Cursed by Aphrodite

My Lady, My Lord - Katharine Ashe

This historical romance would’ve been a standard romantic fare if not for a slight paranormal twist, which made the story utterly original. The heroes, Corinna and Ian, are opposites in every way. She is an educated, sharp-tongued bluestocking. He is a horse- and women-loving hedonist. Both are rich, the lucky bastards. Their families’ estates in England neighbor each other, and since childhood, they quarreled bitterly whenever they met.

One day, they met at a Greek art show, and the statue of the goddess Aphrodite played a trick on them both. Now, they must find a way to reverse the goddess’s cruel joke and in the process learn a lot about each other’s true identities behind the society masks. They might even reconcile with each other or become friends.

Like many romances, this one starts with the protagonists disliking each other. There is no instant lust there. The heroes grow to love each other gradually, through doubts and detours, and I like the author’s realistic approach.

The writing is clear and often humorous, especially in the first half of the book, while Corinna and Ian battle the goddess’s curse. The plot moves pretty fast, plunging the heroes into one escapade after another, making for an absorbing reading experience. Both leading characters are well defined and likable, and I cared for them both, but the roots of their deep initial antipathy escaped me no matter how many back stories and flashbacks the author inserted into her narrative.

Why do they hate each other so much? And why do they have to act on that hatred? They share nothing, they socialize in different circles, and they don’t compete for the same prize. Another question: if their mutual dislike is as profound as they show, why do they talk to each other at all? In my experience, when people dislike someone they ignore that person. Trading insults is a usual practice between friends, not enemies. Icy silence is much more usual between enemies.

This one objection nagged me all the way through the book and spoiled the pleasure of reading this otherwise fine romantic tale. That’s why 4 stars instead of 5.