Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kati & CJ's Ponderings on tension in Brockway's All Through the Night

Kati (of Katidom!): All Through the Night by Connie Brockway is in my Top 10 favorite romance novels of all time. So, I was thrilled when CJ agreed to read it and blog about it with me.

Carolyn: I’m really thrilled we’re doing this, too, Kati. What a fabulous read, and even better, it’s one of those books that improves when you think about it afterwards, so I’m really excited to take a closer look with you. It’s no wonder this is one of your all-time faves.

Le book blurb:
A woman compelled. . .
In the glittering world of Regency England, Anne Wilder played a dangerous game. A widowed lady by day, by night she became a masked thief preying on society's elite. She roved high above London's black rooftops, compelled by phantoms from her past to take ever greater risks. Until her restless spirit led her into Colonel Jack Seward's trap. . . where seduction was her only way out.
A man obsessed. . .
She'd played him for a fool, taking advantage of his hungry response to escape from his clutches. But as Jack hunted for his thief, his heart fell captive to a self-possessed widow. Torn between illicit passion and tender love, Jack is duty-bound to capture the audacious criminal, even if it means ripping society apart to do so. Now he stalked her through the ton, never realizing the lovely widow who captured his heart was the same woman who roused his most violent passions.
A love that defied king and country. . .
~Warning: Spoilers abound in all areas EXCEPT area 1 and area 3~
Kati: CJ, what makes ATTN so successful for me is the tension throughout the book. There are so many varieties!
1. Colonel Jack Seward and his father, Lord Jamison

Kati: First: the tension between our wily hero, Colonel Jack Seward and his father, Lord Jamison. You see, Jack is a bastard. Raised in a workhouse, and plucked by Lord Jamison when he discovered he couldn’t have children, Jack, who was seven at the time, and Lord Jamison strike a horrible bargain. Jack will be taken from the only life he’s known, one of poverty, and Lord Jamison will shape Jack into his very own weapon. Jack is educated and bought a commission in the military, where he has tremendous success and ends up working for the war department.
The thing is, there is no love between Lord Jamison and Jack. Jack knows his duty, and does it without complaint, but he also understands that there is no love lost between the two of them, and that Jamison will do anything to get what he wants. In this case, it’s a letter that was in a box, stolen by the Wrexhall Wraith. Jamison doesn’t just task Jack with getting the letter back, but also with capturing the Wraith and killing the thief post haste.
Carolyn: Agreed - the tension is so rich in this relationship. What especially made things dramatic for me was that this was the shadow of a father/son relationship. Jamison is such a monster for shaping a child to his dark means, yet part of me felt like somewhere deep inside, Jamison had to want a son of his own, and Jack Seward surely longed for a father. I felt so much pain there right under the surface here. I agree that there is no love here, but I think there is pain and longing covered over by hate and anger. For example, I’m thinking of Jamison’s anger at Jack’s rejection of his control. And Jack Seward, burying his vulnerability. I think it connects to what you say later, that Jack wants the Wraith to “pay for introducing in him more lust and attraction than he’s ever felt.”
2. Anne and Matthew Wilder
Kati: Second, the tension between Anne and her practically sainted dead husband. You see Anne was a bit of a hoyden when she and Matthew Wilder wed. He was single minded in his pursuit of her, and their marriage was one that the ton envied as a love match. Since Matthew’s death, Anne is a changed woman. She’s calmer and has invested much of herself and her energies into soliciting funds for her home for injured soldiers. Anne founded the home after Matthew led the men under his command into an ill advised battle where many were killed or maimed.
Only Anne knows that Matthew was a much more selfish individual than anyone in society knows. He’s been practically canonized in public, and each time someone speaks positively of Matthew, Anne is wrenched by guilt that she didn’t love him enough, that their relationship isn’t what everyone thought it was.
Carolyn: I think I mentioned to you that one of the things I loved was how Brockway let the reader’s understanding of Matthew dawn alongside Anne’s - that he was actually a sort of twisted, controlling, emotionally abusive husband who made Anne feel horrible all the time for not loving him enough. “What’s the deal with Matthew” is like this little mystery at the center of the book that created great tension.
Also, for me it was a really cool parallel to Jack and Jamison’s supposed father/son relationship. A marriage that was twisted instead of loving. And the pain of that, with endless ripple effects. And it made Anne hate herself.
3. Anne and Society
Kati: Third: The tension between Anne and society. Anne has a position as the chaperone for her hoydenish niece, Sophia, who spends as much time flirting and using bad judgment as she does circulating in society. Anne uses that position to solicit support for the home for soldiers. Only Anne knows that many members of society pledge support for the home, but then renege on those pledges. It makes Anne a bit of an outcast in society. People are uncomfortable around her.
Carolyn: Oh, such a good point - people are definitely uncomfortable around Anne. it’s really a great tension because there is so much that’s unspoken in her interactions with people at these parties. A big elephant in the room wherever she goes. Weirdly, it just occurred to me that this is another kind of relationship where falseness creates tension - those people reneging on their pledges, as you point out. And then Anne, as Wraith, works to make them good for their word!
4. Jack and the Wrexhall Wraith
Kati: Fourth: The tension between Jack and the Wrexhall Wraith. Chapter one opens with the Wraith in the midst of a robbery and being caught by Colonel Seward. “No joy there, I’m afraid.” Jack tells the thief. The thief immediately realizes that there is only one thing to do. Take Jack unawares. How? The thief has an ace in the hole. Jack is justifiably mistrusting of the thief. The thief invites Jack to pat him down to ensure himself that he isn’t carrying any weapons.
“I believe I will, at that,” Seward murmured, pulling the black and wool-clad figure against his hard chest and securing his wrists. Quickly and efficiently he swept his free hand down over the thief’s should and flanks, hips, thought and legs. He moved back up, his touch passing lightly over the thief’s chest.
He stopped, pale eyes gleaming with sudden intensity, and quickly jerked the slight body forward by the belt. His hand dipped down, clamping hard on the juncture between the legs in a touch both violently intimate and absolutely impersonal.
“My God,” Seward said, dropping his one hand as if burned, though the other still clenched the belt, “you’re a woman.”
Kati: Thus begins a cat and mouse game. The Wraith tempting, teasing Jack, evincing in him an immediate sense of ownership, but more than that, attraction. Jack will hunt down and capture Wrexhall’s Wraith. And make her pay for introducing in him more lust and attraction than he’s ever felt.
Carolyn: Firstly, can I just say you have chosen excellent excerpts? Ahem. Yeah, the tension here was so delicious, and even dangerous. Jack needed to get her, needed her in a way. As the Wraith, Anne brought out a kind of visceral humanity in Jack that was both horrifying and compelling to him—and to Anne as well. And she had this drive to be the Wraith. I saw the Anne-as-Wraith/Jack interaction as almost the flip side of the Jack/Jamison and Anne/Matthew stuff. Anne out being wild instead of the perfect widow, and Jack being an unruly human, instead of a cool operative.
5. Colonel Jack Seward and Mrs. Anne Wilder
Kati: Fifth: The tension between Colonel Jack Seward and Mrs. Anne Wilder. As Jack gets to know Anne, he realizes that she is his feminine ideal. She’s smart, possessed of a very sharp wit, and he is immediately attracted. Overwhelmingly so. He contrives to put himself in her path over and over, tempting himself and unknowingly, her. She feels the attraction too, but of course, Anne knows what Jack does not. That she is, in fact, Wrexhall’s Wraith. And the cat and mouse game that she is playing with him is more dangerous than he can ever know.
Carolyn: Hello. This cat and mouse game was one of the funnest lurve obstacles I’ve ever encountered in a historical!
Kati: Every encounter between Jack and Anne/the Wraith oozes tension. As the Wraith, Anne is reckless, tempting him over and over culminating in a scene where she ties him to a chair and seduces him by touch and then she flees, after Jack is forced to swing her to safety. As the widow, Anne is proper and demure, and everything Jack thinks he wants. There is awkwardness between them after Jack presses what he think is an unwanted advance upon the widow Wilder. It is at a ball when she finds herself in his arms and terrified that he’ll realize her secret.
Carolyn: You were like, did you read the chair scene yet? LOL. So great. And here below, omg, again you’ve chosen such a fine excerpt, Kati!
She averted her face, unwilling to meet his gaze, and after the first few strains of music, she made no attempt to keep her artificial smile on her lips. Indeed, they trembled and lost all hint of pleasure, mirroring her distress far too clearly. They had been soft beneath his kiss, soft and tender and, for the space of a heartbeat, yielding.
He wanted her. He wanted her as much, no, more than he wanted the thief. Which was impossible.
Pain washed through him, pricking him with the knowledge of his inconstancy. He pulled her nearer. Her gave flickered to and from his face and she recoiled from his embrace.
He would not let her. He would never hold her again, never have her in his arms, never touch her, and he would not-not for manners’ sake, not for her sake, not for his own peace – let her rob him of even one short moment. [….]
He closed his eyes and pulled her closer still and breathed deeply. She smelled warm and angry and clean, devoid of any masking properties of perfume or soap –
His eyes opened slowly, like a man who knows he will witness some horror. His breath grew shallow. Strength and passion, no betraying scent. Dear God, no. […]
Jack’s body shook. He had never been closer to losing every aspect of self-control. How fortunate for her that they were not alone. Because, just at this moment, he was not at all certain that he wouldn’t have killed her.
He grasped her shoulders and stared down at her. She gazed up at his defiantly, with eyes lit up like a midnight pantheon of dying stars.
“My thief,” he said.
Carolyn: What a moment this was! Leading up to it, I felt so bad when Jack thought Anne didn’t like him. Because again, I saw Jack as a man in so much pain, like he’s unlovable. And Anne felt like that, too. So the tension just cranked higher and higher when they’d meet as their different selves, culminating here in this scene. And wow, wasn’t it great that he catches her mostly by smell? I was actually a little surprised he didn’t recognize her eyes during the chair scene, but I rolled with it.
Kati: There are so many aspects of this book that work for me. The “mystery” part of the book is fully integrated into the romance. The romance itself is full of unexpected turns and strongly built relationships between the characters. But it is the tension that Brockway creates between almost every character that makes All Through the Night one of my all time favorite romances.
Carolyn: So right, it’s not like a bunch of separate items - everything is integrated, and the tension just crackles across every single relationship! I need to read more Brockway. This totally erases the Black Jewels caper! LOL. Thanks for doing this, Kati!
You can visit Kati anytime over at her blog, Katidom!
Images from Wikimedia: Boy and Rabbit by Sir Henry Raeburn; Woman: Hayez, Francesco Porträt der Antonietta Vitali Sola. Victoria Memorial, London Author: F. Feldhofer


Kati said...

Yay! And we're in business. Thanks for doing this with me, CJ! I know you must have been a bit nervous when I suggested ATTN, I'm so glad you read and enjoyed it!

Now you have to read My Dearest Enemy by Brockway. It's sublime in a whole different way! ;o)

Carolyn Crane said...

No, thank YOU!! This was fun, and I wasn't nervous! Oh, wouldn't it have been horrible if I'd hated it? Luckily, no virginal captives or man-parts torture devices here. LOL. I'm so onto My Dearest Enemy.

Jill D. said...

Wow ladies, I am super duper impressed with your insight into this book. I read it a couple of years ago and I don't remember nearly the details that you too have written about. It makes me want to go back and experience it all over again. Fabulous job!

Christine said...

What a fantastic discussion. To be honest, I was sold on the book simply after reading the excerpt, but your discussion has me downright anxious to read this now. Thanks for the rec!

Carolyn Crane said...

Jill: Hey, thanks! I could totally see rereading this one.

Christine: Oh noooo! You just reminded me I forgot to put up my spoilers warning. So sorry!! I hope not too much was given away. *g* I think you'd like this.

Christine said...

Don't worry, Carolyn, I didn't think the discussion was spoilerish at all.

Leslie said...

It's been years since I read Brockway but now I've got an itch to read her. You've made this sound wonderful! I love the fact that the heroine is the thief. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

C: whew!

Leslie: Have you read this one? It's quite good! Which Brockway was your fave??

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

The chair scene is one of the most scorching and erotic scenes I've read in a book.

I am dying for a sequel. This is one of the best books, romance or otherwise, I have ever read.

Chris said...

Heh, you know me and historicals. :)

Leslie said...

I haven't read All Through the Night and now that Katiebabs mentioned the "chair scene" I'm even more interested. :D The Brockway I remember loving was As You Desire. Wonderful couple - Dizzy and Harry.

Tumperkin said...

Generally I'm not a fan of duelling reviews but this was really good.

I love this book for the last sentence.

Lori said...

What a fabulous discussion! This sounds right up my alley. Putting it on the list...

Kati said...

Oh Tumperkin, me too! Such a *sigh*-worthy ending, isn't it?

Leslie - I hope you'll give it a try. It's definitely darker than some of her other historicals, but the writing is stupendous and the characters are both so compelling. I really hope you'll enjoy it if you do try.

Jill D. - Thanks for the compliments. CJ makes everyone look good. ;o)

Christine - This book is SO up your alley, girl! You'd love it, I think.

KB - You know you and I share alot of the same tastes, so it's no surprise to me that you love this book.

Anonymous said...

this just has my name written alllll over it! no seriously! i love the sound of ATtN, how have i not read this already? or anything else by brockway. i will rectify this immediately.

there is some other book where the heroine is a theif that is tickling the back of my brain that i loved but i can't remember which it was. green cover? maybe she had green eyes? or she stole emeralds. sigh.

great post ladies!

Christine said...

lustyreader, I believe you are thinking of The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe, the first book in her Drakon Series. I drew the same connection when I read this book discussion, and I, too, LOVE that Abe story.

Disappointingly, none of my local libraries have All Through the Night, so I will have to get my hands on it through different means.

Kati said...


Pssst...Christine. I'll bet you your local book pimp has it. In fact, I'd bet actual money on it. I'm just sayin'.

Charlotte - Remind me and I'll bring it to you next time we do drinks. ;o)

Christine said...


I was thinking the same thing. Maybe my hint wasn't exactly clear. tee hee ;)

orannia said...

I was madly trying to avoid spoilers, so have only read parts of the review but...WOW ladies! You sure know how to suck one in to wanting to read a book ASAP!

*races off to check the library's catalogue*

Carolyn Crane said...

Leslie & KB: Yesss, the chair scene!!

Chris: you are missing the chair scene!!

T: But you do duelling reviews sometimes! Okay, I don't even remember the last sentence. Now I have to go checkj.

Lori: You haven't read it either? I think you would like it.

Lusty - also, I think Suzanne Enoch's cat bugler, Samantha Jellico has green eyes, but that's contemp.

Orannia: I hope they have it!!

azteclady said...

I hate spoilers... which means I had to skip a helluva lot of this post--but now I have yet another book in my GETASAPANDREADIMMEDIATELYAFTER list.

Thanks, ladies.

Anonymous said...

What a great discussion. Now, I need to get the book.

I have an award for you, by the way.