Miss Bates made the mistake of assuming that Kate Hewitt was an HP author who ran to trope. And what a lovely comeuppance for MissB! About the only thing HP-typical of Hewitt’s romance is the ho-hum title (the cover, OTOH, is lovely, with its cool blues and greens). Miss Bates hadn’t read far before it dawned that Hewitt was rocking classic gothic conventions. In A Di Sione For the Greek’s Pleasure, Hewitt nods to Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Du Maurier’s Rebecca, though it’s only fair to say the housekeeper is more benign, indifferent matchmaker than nut-bar obsessive. Hermetic, agoraphobic heroine, Natalia Di Sione, braves the world beyond her grandfather’s sequestered Long Island estate (where she’s lived and created art for eight years) to travel to Greece in pursuit of locating a book her dying grandfather is obsessed with possessing again. Still hurting from her parents’ loss when she was a child and a traumatic teen-age experience, Natalia wouldn’t easily leave her safe environment. Her grandfather’s precious book, however, resides with one tormented, widowed Greek billionaire, Angelos Menas. Resisting panic attacks the entire way, looking “pale but resolute,” Talia walks in on Angelos as he tries to hire the umpteenth nanny for Sofia, his scarred eight-year-old daughter. When Sofia takes to Talia, Angelos hires her. Talia, in turn, accepts his grudging offer in hopes she’ll be closer to finding her grand-father’s precious book.
Hewitt sets up her Eyre-ish vibe by having a surly (my favourite!) cold, isolated, and mysterious hero. Moreover, he’s particularly grumpy and disapproving towards Talia. Talia is whisked to his island paradise, Kallos, (adding the Thornfield-like feel) on the grace of Sofia’s liking. It’s funny and trope-delicious that Angelos frowns a lot and expresses censure and disapproval of Talia. MissB. loved his judgement of post-travel Talia: “Angelos frowned at the sight of her dishevelment.” Hewitt, in turn, and in lovely contrast to Angelos, creates a heroine who, despite fear and anxiety, gives as good as she gets. Talia, too, can judge Angelos: “The man had no sense of humour … No sense of compassion or friendliness or sensitivity. He was a machine. A robot. A drone … ” Setting up this forced-togetherness premise, then adding initial dislike to the romance-recipe makes for compelling dialogue:
“Sofia seems to have formed some kind of attachment to you. But I must confess, in our short acquaintance, you have not recommended yourself to me, Miss Di Sione.”
“Talia. You have in fact seemed extraordinarily short-sighted and, dare I say it, flighty -”
Miss Bates guffawed: it’s been a while since a hero accused a heroine of being “flighty.” And this is what makes Hewitt charming: she can add the tropes and formal dialogue of an Eyre to the classic HP’s idyllic setting, moneyed, classic Mediterranean hero, and ingenue, mouthy heroine.
Having established antipathy, Hewitt then develops a growing liking between Angelos and Talia (adding to the irresistible physical attraction that accompanies the HP-couple). Moreover, MissB. loved that Hewitt kept the love scenes at bay for as long as she did. Instead, she worked on her couple getting to know each other and liking each other, grudgingly, surprisingly. To witness, Angelos: “At first he hadn’t liked Talia’s prying questions, but then part of him had. Part of him had been glad to share something of who he was, to be honest and open with another person” and Miss Bates’s favourite scene after-math: “It had felt amazingly good to hold a woman after so long, to comfort a woman, to be the person she needed in a crisis. He needed to be needed. He’d craved being the comforter and protector, being enough.” And, witness Talia’s response to being with Angelos and Sofia: “But now, with a taste of what it felt like to truly live again, to feel excitement and happiness and desire, Talia knew … She’d been living a half-life without realising it, telling herself it was enough.” (Please note the wonderful, nuanced, and contrasting use of the word “enough.”) The singular love scene, when it arrives, is the culmination of the natural course of mutual affection, understanding, compassion, and respect.
When the betrayal’s dark moment comes to pass, Hewitt drops the ball. It is abrupt, cruel, and out of character. This narrative weakness may be attributed to the HP’s length? Surely, such an adept romance writer could’ve handled it better? Nevertheless, Hewitt does rock the internal character revelation, even in her weakened betrayal moment: “[Angelos] wanted her very badly indeed. And even more alarmingly, he liked her. He liked her sense of humour and her gentleness with Sofia, her understanding and her courage and her kindness.” In turn, hurt and rejected, Talia thinks about how much she and Angelos like each other, not how much they have the hots for each other: “She was so painfully, horribly stupid, to think Angelos cared about her, to demand he give a fledgling relationship between them a chance, when he obviously had no interest or intention of doing so. I think we like each other. What was she, in seventh grade?” Talia humbles herself before Angelos, not for his magic-touch, but for his affection and caring. Miss Bates would argue, no matter how hot, cold, cool, or tepid the romance writer’s and reader’s love-scene tastes run, this is the measure of what makes a romance romantic. (And, Hewitt writes magnificent chin: “Her eyes glittered with golden-green fury and she jutted her chin at a proud, stubborn angle.” Oh, the heroine’s “jutting” chin … ❤ ) Misses Bates and Austen loved Hewitt’s A Di Sione For the Greek’s Pleasure and would say within it, “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.
Kate Hewitt’s A Di Sione For the Greek’s Pleasure is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in December 2016 and may be found at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.