4 stars

Historical Romance Review: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour

Purity’s Passion, Janette Seymour, Pocket Books, 1977, Harry Bennett cover art

She would come to him a complete woman…

PURITY’s PASSION

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The tale of Purity Jarsy, Purity’s Passion, (Part 1 of 3) begins with the horrors of the French Revolution and ends in France after Napoleon’s final defeat. In between we witness the epic tale of Purity, a woman so beautiful many men desire her, they would ravish her, control her, and kill for her… In other words, it’s your basic, page-turning bodice ripper. And it’s a good one.

Janette Seymour was a deft storyteller, quickly pulling me in with Purity witnessing a beautiful encounter of a couple making love and later she sees the macabre slaughters of the Revolution. Purity is left orphaned and shaken in the aftermath.

Mark “You may kiss me–here” Landless is the object of Purity’s devotion. Much older than she, he is her appointed guardian, but he also shares a hidden bond with his ward. Mark is a placeholder, we never see through his perspective. He is a scar-faced, blue-eyed soldier who duels for Purity’s honor, hurts her cruelly, and the finally marries her. Her relationship with Mark is one of the weaker parts of the book, but since there are two sequels their romance will undoubtedly develop further. (Edited: How wrong I was! There’s no character development to be found anywhere!)

Purity has many men before being with her true love, and each experience shapes her uniquely. There is a touching one-night romance Purity shares with a soldier doomed to die at sea and a sweet love affair with wounded Gypsy boxer. And many more.

If the hero was more interesting, this might have detracted from the story, but since he wasn’t, I just enjoyed the ride and didn’t worry about the romance. As Purity says to herself: “She would come to Mark a complete woman.”

Other high points include a tawdry girl-school game with a dumb stud, a dominatrix-villainess who wears transparent gowns, and an aging duchess who makes constant fart references.

The story’s pacing is a bit un-even, because most of the juicy parts are packed into the first third. But the author is skilled enough to make most of it enjoyable, even if the ending is a bit flat.

Purity’s Passion is a romance only because at the end of the book the female protagonist is united with the man she loves. Otherwise, it’s a soapy, door-stopper historical epic, typical of ’70s and ’80s.

Readers, mostly women, from all walks of life used to openly enjoy these pulpy paperbacks with kaleidoscopic covers. They were taken to fantastical worlds where the heroines’ beauty got men so carried away with mad lust that they’d have her… at any cost! (dun, dun, dun!) Now, not unlike tobacco cigarettes (which I never smoked), bodice rippers are banished to the darkest corners, reviled in public for the unwholesome filth they contain. Like a smoker relegated to puffing away in a cold alley, bodice ripper readers are banished to Romance-landia Siberia. And that’s really a shame, because these books are a lot of fun!

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