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    Anna Campbell’s review of AS YOU DESIRE by Connie Brockway
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  • Published: May 15th, 2009

anna_headI know I spend most of these reviews raving about the various heroes in my favorite books. Hmm, could that perhaps be one of the reasons these books are among my favorites? I don’t think the two facts are unrelated!

But seriously the hero of AS YOU DESIRE is on my all-time favorites list. I don’t know anyone who reads this book who doesn’t fall under the spell of the gorgeous Harry Braxton, archaeologist, Egyptologist, romantic hero.

He’s not at all your typical romance novel hero. For a start, shock, horror, he has BROWN HAIR! Yes, I know, I know, I can hear you gasping with astonishment. He’s really smart and genuinely tortured. He’s also gallant and constant and passionate. He’s a dashing scoundrel with a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor and an unshakable honor that he hides under roguish charm. Lovely!

Connie Brockway reserves some of the most beautiful descriptions I’ve ever read for Harry. Here, Desdemona, the heroine, is contemplating his looks:

brockway_desireHarry had a nice mouth. No, honesty compelled her to admit, Harry had a beautiful mouth. It was wide and mobile with firm lips, the upper bowing into a sensually pronounced philtrum above the full, sculpted band of the lower. Harry’s lips looked sensitive. Harry’s lips, thought Desdemona, looked like they could read Braille.

Later, Desdemona says to herself that Harry’s lips look like they can tell the difference between individual grains of sand. Oh, my!

The rest of him is equally appealing! But Harry is seriously flawed and while he loves Desdemona with a depth and a passion that you’ll love to discover, he doesn’t believe he’ll ever be worthy of her. I won’t tell you the flaw. The way Connie Brockway gradually reveals it is masterly. But it’s utterly heart-wrenching and you’ll ache for Harry as he struggles against how much he loves and wants Desdemona. He can’t declare himself because he thinks she deserves better than him.

Of course, we know he’s wrong and that there’s nobody better than Harry!

Maybe I should tell you something about the story instead of just raving about the hero? You think?

AS YOU DESIRE take place in the expatriate community of scholars and adventurers in Victorian Egypt. The setting is another thing I love about this story. It’s such fun to get away from Regency London now and again and Connie Brockway does a wonderful job of bringing the alleys and palaces and ruins and desert of 19th-century Cairo and environs to life.

Desdemona Carlisle lives in Egypt with her grandfather, a poverty-stricken expert in antiquities. She’s something of an intellectual freak, having been paraded around Europe through her childhood to show off her skill with ancient languages. As a result, all she wants is a normal life and to her, this means returning to the England she doesn’t remember but which she’s read about in the romance novels she devours. By the way, don’t you just love a romance heroine who loves reading romance novels? Desdemona has loved Harry Braxton since she first arrived in Egypt at the age of sixteen but his mixed signals have driven her to believe that he’ll never return her feelings.

Enter Harry’s aristocratic cousin, Blake Ravenscroft, a viscount who embodies all those romantic heroes she’s been sighing over in her reading matter. Blake wants to whisk her back to his manor house in EnglandΒ  that sounds like it’s come from the pages of a romance novel. Desdemona, heartsick and miserable with her unrequited (she thinks!) love for Harry, is seriously tempted.

The story develops with adventure and frustrated passion and requited passion and danger and drama and a wonderfully sigh-worthy happy ending. Seriously, grab this book and I bet you end up singing “I’m Just Wild About Harry” too!

18 Responses to “Anna Campbell’s review of AS YOU DESIRE by Connie Brockway”

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  1. Stacy ~
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 6:46 am

    Hey Anna! I read this book last year for the first time and adored Harry. I loved how he came across as this kinda lazy, carefree guy who deep down had such a passion for Desdemona yet hid it from her. It was heartbreaking to realize he was willing to give up the woman he loved because he didn’t feel worthy of someone like her. Of course he was wrong, but knowing why he felt that way made sense if you try and put yourself in his place. Thank God he eventually saw reason, and got his HEA. Harry was definitely the unforgettable one here, and yep, I’m wild about Harry myself πŸ˜‰


  2. Rose
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 7:47 am

    *sigh* I love that book so much, and I adore Harry. AYD pushed all the right buttons with me — friends-to-lovers, exotic setting, excellent prose and dialogue, heroic rescues, humor — but it was Harry’s unrequited love and longing that grabbed me most. His connection and chemistry with Dizzy leapt off the page. I do believe I’m in the mood for a reread! πŸ™‚


  3. Gannon
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 8:27 am

    How can you not love Harry?! Great review of a fantastic book! Like Rose, I may just have to reread this one. πŸ™‚


  4. Marisa
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 10:59 am

    Anna – I can’t believe I haven’t read this one. I’m fond of the friends to lover story line and when you add unrequited love into the mix I’m pretty much a goner.


  5. Becke Martin
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 12:19 pm

    And here I was thinking the only historical I’d read of Connie’s was So Enchanting! How could I forget this one, when I LOVED it? I really love romance novels set in Egypt — not sure why. This one was lovely — no other word for it.


  6. Buffie
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 12:26 pm

    Hmmm, guess I need to get this one too. I haven’t read it but it sure sounds like something I would enjoy.


  7. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 2:11 pm

    Stacy, hey, another Harry groupie! Groovy! I really think he’s one of the best heroes I’ve ever read, as you say, that wonderfully charming exterior – and CB does a wonderful job of giving him that louche English upper class charm – contrasted with how much he loves Desdemona. I love a clever hero too – I mean, like nerdy clever which Harry was. I also liked the fact that their love blossomed out of years of friendship. That’s a dynamic I always enjoy in a romance – and I think you could feel the strength of those years together in the ending where they seem to be friends as much as lovers.


  8. heidenkind
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 2:39 pm

    This was a really good book–although I have to admit my favorite Brockway book is ALL NIGHT LONG. A thief with a heart of gold? Mmmmm. πŸ˜‰


  9. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 2:43 pm

    Rose, I’ve read my favorite bits of this book a few times when I need a quick comfort read – the bit where he describes her in terms of the desert (believe me, it’s MUCH more romantic than I’ve made it sound) always gives me goosebumps. But I hadn’t read it cover to cover for years. It was really great coming back to it and realizing Harry as a whole was just as wonderful as Harry in bits. Hmm, that doesn’t sound right either! πŸ˜‰ I love the setting. I’m hoping to review Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase some time soon. Why aren’t more books set in Egypt? It’s a wonderfully romantic setting!


  10. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 2:45 pm

    Hey, Gannon, cool that you’re also a fan! Actually one of the things I love about it is that Connie Brockway got the tone so right.

    Marisa, seriously, pick this up. You’ll LOVE Harry. He’s so gallant and brave and charming when you know his heart is breaking. And he’s suffering for the heroine’s sake. Love that πŸ˜‰


  11. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 2:56 pm

    Becke, it was lovely, wasn’t it? I was so pleased when you enjoyed it! By the way, I adored So Enchanting. I think Connie Brockway has such an appealing voice. I swear she’s one of those writers who could precis the phone book and I’d still buy it.

    Buffie, check it out. It’s actually one I’ve never had a negative reaction too when I’ve convinced people to read it. Harry wins all hearts πŸ˜‰


  12. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 3:06 pm

    Heidenkind, I’m actually a bit of a Brockway groupie. I’ve got everything she’s ever written! I love All Through the Night too but this one pipped the post for me, JUST, I think because I just loved Harry so much. I love the ending of All Through the Night – again, I think it’s absolutely pitch perfect.


  13. Pam P
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 4:57 pm

    Wild about Harry, too, Anna. Two of my alltime favorite boks are this one and All Through the Night. It’s been so long since I read them, time for re-reading if I can find some time in between all these new ones waiting in the pile.


  14. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 5:17 pm

    Pam, I need to re-read All Through the Night Again too. I remember reading them fairly close together and loving both of them although they have quite a different tone. That’s one of the things I like about CB’s books – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get although you know it will be good! I might see if Marisa and Maria will let me do a review of ATTN one day just as a compare and contrast exercise. ATTN is much darker than this one, although this one definitely has its darker moments.


  15. PJ
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 7:45 pm

    Another terrific review, Anna! I adore Connie’s writing and Harry is a favorite. I feel a re-read coming up! πŸ™‚


  16. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 7:47 pm

    Hey, PJ, I’m sure I’ve said it before but it bears saying again, you have exquisite taste in reading aka you usually agree with me πŸ˜‰ Thanks for popping by. Sounds like Harry’s not short of fans here! Big gold ones like they waved over Tutankhamun!


  17. Andrea
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 9:29 pm

    I’ve not read this one (which should come as no surprise to Buffie – LOL!). Wonderful review, Anna. Me thinks I need to get to know Harry. πŸ˜‰


  18. Anna Campbell
    on May 15th, 2009
    @ 10:41 pm

    Andrea, practise singing “I’m just wild about Harry and Harry’s wild about me…” Um, that would be MEEEEEE! Sorry, silly moment of hero crush there. Thanks for checking out the review!