From the moment I saw the cover for Zoe by T.A. Ford, I was entranced. The rich pastel textures reminded me of sweet confections reminiscent of beautiful previous century tapestries. The fact that a beautiful girl with smooth coffee skin instead of the usual porcelain complexion graced the cover made me sit up and take notice along with the laced title.
I don't usually read historical romances, mainly because the heroines were of the run of the mill same variety without much difference between them. Thus I couldn't find much interest. I did read historical fiction, like the Feast of July & Legends of the Fall, and many movies that took placed in the previous century that were adapted from books still grace my shelves to this day.
However Zoe has helped introduced me to a new love in a genre I hope to find more of in the coming days: IR Historical Romance.
And yet it's so much more than that.
From the moment we're introduced to Zoe, her sister Marianne and her stepmother Madame we enter a world of rare privilege and high society. Where women's futures are defined by the men they marry. Marianne is set to ride this path as she is to meet with the Count Julien La Roque de Toulouse as they enter his home. But once the Count sees Zoe, he is entranced by her and sets to make her his.
Most of the synopsis is in the back of the book so I won't recount it. I'll share my thoughts on the book instead.
In a word, this book is magnificent. A richly described novel that takes you into the depths of the character's turmoils, loves, frustrations and fights as they interact in early 19th century Toulouse, France. Author T.A. Ford takes you on a journey of the self discovery of her title character as she leaves childhood behind and enters womanhood. There were so many beautiful descriptions and wonderful quotes. One in particular stands out:
She reached down and pulled up the covers. She
understood now that being a woman was not losing her virginity.
Being a woman meant understanding her heart.
Zoe is definitely a strong independent female character forced to grow up wiser than her years due to the inhumanity she grew up around as a child and that she was reminded of by her stepmother everyday. Even through all the atrocities she faces and as she fears the loss of her family and her loves heart, you can't help but love her and keep cheering her on as she struggles to survive a cruel world.
Count LaRoque is a complex romance hero that defies mere terms like that of alpha and beta. He lives and breathes right off the pages as he goes from cold hearted womanizer to lovelorn hero within the pages. Once his past is revealed, it all becomes clear.
Author T.A. Ford said this book is part factual and part fantasy and I can see where some liberties may have been taken. But overall the book feels like it could have taken place in a very real time not too long ago. The descriptions of the scenery as well the character's dresses and actions made it seem like a period movie played out in my head as I read. I wished all the more that my dreams for directing had already come to light as this would definitely be a story I would be more than eager to adapt for the visual medium of storytelling (with the author's consent and guidance of course ;-) ).
I can't say enough about Zoe and I can't remember when a book last had me cheering out loud one minute, crying the next, and yelling in surprise the next minute after that. I started reading the book late last night with only the idea of reading one chapter and ended up reading until the sun started rising outside my window. Tonight I finished the second half of the book and haven't remember plowing through a good book in that short amount of time since I was thirteen reading Jurassic Park in three days.
This book has definitely made it to my keeper shelf and I can't wait to reread it again later. The book may seem rather costly but do not let that sway you. It is an amazing, entertain and beautiful read that you should definitely check out.
Zoe has earned it's way as number 1 on my best reads of 2008 list and I can't wait to see what else T.A. Ford has in store for her readers. I hope IR Historical Romances start popping up like Zoe, because if they do, I'll definitely be eating them up like hot cakes!
A highly recommended read.