TBR Challenge: “After Innocence” By Brenda Joyce

17 Jun


Info: TBR Challenge 2009
Theme for the month: tortured hero/heroine
In my TBR pile since: March 2007

Joyce, Brenda - After Innocence
Genre: Romance / Historical
Published: Avon Books, 2006 (1994)

Series: “Delanza” series #2

Availability: still available

Monthly theme?: not all that much
Why I bought this novel: no idea, probably saw it recommended somewhere

The back blurb:

“Estranged from society, wealthy and beautiful artist Sofie O’Neil finds solace in her private world. She longs just once to taste a forbidden love-to follow the dangerous diamond smuggler Edward Delanza to paradise. But Edward wants far more from the innocent young heiress than a brief and passing encounter. For he is determined to heal her and possess her now …and for all time.”

The story in After Innocence is divided into three parts. I liked the first part best. For some time, I even thought I’d found another really good novel. But sadly, part two and three didn’t live up to what I saw as the promise of the first part.

The first time Sofie and Edward see each other is on a beach. They don’t meet, Sofie just sees Edward together with a woman and Edward sees Sofie watching him with the woman. And when before that he was bored and disinclined to follow the woman’s invitation for a rough round of sandy sex, after he sees Sofie spying, he is rather willing though he realizes he performs more for Sofie than the woman and he berates himself for spoiling an innocent because that is what Sofie obviously is.

Sofie and Edward meet for real later that day in Sofie’s home. Edward is a house guest for the weekend. He’s devastatingly handsome, has a roguish and dangerous reputation, and all the women are panting after him. Sofie is thought plain, socially inept and some kind of social pariah because of her passion for painting and her (slight) limp. Edward feels bad about what he let Sofie see and he sets out to draw her out, make her realize her potential and enjoy life when he witnesses the cruelty and neglect all the other people display.

Sofie’s mother is strongly protective of Sofie and against Sophie having anything to do with Edward. She makes Edward leave the house party when she perceives him a danger to her daughter. But Sofie and Edward meet in New York and Edward befriends Sofie. Of course, he gets snared in his own scheme when he discovers how strong the attraction between them really is and that Sofie hides an interesting and unconventional personality. And Sofie, well, she discovers that even though she never thought of marriage (her painting and her limp) she can want a man after all.

The first part of the novel is about Sofie discovering a passion other than painting though she’s confused about what Edward wants: be a friend or be a lover? Edward wants to be a friend to Sofie, not her lover. In his view, he soiled her innocence enough already with that stint on the beach. All her life, Sofie’s mother constantly put Sofie down and called her a cripple. Now she tells her that Edward could and would never be faithful, and that he’s after only one thing. It’s a wonder that Sofie is able to find out what she wants. And if it means becoming a lover rather than a wife, so be it.

As I said, I really enjoyed reading this first part – Sofie’s and Edward’s dance around each other, the strong attraction between them getting the better of Edward again and again, Sofie discovering herself, her growing independence of and rejection of her mother’s views in all things. Sofie might be innocent but she’s also level-headed (in the first part) and not just starry-eyed in love with Edward.

But part two and three seemed weaker and weaker to me. Overall, they got bogged down by the conflict between Sofie and Edward which basically is a big misunderstanding with all its weaknesses, annoyances, and yes, strengths (though I think it’s difficult to pull them off without triggering the weaknesses and annoyances of this conflict). Weakness, because it’s a big misunderstanding that a short conversation – heck a few sentences would suffice – could clear up. Strengths because all that pride makes for high drama. Annoyances because several times you see sentences that with just a few words more could resolve the whole conflict. Throw in Edward whose brain short-circuits whenever he sees Sofie with another man (“you slut!”) and a child, and the story lost much of its appeal from the first part for me.

For some time (second part), my interest was sustained by the bohemian setting (Paris, 1901) and my impression that the secondary story line between Sofie’s mother and father would serve as a foil to Sofie’s and Edward’s romance, but the parallels seemed to peter out the more the story progressed. Although the last two parts are not bad, in a way, I was glad when I was finished with reading this novel.

One paragraph about Sofie’s mother because she’s such an important factor in this story. First, without her interference, there wouldn’t have been part two and three of the novel. Second, Sofie’s mother is a horrid, selfish bitch who even turns slightly maniac at the end. Third, she’s a tragic character and in all her nastiness, the motivation for her protection of Sofie is somewhat understandable. Four, the secondary story line between her and Sofie’s father is interesting, sometimes even acting as a foil to Sofie’s and Edward’s romance. Five, for all she did, some “punishment” would have been much welcomed/needed at the end.

Verdict: After Innocence is a well written novel, set in a rarely seen time period and a partly different setting (Paris) with an interesting villain. It’s not a light read and it leaves a few loose ends. For my liking of the first part, the different time period and setting: 3,5/5 (otherwise 3/5).


4 Responses to “TBR Challenge: “After Innocence” By Brenda Joyce”

  1. SarahT Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    I think I read this one years ago. Unfortunately, many of the “classic romances” of the 80s and 90s haven’t aged well. I tried to re-read a Johanna Lindsey recently but wanted to throw it against a wall. And she used to be my favourite romance writer!

  2. nath Friday, June 19, 2009 at 2:22 am #

    I’ve only read one Brenda Joyce and I don’t think i’m going to pick this one. But thanks for reviewing it!!

  3. ~ames~ Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 7:37 am #

    I read this one a loooong time ago. I remember the painting stuff and the baby – but forgot about the mum.

  4. Taja Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 10:27 am #

    SarahT – Hi! πŸ˜€ Yes, exactly. Most don’t seem to age so well. I read a few of the classics early in my romance reading career and they didn’t really work for me (so I don’t think it’s just a case of growing reading experience). Still, it’s a bummer about the Johanna Lindsey book for you.

    Nath – you’re welcome! Since you read only one Brenda Joyce I think this means you were not all that impressed with it. πŸ˜‰

    ames – how could you forget about the mum? πŸ˜‰ I’m glad I could remind you! *g*

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