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Once and Always by Judith McNaught
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Once and Always (original 1987; edition 1990)

by Judith McNaught

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892119,899 (4.03)6
Member:TsumiNaBara
Title:Once and Always
Authors:Judith McNaught
Info:Pocket Books (1990), Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Once and Always by Judith McNaught (Author) (1987)

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Off the bat, I have to note that I'm actually supposed to be getting ready to go to work. But as it's Saturday, and I'm not scheduled for a set time, I literally cannot focus on getting ready until I write about this horrible book.

I don't know that I can put in the same category as The Lion's Lady, which is the most recent book that just made me feel unholy rage. Instead this one just made me feel unspeakably sad. Perhaps, it inspired sadness rather than rage because it seems to be nearly universally popular and loved and was even recommended by one of my favorite romance authors.
To give a frame for this rant (I don't think I can accurately label it a review, it will be filled with spoilers), I do need to give a trigger warning for abuse and rape. To further frame this rant the general idea of this novel is:

Victoria Seaton is the eldest daughter to an Irish born physician and her "mysterious past" English mother in New York, USA. She is, loosely, betrothed to her childhood best friend, Andrew Bainbridge. His mother disapproves, and her father lives in fear of her ending up in a loveless marriage like he's in. Because, you see, we're introduced to her with her father drunkenly seizing her mother and begging her "not to deny him again" all observed by Victoria. Her father then begs her to never marry someone that does not love her as much as she loves them because it's hell. (And also, she'll never get sex.)
But then Andrew gets shipped off to Switzerland and France for a while (by his meddling mother) and while he's away, both of Victoria's parents die in a tragic accident and as her dying words, her mother requests that Victoria and her younger sister be shipped to England to live with the Duchess of Claremont and the Duke of Atherton. The Duchess is easily enough understood, she's their great-grandmother. The Duke is more mysterious as he seems to be merely a very distant cousin.

Which introduces us to the male lead in this, because frankly, to call him the hero of the novel would probably make me cry. Jason Field, Marquess of Wakefield was married to a "bitch" and a "slut" who eventually left him permanently with her lover and her and Jason's young son. In her escape attempt, her ship went down and everyone on board died, including little Jamie. The only person Jason's ever loved. I guess the part that bugs me so much is that we're never really given any idea of if Jason was at least a tolerable or decent human being before his "bitch and slut" of a wife cuckolded him and ran off. But I can assure you that afterwards he is neither tolerable nor decent.

He is the "by-blow" of the Duke of Atherton, who pawned him off on his religious zealot brother and sister-in-law to raise in India. Unbeknownst to the Duke, Jason was abused horribly. Not to make light of his backstory, which is horrific, but it's presented very much as, "This is why he's such a shitty person and IT'S TOTALLY COOL because his past was so fucked up." Which, sorry, no. There are limits to the extent of which I'm like, "This is justifiable distrust because of past trauma."

Victoria ends up in the care of Jason and the Duke and the Duke's fondest dream is that Victoria and Jason marry because -- ah yes, the Duke was madly in love with Victoria's mother when they were young, but he rejected her to save her and she tempestuously ran off with Victoria's father to America.

To cut out a whole middle part of Jason treating Victoria like garbage and then nicely and then like garbage and then nicely, Victoria is convinced that her betrothed is going to come get her and take her back to America. Jason and the Duke are trying to marry her off to someone rich and titled. She's refusing. But then she receives a letter from Andrew's mother telling her that Andrew married his Swiss cousin. Victoria is understandably devastated (and embarrassed). But then, the Duke receives a letter from Andrew himself stating that his mother was lying. The Duke also intercepts a letter to Victoria saying that Andrew is coming to get her and marry her.

Naturally, he fakes a heart attack and pushes Victoria and Jason into marrying as his "dying wish". Victoria believes he's dying, Jason knows he's not. Yet, Jason agrees to it. This is when the lovely last half of the book begins. I like to think of it as The Romance Novelist's Guide to Spousal Abuse. Victoria marries Jason even though she desperately does not want to, and almost runs at the altar. Jason realizes she almost runs away and so begins just...one event after another that left me feeling so very sad in my soul.

Victoria gets drunk in order to bolster her spirits since she has literally no idea what to expect from the marriage bed. (But she's a puker. Yay.) Jason, because he's a fucking idiot, thinks she's not a virgin. He gets pissed that she's drunk because she's PROBABLY just imagining he's Andrew and trying to get away with it. So he ... pretty brutally rapes her. In fact, that author took the time for Jason to note how dry and tight Victoria's "passage" was. It's only after Victoria sobbingly kicks Jason out of her room that he looks down and realizes that she was a virgin.

Does he apologize for this on any level? No. Instead he retreats and starts going back to his mistress. Victoria, understandably, wants nothing to do with him. Not surprisingly, this is eventually solved by good sex that Jason also all but forces on Victoria. Jason thinks you have to buy a woman's loyalty, though he believes no woman has any loyalty, so every time they have sex he leaves her expensive jewelry.
He also verbally abuses her almost constantly. And swings wildly from, "tolerable and kind of nice" to "horrifically abusive and cruel." I can't even remember which of the innumerable confrontations leads Victoria to running away for an evening and meeting up with Jason's old friend who explains to her the horrors of the abuse he lived with as a child. And they were horrific.

My biggest problem with this insanely problem-laden book is that, in the end, after Victoria realigns herself to be forgiving, and loving, and everything supportive, the final confrontation is MADDENING. Victoria starts to say "I love you" during/after sex. Jason doesn't WANT her love/doesn't believe in love (long suffering sigh). However, Victoria notes that he withholds her orgasm and draws it out until she finally says it and only then does he 'let her climax'. So he obviously NEEDS to be told he's loved, even if he doesn't KNOW he does. HOW SAD. (NO IT'S NOT SAD THIS IS INSANE.) Eventually, Victoria literally has a meltdown and just lets it all out to Jason. Who responds by essentially saying, "I'm sorry. I love you." THE END.

THAT IS ESSENTIALLY THE END. There is never any sort of actual apology for raping and abusing her for 390 some pages. It's just forgiven because every woman in Jason's life, of which there were TWO, TWO WHOLE WOMEN, has betrayed or abused him. So it's totally fine for him to blanketly abuse and hate every woman he comes across. Because he's sad. That's basically where the novel ends. He starts saying I love you back, she believes him, and I guess we're to just accept that he'll probably continue to abuse her occasionally, but it's all well and good because he had a bad childhood.
This book just made me so sad.
  dukedukegoose | Jan 26, 2015 |
A complex, deftly crafted novel that loses impetus along the way and ends with a trite and unoriginal climax.

[b:Once and Always|129620|Once and Always (Sequels #1)|Judith McNaught|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1171988351s/129620.jpg|3083686] was published over twenty years ago and is widely acknowledged a classic of the genre. Perhaps it's unkind to compare it with similar books written before and after, but having read several dozen historical (mainly Regency) romances in less than a month, I couldn't help a sinking here-we-go-again feeling as the narrative developed.

My personal problem with this sub-genre is that the stock device of a push-pull, love-hate relationship between a couple who are clearly meant for each other can only be toggled through a limited number of cycles. To stop these cycles from degenerating into an adult version of a shall-shan't squabble between kids, the writer needs to justify the negativity with cumulative references to emotional and psychological traumas in the past. By the time the reader thinks that he or she understands what's driving the protagonists to behave the way they do, it's time to wrap up the story, often with a contrived build-up of tension released with an implausible twist.

This has been my jaded reaction to many of the HR books I've read recently, and [b:Once and Always|129620|Once and Always (Sequels #1)|Judith McNaught|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1171988351s/129620.jpg|3083686] was no exception.

( )
  skirret | Jan 2, 2015 |
I found this story of an American coming back to England to claim her heritage and her mother's past, quite a lot of fun. Some of the angst was a little overwrought but overall it engaged me and kept me reading.

However, it didn't really have a good anchor in the past, it could be anytime, but still Victoria entertained me with her attempts to be both herself and to fit into English society. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Jul 23, 2012 |
Victoria lives in America with her sister and parents until her parents are killed in an accident. Her dreams of wedding her childhood sweetheart are put on hold as he is touring Europe and won't be back for six months. She must leave America for England to join the elderly cousin who will be her guardian. Her guardian has plans of his own. He wants her wed to his illegitimate son, Jason.

Jason has had an awful first marriage to a woman who wanted him only for his money and his title. The first wife has her own affairs that he is willing to put up with as long as he has his son. The first wife leaves him and takes their son on a ship's voyage to America but never make it because the ship is lost during a storm.

Jason will never willingly wed again or trust a female for that matter. He slowly melts and falls for Victoria.

Throughout their relationship there are many misunderstandings that are heartbreaking for the reader. They are much more "off" then "on." A very tumultuous relationship that overcomes all obstacles. ( )
  melorem | Sep 6, 2011 |
this is everything Judith Mnaught is and more.A lovely romantic book about love in the olden days.This book makes you stay up all night. and you love how she puts the books title in the book.Takes your breath away. ( )
  nayudaKaonga | Oct 15, 2010 |
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To my father, who always made me feel that he was proud of me
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To my mother, who helped me do the things that made him proud
What at team you are!
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"Oh, there you are, Jason," the raven-haired beauty said to her husband's reflection in the mirror above her dressing table.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671737627, Mass Market Paperback)

Across the vast ocean sailed Victoria Seaton, a free-spirited American beauty left suddenly orphaned and alone. Eager to claim her long-lost heritage, she was amazed at the formal elegance of Wakefield, the sumptuous English estate of her distant cousin...the notorious Lord Jason Fielding. Sought after at plays, operas, and balls by London's most fashionable ladies, Jason remained a mystery to Victoria. Bewildered by his arrogant demeanor, yet drawn to his panther-like grace, she came to sense the searingly painful memories that smoldered in the depths of his jade-green eyes.

Unable to resist her spitfire charm, Jason gathered her at last into his powerful arms, ravishing her lips with his kisses, arousing in her a sweet, insistent hunger. Wed in desire, they were enfolded in a fierce, consuming joy, free at last from the past's cruel grasp. Then, in a moment of blinding anguish, Victoria discovered the shocking treachery that lay at the heart of their love...a love she had dreamed would triumph...Once And Always.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Across the vast ocean sailed Victoria Seaton, a free-spirited American beauty left suddenly orphaned and alone. Eager to claim her long-lost heritage, she was amazed at the formal elegance of Wakefield, the sumptuous English estate of her distant cousin...the notorious Lord Jason Fielding. Sought after at plays, operas, and balls by London's most fashionable ladies, Jason remained a mystery to Victoria. Bewildered by his arrogant demeanor, yet drawn to his panther-like grace, she came to sense the searingly painful memories that smoldered in the depths of his jade-green eyes. Unable to resist her spitfire charm, Jason gathered her at last into his powerful arms, ravishing her lips with his kisses, arousing in her a sweet, insistent hunger. Wed in desire, they were enfolded in a fierce, consuming joy, free at last from the past's cruel grasp. Then, in a moment of blinding anguish, Victoria discovered the shocking treachery that lay at the heart of their love...a love she had dreamed would triumph...Once And Always.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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