Angela Stanhope is a titled lady, and Cameron Monroe is her family's stable boy. They were friends since childhood, but as they became older, love began to blossom between them. One night during a secret rendezvous, they were caught kissing by Angela's controlling grandfather, who beats Cam for daring to touch a lady. He also locks Angela in her room and insists that she agree to marry one of her suitors, Lord Dunstan, otherwise he will frame Cam for stealing a family heirloom and have him sent him to prison. Angela very reluctantly agrees to the marriage to save Cam, but when she tries to explain the situation to him later, he is too hurt to listen. Eventually, Cam moves to the United States, where over the years he is able to amass a fortune through hard work and wise business investments. Now, he has returned to England to seek revenge on the family that wronged him, and have the one thing he has always wanted, Angela.
For four years, Angela has been living a quiet existence at her family's country estate following her scandalous divorce from Lord Dunstan. After the terrible abuse she suffered at Dunstan's hands, she has no wish to ever marry again and subject herself to the control of a man. When an American stranger visits the estate, with a proposition that she marry his employer, Angela is stunned. She immediately refuses, but it seems that the mysterious employer is not above a little blackmail to get what he wants. He has acquired a controlling interest in the Stanhope business ventures and has threatened to shut down operations, leaving the family penniless, if his demands are not met. Angela finally agrees to meet the man, and is utterly shocked to discover he is her former love, Cam. Now quite angry with the man she once cared for deeply, Angela flatly refuses his proposal, but then Cam threatens to reveal some very scandalous information against her brother. Even still Angela's distaste for marriage is so strong that she cannot bring herself to accept, until Dunstan pays an unexpected visit. Then her fears and a desire to get back at Dunstan for all his years of torment, lead her to impulsively accept, with the agreement that it will be a marriage in name only.
Although he agreed, Cam is not satisfied with this arrangement, but when Angela strongly rebuffs all his advances, he believes that she thinks him unworthy. For the most part, Angela does not correct his assumptions, nor will she reveal to him the source of her nightmares. When Angela's maid relates to Cam the truth about what happened the night that he and Angela were separated and the sacrifice Angela made for him, Cam is thunderstruck. He apologizes profusely for everything he has done to get her to marry him and sets about trying to rekindle Angela's affections. In the meantime, Cam is shot while surveying the estate lands, leaving him and his assistant presuming that someone, perhaps a Stanhope, is trying to kill him. To complicate things further, Cam has been baffled his entire life by his mother's reticence about his father's identity. On Angela's suggestion, they begin an investigation to ascertain Cam's true parentage, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, more mysterious attacks begin to occur, which may threaten the tentative bond of love that the couple have rediscovered in each other's arms.
I really enjoy reunion stories and Impulse fits the bill with a hero and heroine who fell deeply in love at a young age, only to be separated by the machinations of others and then rekindle that love later in life. I am also a fan of stories in which characters fall in love in spite of differences in social standing or class. Again Impulse delivers with not just one, but three couples who defied the conventions of their time. In these respects, this book was very appealing and had great potential, but ultimately fell rather flat for me. Since Cam and Angela had been separated for thirteen years, yet had obviously never really stopped loving each other, I expected an emotion-laden reunion which did not fully materialize. Likewise, since Angela had suffered horrible abuse at the hands of her first husband, I would have expected more deeply-felt emotions from her surrounding these experiences, but again, this became another lost opportunity in my opinion. Because of this emotional disconnect between the characters and the reader, as well as among the characters themselves, the story just did not move me in the way that others have. I believe this may have been the result of incomplete character development. Sometimes the characters seemed uneven, and because of this I was, at times, unable to fully understand their reactions and motivations. I also felt that the narrative and particularly the dialog were sometimes a bit wordy. Rather than a back and forth exchange between characters, one character's lines might encompass a full half page, basically telling their own narrative. Everything was spelled out and simply too pat, leaving me with the feeling that the story was being spoon-fed to me. I much prefer a writing style that has more nuances and respects the reader's intelligence to figure things out for themselves. Ultimately, I believe that these things are what led to a lack of depth in both characters and story-telling.
For the most part, I found the characters to be likable if not entirely relateable. Cam was a kind and considerate hero, and Angela was strong and courageous. However, as I mentioned earlier, they just sometimes seemed to lack the proper balance. Cam was obviously a very intelligent man to have made his fortune in America and then make the necessary investments to place the Stanhope family in a precarious enough position to get what he wanted, but yet he seemed rather dense when it came to discerning why Angela didn't wish to marry him and/or share his bed. Until she finally related the whole sordid story to him, he thought that she hated him or in some way found him distasteful because of his lower social status, even when she told him that wasn't the case. I thought that this made him seem rather self-centered early on, yet after Angela told him the truth, he became extremely selfless. One plot point from Angela's perspective that seemed to lack realism was that she barely even batted an eyelash when her brother confessed to being bisexual. While I'm all for unconditional love, it just seemed incredibly unusual that someone in that time period would have been so easily and quickly accepting of that revelation, especially considering that there was implied infidelity as well. This was a fairly minor thing though. The major difficulty I had with Angela was believing that a woman who had been so severely used and abused by a man would even possess sufficient confidence to act as boldly as she did during Cam's "experiment" to help her overcome her fears. I also thought the plot lacked believability in that it only took two and half days of "experimenting" for her to become fear-free and thoroughly enjoy lovemaking. While I realize that no 400-page novel can fully and realistically do justice to the issues facing a person who is recovering from abuse, I've definitely seen it done with much more credibility. One thing I can say is that the "experiment" was definitely a unique way to try to accomplish this and made for some rather steamy love scenes. While I could appreciate Cam's selflessness in doing this for Angela, in the end, to me, the scenes just seemed a little out of place for this type of story. I would have found these scenes much more enjoyable in a different plot and/or setting.
Impulse had some interesting secondary characters with something of a two-for-one romance between Cam's assistant, Jason, and Angela's lady's maid, Kate. While I thought that they were both sweet and likable characters, they too lacked depth in their relationship. Kate had not even been particularly attracted to Jason when they first met, and aside from one scene where he treated her kindly and as his equal, I had a hard time putting my finger on when or why they really started caring for each other. A lot of their interactions took place off canvas though, so perhaps the reader was just supposed to fill in the blanks. However, there just wasn't enough information on the canvass to lead me to fully care about them. One thing I did like about the story was the mystery surrounding Cam's parentage. While some readers may find light mysteries like this easy to solve, I rarely do, so this is one aspect of the book that for the most part held my attention. In the end, I was somewhat surprised by the resolution to this mystery, but what happened thereafter was somewhat predictable and unfortunately still lacking in depth.
I found that Impulse bore a great deal of similarity to Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas in both plot points and character types. In fact, they are so similar, I experienced a few moments of deja vu. The abuse portion of the plot was also quite similar to Night Fire by Catherine Coulter. In my opinion though, these two books were more enjoyable reads with stronger writing. As a warning to sensitive readers, this book contains rather graphic descriptions of the sexual abuse suffered by the heroine at the hands of her first husband. Since I was not fully emotionally engaged in the story, it did not particularly bother me, but others may find it disturbing. However, I did think that the descriptions could have been toned down a bit without affecting the overall plot. Since Impulse was the first novel I have read by Candace Camp, I cannot really say if the weaknesses I perceived were inherent in her writing style or if it was just a peculiarity of this particular book. In spite of it's downsides though, I found the story to be enjoyable enough to call it a worthwhile read, especially if you are an established fan of Ms. Camp, and I will keep an open mind about reading other books by her in the future.
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