has feelings for Jacskon, or ever did, being a pretty big hurdle to clear from my perspective–but a clever way for the authors to keep their readers on the hook.
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