All I Desire

A Reckless Encounter

Savage Desire

Sapphire by Rosemary Rogers
(Mira, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7783-2236-X
I remember reading Rosemary Rogers when I was a teen. Her name was synonymous with popular historical romance, and her stories were always grand and bigger than life. Sapphire is engaging and at times shows the signs of that grandeur, but in the end, falls short of the mark.

Sapphire Fabergine grew up with a loving mother and father on St. Martinique. Raised as the daughter of a wealthy landowner, she basked in the joys of her social status. She loved to ride. She loved the jungles. Her best friend was Angelique, a young orphan adopted by the Fabergines. Upon her mother’s death two years ago, she learned to love her mother’s sister, Lucia. Now Armand Fabergine is sending his daughter to London at the request of his late wife. Sapphire must meet her destiny.

Armand tells Sapphire that she is not really his daughter. Rather she is the daughter of the Earl of Wessex, who married her mother, a poor farmer’s daughter. Rather than acknowledge the marriage, the Earl’s parents had her kidnapped and shipped off to America, where she discovered she was pregnant. That is where Armand found her and fell in love. He has raised Sapphire as his own, but now, she must go claim her birthright from her father. She, Lucia and Angelique sail.

Sapphire’s father has just recently died and she must prove her claim with just some letters and a gorgeous blue sapphire stone. The new Earl is Blake Thixton, an American who is a distant cousin and only male heir. He just happens to be in England to claim the title, as well as to continue investing in his shipping interests. He hates the pretense of London and longs for his beloved Boston.

There is much to this story (it is 483 pages) but it centers on the relationship between Blake and Sapphire. Often they are at odds, even when sleeping with each other. At one point, Sapphire and Angelique decide to act as if they are in need of protectors. Their plan, albeit a poor one, is to cause a scandal, thus making the Dowager acknowledge Sapphire rather than have their name stained. This did nothing but convince many men (including Blake) that they were loose women.

So Blake kidnaps Sapphire and they sail to Boston. Blake plans to make her his mistress. Sapphire refuses and ends up his maid. At other times in the tale, she hides out as a stable boy and even serves as a jockey.

Blake is not well-defined. It is hard to fully understand his motivation in not marrying Sapphire. He pushes her to be a mistress, and she pushes back by stubbornly refusing to be anything but his maid. I could never see why they fell in love, when neither is very lovable. Yet Rogers’ writing is engaging enough that I wanted it to work out for them. Sapphire is definitely the more sympathetic of the two.

Yet Sapphire’s actions did not always measure up and I grew frustrated with her stubbornness on the one hand and her inability to deny her sexual nature on the other. These two were either making love, bickering or torn apart. Without Rogers’ flare for the winning dialogue, it would have been hard to stay interested in the tale.

Angelique was a unique mix of hoyden and lost orphan. She was less defined than Blake or Sapphire. Lucia, who participated in a nicely-written and entertaining secondary romance with a widowed barrister, was inconsistent with the girls. On the one hand she was the worrying aunt, yet she helped hatch the scheme about playing loose with their morals. She couldn’t understand how things could have backfired so strongly.

While I found myself entertained when reading, I also realized I wasn’t always eager to go back to the book, nor did I find it hard to stop before the end of a chapter. Those two signs indicate that Sapphire was no more than a three heart reading experience. Too bad - I wanted it to be more for old time’s sake.

--Shirley Lyons

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