A Love by Any Measure
Genres/Themes: historical romance, epic drama, social class differences
Author: Killian McRae
Fans of sprawling, epic romances are bound to love this book. I loved the emotional buildup of the first half, but had trouble buying into the plot developments of the second. It's not for the impatient, nor for those who prefer that their main characters be without deep flaws and baggage. But by golly, it's a fascinating story.
Book Description (via Goodreads):
August Grayson has secretly dreamt of the girl living on his family’s Irish estate since childhoods spent together in Killarney. Now a proper Lord of the British Empire, he knows that Maeve could never be more than just a distant fantasy. Still, if only...
Maeve O’Connor owns nothing in this world but her good name, which proves just enough to win a proposal for a marriage of convenience to a good, Irish lad. Until the wedding, however, she’s in dire straits. Rent on the cottage she and her father share is due, but there simply isn’t the money to pay. Driven to desperation, Maeve hopes Lord Grayson, her childhood-chum-turned-dashing-English-rogue, will prove lenient when she comes seeking clemency.
The temptation presented proves too much, and August offers Maeve a compromise: should she permit him twice as long on each succeeding visit to do whatever he wishes in pursuit of his pleasure, he will consider her rent paid. Starting with a mere five seconds, pulses soon out race the ticking clock, as August’s desires become Maeve’s own. Passion blinds them to the challenges closing in on both the Irish and English fronts, threatening to destroy the love they’ve discovered.
Working to bridge that which divides them, tempting fate with each stolen kiss, and torn between desire and obligation, Maeve and August must strive to overcome all and find a love by any measure...
I'm kind of in awe of Killian McRae. How she comes up with her book concepts, I don't know. But she's definitely adept at taking a simple premise and making it into something epic. She did it in her debut novel, 12.21.12 (the title of which some give a clue about the topic). Here in A Love by Any Measure, she takes the idea of a single bargain between two people, and slaps some legs on that puppy to take it across many years and many locations. Don't be fooled by the fact that there's only a line or so at the end of the blurb above that hints at complex intrigue. All told, this book is nothing if not epic.
Having a basic familiarity with Irish history during the latter half of the 19th century, while not required, provides some added import to the motivations and behaviors of the book's characters. Even without prior knowledge of the historical events, it's very clear that identity and social standing had very special importance to people of this era, for various reasons. And it's because of the status and identity that August Greyson begins the whole thread of his bargain with Maeve O'Connor.
August and Maeve's interactions in the first section of this book are positively addictive. Maeve detests the man, and yet she's drawn to him. August seems like a right jackass for even starting his agreement, and while his narrative perspective is not revealed until well into the book, his motivations are so complex, his feelings much more than might be initially assumed. I loved the interplay between the two, which lived somewhere on that thin line between love, anger, and lust. Quite compelling, emotionally turbulent stuff.
I very much appreciated that it was difficult to guess what might come next. Just when an expectation was starting to form, it'd be blown away by some unseen plot development. In the first half of the book, such twists grabbed be and kept me glued to the page. I must admit, however, that some of those same types of developments in the second half of the book made be a bit exasperated more than anything else. ^_^
As a matter of fact, I'd mentally separated the book into two halves. Whereas the first half feels more intimate and character-based, on a smaller scale and arguably more realistic, the second half is very much a huge, sensational tale. (Think The Matrix as compared to The Matrix Revolutions.) Given the relative realism of the first section, the second felt a bit theatrical, and I had trouble buying into the story and accepting that the characters would behave they did. The second half also has what I like to call "Tarantino-style" plot development; punchline first, explanation much later. (If you've seen the film Pulp Fiction, you'll know what I mean. ^_^) As such, it required a good dose of patience to get through. All told, if someone were to tell me that the two halves of A Love were in fact different books, I'd believe them in a minute.
I wouldn't count the aforementioned reservations as a reason not the read the book, however. I'd simply say that one should be patient enough to let the story unfold as it does. Overall, it's a touching and very powerful love story. It's got so much range that one is bound to be caught in some part of its spell.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I really liked it."
I thought the book trailer was pretty neat. Check it out below: