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I am a huge JL fan. I love the Malory novels, especially "Tender Rebel" and "Gentle Rogue." That said, I thought that the fifth Malory novel, "Say You Love Me," while a quick read, was rather lackluster. I am actually surprised so many reviewers gave it 4 or 5 stars; it makes we wonder if we were even reading the same book, or if they were letting their love for the Malorys cloud their judgment.
In fact, I recall trying to read "Say" when it first came out in 1996. I think I read two chapters before giving up (and I LOVE Lindsey). Now, here I am, in 2004; knowing Jeremy finally has his own story, I decided to reread the entire Malory series before buying "A Loving Scoundrel." So that meant I actually had to finish "Say." Well, I did. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
"Say" revolves around Derek Malory, the illegitimate son of a Marquis, and a young rakehell, to boot. In a rather selfless act of compassion, he "saves" Kelsey Langton - a Lady in need of money to save her family from financial ruin - by buying her in a public auction at a brothel as his mistress. He deliberately outbids a sadistic lord intent on purchasing her for his own cruel sexual deviations.
An interesting start to a Malory novel. But, instead of being the usual light-hearted, witty romantic runaround that involves a lot of seduction and sensual banter (which define Malory novels), "Say" goes a different route. Derek doesn't have to seduce Kelsey - he's bought her, so she must comply. The banter is limited in this novel, probably because Kelsey is so accommodating and because the uncle that this Malory novel highlights is Jason, the dead-serious one. Worse, the novel has the darkest, most awful "bad guy" scene of any JL romance: Kelsey is kidnapped and taken to a house of horrors by the sadist, who intends to rape and torture her. This is THE most disturbing thing JL has written; in my mind, it belonged in a suspense thriller or horror story, not a romance novel. However, to top it off, this scene occurs in the middle of the novel; after Kelsey is rescued, JL spends about two sentences saying "Oh yeah, it was a pretty awful experience, so she spent a week in bed," before promptly forgetting about it. This is the type of incident that traumatizes people for life. Hello!
I also noticed that there was too much back-story to this book. Having read Malory books #1 through 4 in the last few weeks, back-to-back, I didn't appreciate the summarizations very much. I think it would have been a lot more fun if JL had written more about what Regina, Anthony, James, Warren, etc. have been up to now, rather than what had happened in novels I can reread anytime.
Finally, three other points: 1) The last half of the book revolves around why it would be scandalous if Kelsey and Derek marry (even James and Anthony, those scandalmongers, were naysaying a wedding); please, these are the Malorys - they relish scandal - so this plotline, knowing the family, seemed ridiculous. 2) What was the point to Kelsey having The Tragedy in her life? JL teased us readers with it, made it seem important, then let it flatline completely. So sad. 3) I actually finished the novel thinking it was still embarrasing for Kelsey to show her face among the Malorys, since everyone was so dead-set against her and the solution was so silly.
FYI: The Malory series includes 1) "Love Only Once" (Regina is compromised by bored rake Nicholas), 2) "Tender Rebel" (Roslynn must marry, and Anthony offers himself as groom), 3) "Gentle Rogue" (Georgina ends up as James' cabin boy aboard his ship), 4) "Magic of You" (Amy will make Warren marry her no matter what), 5) "Say You Love Me" (Derek buys Kelsey in an auction), 6) "The Present" (novella about the gypsy great-grandmother), and 7) "A Loving Scoundrel" (Jeremy lets a thief steal his heart).