For Love of a Pagan

He had known her for just less than three weeks when he asked her to become his pillow-friend.

Paul Christos, wealthy Greek ship-owner and olive-grower, is used to getting what he wants–and he wants the young English tourist Tina for a mistress!

Trigger warning: Below the fold are spoilers, including suggestions and depictions of violent behavior.

When I saw the title of this book, I had high hopes; I know a few neo-pagan folk, and hoped that this book actually dealt with the subject of 20th Century paganism in a somewhat rational way. That, unfortunately, is the last positive thought I can recall about this book.

There are all kinds of problems here–let’s start with the opening sentence, which I quoted at the beginning of this review.  He asked her to be his mistress…but we as readers just never are given nearly enough backstory.  Tina’s internal discussion makes a very-brief review of her holiday in Greece, in which she met Paul, but there are just way too many gaps. What was it about him that drew her? How did they meet?  There is just nothing whatever to establish chemistry between these two protagonists, no backstory, no commonality, no boy-meets-girling. We simply set out with Paul making a proposal which Tina brusquely rejects. Yet somehow or other, she’s clearly in love with him. Fates alone know why, because despite reading to the end, I still haven’t a clue.

She returns to England, jobless, and ends up taking a most-unsuitable job as a domestic. She’s been there a couple of weeks, when Paul swoops in and takes her away and marries her. He wants her, and since she won’t be his mistress, he’ll marry her. Wait, what? Tina is certain that he doesn’t love her, but she loves him, though she’s afraid to tell him so (afraid? oh, that’s a good sign, a portentious omen of a long happy relationship. Riiiight). When they return to Cyprus, where he resides, the sex is apparently wonderful–this being the era it was, Hampson doesn’t give us those details–but clearly Paul’s temper is a bit of a problem.

On a visit to Athens, Tina meets an Englishman, a tourist, and ends up having lunch with him.  It’s totally innocent, but Paul just loses his cool and comes thoroughly unglued, raging that “If you were a Greek girl you’d be flogged for such wanton behavior!” and warning her that the next time she disobeys him, she will be beaten.

This threat shows up several times, and though he doesn’t beat her, he does get very rough with her during their intimate times. It all made me very uncomfortable. His moods are very mercurial–he can shift and be the charming Greek tycoon in a heartbeat after these violent outbursts, and she falls for it over and over.

Our villain (as if our protagonist wasn’t enough of one) is a woman named Dora, who is an ex-mistress of Paul’s, and who has the misguided notion that he was to marry her, and only married Tina out of spite. I can certainly understand where she comes by this assumption, for Paul certainly strikes me as thoroughly unhinged. Her meddling, apparently, is what’s making Tina scared of talking to Paul. Wait, his violent behavior doesn’t? What?

There’s a tiresome little side-plot when they go to visit his mother on Patmos; she doesn’t like the English for some tedious reason or other, and so takes a dislike to Tina, and says some rather cruel things that more-or-less line up with what Dora said, which amplifies Tina’s misgivings, blah blah blah…

Oh, and the “pagan” thing? Apparently Paul is descended from some pagan group or other from centuries ago, and their temper and wild behavior is infamous. Well, duh.

You know, I’ll stop there, other than to say that the resolution of all this conflict is so unbelievable that if I hadn’t already been a handful of pages from the end, I wouldn’t have bothered finishing.  FictionDB lists a whole bunch of books by Anne Hampson, so clearly at some point she wrote enough of a winner to get a contract.  But it sure wasn’t this one.


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