Night in Eden (1997)

Night in Eden by Candice Proctor
By Candice Proctor

Bryony Wentworth's life is shattered when she is convicted of manslaughter and transported to New South Wales in 1808. Sentenced to indentured servitude, she is given to Hayden St. John. A hard, embittered man left with an infant son by the death of his gentle wife, Hayden has little but contempt for the muddy, vermin-ridden convict on whom he must rely. But Bryony is a survivor. As they journey through the outback to Hayden's rugged station, Bryony rediscovers her own strength even as Hayden finds his salvation in a love as forbidden and dangerous as the land that surrounds them.

Candice Proctor no longer writes historical romances, which makes me sad. Sadder still is the knowledge that very few historical romances of this style are being published now. Much like her sister Penelope Williamson's The Outsider, Proctor weaves intense, thoughtful, gut-wrenching gobs of history in with a romance that simmers and steams and finally bubbles over. Nothing is sacrificed. But the beginning is so despondent that I had to check the final ten pages. I had to make sure I'd find a happy ending, because the opening holds no hint of one.

What I loved was Proctor's eye for detail. Aboriginals, convict law, setting, weather--all were covered with a keen attention to historical sources, and then she spent no less than two giant, gorgeous paragraphs describing how Hayden's naked chest looked as he emerged from a river. Both! Together! Good, beautiful history and le smokin' sex.

He squeezed his eyes shut, his fingers gripping the wood, and she thought he might have shuddered. She could see the pulse that beat, hard and fast, at the base of his throat. She had to clench her hands to keep from reaching out and touching him there.

Then she felt the seductive heat of his eyes flow over her, wrap itself around her, and coax her to him.

"Let it happen, Bryony," he said, his voice low and tempting. "You know you want it. Stop fighting me. Stop fighting yourself. And come to me."

"No," she said, or wanted to say, but her voice was only a sigh. And when her mind willed her legs to move, all they did was tremble.

"Come." His hands dropped to his side, and he took a step toward her.
Lovely. What's even better than a fully-realized romance is that the world they inhabit is completely and beautifully rendered. I can picture it entirely, and yes, they get their perfect happily ever after. Yay for my TBR pile! And yay that one day I can happily glom the rest of Proctor's historical romances!

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