The romance novel genre gives a depiction of love and lust in the story. It goes deep into the development of the characters’ relationship which usually is two people. There are subplots in the structure that aren’t directly related to the protagonists. The subgenera includes historical romance usually in the nineteenth century, contemporary romance which is set during the World War II era, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and inspirational romance which deals with love and faith.
Jennifer Blake has written The Secret of the Mirror House (1970), Haven of Fear (1974), Love’s Wild Desire (1977), Night of the Candles (1978), and other novels. Guarded Heart (2008) conveys the patriarchal structure of society that underestimates a woman’s ability to stand toe to toe with her male counterpart. Through the lead female protagonist, Ariadne, a rejection to the machismo thought of the mainstream society is portrayed through her actions. Ariadne addressing Sasha said, “I order my life now, I and no other. If you wish to continue being numbered among my friends, you will allow me to know my own mind,” which conveys a desire for self-sufficiency (16).
Set in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1844 Ariadne’s actions are revolutionary as she takes up swordsmanship which is a male dominated endeavor and she’s not in a hurry to remarry after being widowed as she values her independence.
The story begin with the sword master, Gavin Blackford attending a Réveillon hosted by Madame Faucher when he’s approached by the young hostess. Ariadne Faucher, a widowed aristocrat requests instruction in swordsmanship. Gavin is reluctant when he learns her intent to partake in a duel as Ariadne is a widow without kin. He reconsiders after an exchange with Sasha, Ariadne’s overbearing acquaintance whom she insinuates will instruct her.
Afterward, Ariadne discusses her encounter with Gavin and reflects on her life, the arranged marriage to Jean Marc and the estate left to her, the death of her foster brother by Blackford’s hands and her meeting Maurelle Herriot. Maurelle expresses concern about Ariadne’s exploit and tries to sway her from it. She agrees to let Ariadne train in her residence to watch her progress.
On the day of training Ariadne waits in the emptied bed chamber of the Herriot town house’s garçonnière which will serve as venue for the instruction. Gavin is lead into the room by Solon Maurelle’s majordomo, leaving Ariadne and her mentor to their session.
Hastily, Ariadne urges Gavin to move from the theory of fencing to the combat training. He complies, swiftly directing the dame into the forms of the art which rattles her as the stances are provocative for a woman. The session left Ariadne with excitement and frustration at the door that was opened to world that men know through swordsmanship.
The ensuing session would prove Ariadne to be at a disadvantage as her emotions defeat her and her mobility restricted from the petticoat she dons, yet she doesn’t bow out. After a reprieve from the lessons Ariadne would resume them donned in an ensemble tailored for fluid movement in fencing. Gavin in a attempt to give a lesson in keeping anger in check grazes Ariadne as she losses her footing. He’s remorseful and is tender with Ariadne when abruptly Sasha enters the chamber. Ariadne leaves with Sasha before the situation escalates between him and Gavin.
Per chance Gavin and Ariadne attend a benefit performance for their mutual friend, Madame Zoe Savoie at the Theatre d’Orleans opera house with no interaction as they’re from different classes. Sasha makes an attempt to woo Ariadne but is jilted upon the proposition of marriage. Ariadne becomes wary after spotting Arpegè, her birth mother whom left her as a child at the concert.
The following day Ariadne goes out with Maurelle and runs into Gavin and his brother on a walk, and reluctantly greets them in public. An accident with a steamboat transpired and the bodies of the victims are brought to shore, among them a girl that’s clung by a sobbing Arpegè. Witnessing Ariadne’s distress at the sight, Gavin volunteers to escort her away from the scene and she accepts.
Sasha would inquire to about the sword master’s escort and attempt another move on Ariadne to her displeasure. She chastises Sasha for being possessive of her and he retreats after the lecture, leaving Ariadne worried he’ll do something to Blackford. The next day Gavin enters the Herriot town house but is lead in by a maidservant to Zoe Savoie where both have a friendly chat. In the exchange Gavin learns of Ariadne’s relation to Arpegè and Francis Dorelle, a pupil who died under his tutelage.
The next lesson Gavin tries to sway Ariadne away from her pursuit of retribution suggesting he duels on her behalf. Ariadne is adamant about resuming her training and engages into the session. In an ecstasy Ariadne follows Gavin’s lead when suddenly stops when she sees blood on his face thinking she struck her instructor but he assures her the wound was not from her. A liquored Sasha confronts Ariadne after her lesson and to have an exchange about Gavin.
Ariadne would visit her mother to learn about the circumstances of her adoption. Meanwhile, Gavin is out at the salon with his friends when he’s approached by Sasha and forced to challenge him a duel. Ariadne learns of the duel from Maurelle and goes to Gavin late into the night to implore him to withdraw the challenge, but he cannot as it has been issued.
The day of the duel arrived, Gavin and Sasha are on horse with sabers on hand do battle. Gavin would suffer injury through Sasha’s dishonorable tact. Gavin’s taken to the town house for his recovery and he learns from Ariadne that Sasha will leave to Paris due to the disgrace he brought upon himself. Gavin would be cared by Ariadne as they learn more about each other.
Days later Ariadne accompanied by Zoe would cross paths with Sasha where he asks her to leave with him but she declines. The friends part and Ariadne arrives home to find Gavin fencing despite his stitching, leading her to scold him for ignoring his wound but Gavin responds heartily which leads her to suggest to resume her training.
During a windy night there’s a downpour as Ariadne and Gavin continue their session at the garçonnière. A gust blows out the candle and Ariadne calls off their bout as she feels Gavin is not fit for battle. The two exchange words about their session and give in to their sensual desires under the stormy night.
Following the stormy evening session Ariadne composes herself, remembering her retribution she summons Gavin to her chamber as the town house is desolate. Gavin gives revelation to about Francis’s klutz and ego which lead to his demise, and persuades Ariadne to relinquish her quest for vengeance but not before suffering her strike. The fencing pair once again consummate in reconciliation and a new understanding of each other.
Gavin takes his leave of Ariadne aware of the gap in their social class. Ariadne would later run on an errand unescorted when she encounters an indignant Sasha who abducts her, taking her to a ship that is set to sail. Gavin hearing news of Ariadne’s disappearance inquires about her whereabouts when he learns of Sasha’s role in the maiden’s kidnapping. Along with his allies Gavin reach the pier where Sasha has taken Ariadne.
Awakened from the drug induced sleep that Sasha forced on her, Ariadne finds a sword to engage him in a bout for her freedom. Just as she’s about to fall, Gavin swimming up to the ship calls to Ariadne who tosses the sword to him. He pars against Sasha’s blade when he finds an opening to escape with Ariadne to shore. After the ordeal Gavin and Ariadne share a bout and their feelings for one another.
When Gavin said, “There is more than one kind of disarmament, my Ariadne. I have no weapon, no defense against you, have had none since the night I took you for my client. In this time, you have been the sword pointed at my heart but also my shield and my buckler,” it conveys growth of the relations between the two lovers (530).
The world of Guarded Heart is comparable to the film Chopin: Desire for Love (2002) through the eloquent language of the period and the structures in the story. The ravenous desire of the characters are similar as well as the pain in the pursuit of love.
Guarded Heart will have the audience invested in the electrical relationship between Gavin Blackford and Ariadne Faucher that gradually flourishes into love. There will be an immersion for readers through the dialogue of the story and the images of beauty in the setting and some risqué situations between the lovers which can overwhelm the sensitive. The evolution of Ariadne’s view of Gavin whom she seeks vengeance on will have readers intrigued about process which lead her to love him.