Not a bad novel, but also fairly dull overall. I like Emma Holly's writing, and it demonstrates a skillful knack for imagery. Her settings are also good, and much better than most romance novelists. The characters aren't bad either, Holly's hero Edward is moderately believable, and her heroine isn't childish and even funny at times. I found the supporting cast of characters surprisingly fun. Neither hero nor heroine really stood apart from romance archetypes however, because once again, you have the sexually-experienced, chiseled hero igniting an innocent virgin's passion, where every touch melts and every dark look inflames. I found Holly's references to Edward's size egregious. Then again, maybe I shouldn't be surprised by a virgin's curiosity over such intimacies in the male anatomy. Although known for sensuality, I thought Holly's "love" scenes were flat. In fact, in terms of unadulterated carnal sensuality, the one Sylvia Day book I read sizzles much, much more.
Similar to Tarr's VANQUISHED, Holly's BEYOND INNOCENCE takes place in Victorian England. The similarity ends there however. Whereas VANQUISHED predicates a dark intensity closely tied to the historical suffrage movement, BEYOND INNOCENCE settles on a more lighter tone solely portraying an innocent virgin's journey to discover passion. It took me a while to finish the 295-page BEYOND INNOCENCE, primarily because of my apathy and disinterest.
The Story, possible SPOILERS.
The Earl of Greystowe Edward Burbrooke wishes to protect his younger brother Freddie from scandal. Evidently, someone walked in on Freddie and a footman. The taciturn, cold Edward nourished little Freddie since they were little boys and after their father and mother passes away, Edward happily assumes a parent's responsibilities towards Freddie. Convinced Freddie will find love with the right, pretty woman, Edwards hunts for this woman. Edward's solicitor Mr. Bowry brings to Edward's attention Miss Florence Fairleigh, a pretty, poor country girl wishing to marry a nice gentleman. Realizing she lacks an aristocratic background and estates, Florence is practical and only wishes a gentleman who's kind to her, a possible younger son or a tradesman. She has no requirements for love.
Edward immediately lusts for Florence after laying his sights on her for the first time. Hoping Florence will incite his brother's desires, Edward arranges Florence to have a formal season and coming-out. Edward orders his brother to woo Florence into marriage thereby saving his brother's reputation.
The book then fractures and splinters as the forbidden nature of Edward & Florence's liaison seem to fuel their attractions. When another rumor of Freddie departing a gay club surfaces, Edward takes everyone back to his country seat at Greystowe. At Greystowe, Freddie injures his leg and Edward and Florence share more time together.
I don't quite understand the reasoning which finally prompts Edward to marry Florence. Florence makes a comment about marrying Edward's brother Freddie while having Edward's children, and Edward thinks she must truly love to remotely consider something like that. And then he comes to grips with his own love for Florence and decides to marry her. That was weird and icky. So basically, Edward finally deciding to marry Florence depended on Florence considering having Edward's babies while married to Edward's brother Freddie?
While Edward lusts for Florence and admits to himself that he loves her, he persists his quest to "save" his brother by marrying Florence and Freddie. The entire notion was dumb. This kind of forbidden "love" didn't make it romantic, and it certainly wasn't anymore sensual. Then, when Freddie leaves with the steward, it's like Edward forgets his obstinate resolve to marry Freddie and Florence. Edward pursues Florence instead.
I thought BEYOND INNOCENCE was banal, though Emma Holly's writing was good and the characters did not annoy me.