Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
How do you take a character who does some pretty despicable things on the page and make him sympathetic and the romantic hero of your final book in a trilogy set in the dangerous world of high French fashion? Well, you humanize him of course. You offer his psychology and you pair him with a woman who bears the strength of character to bring him to his knees. Oh, and you call yourself Karina Halle, a powerhouse of romance writing.
If you had told me that I would empathize with Pascal, the hero of Disavow, the final book of Karina Halle’s Dumonts trilogy, I would have laughed in your face and called you crazy. What Pascal got up to in the first books of this trilogy, Discretion and Disarm, was dastardly and evil, to say the least. When I attended Book Bonanza in August of last year, I asked her about the books of this series. I had just read Discretion, Olivier’s story, and I was curious about the other two books in the trilogy. When she let it drop that the third book would be Pascal’s story, I was doubtful. I knew it could be a hard sell to accept Pascal’s story. I laughed nervously with her about it and said I was intrigued. Knowing that it was coming, I saw the way in which she began to soften Pascal a bit in Blaise’s Disarm. She showed us that there was a little bit of humanity in him, but she didn’t allow him to fall deeply into it until Disavow. And to be fair, it takes a bit of the story before you can see Pascal in a different light, when you can accept him as the hero of his story. Even then, Pascal would best be designated as an anti-hero. However, it’s that designation that makes him the most interesting Dumont.
One of my favorite aspects of romance involves the alpha-aggressive hero becoming unraveled. Call it my kink, but the softening soul and heart of a seeming irredeemable man at the hands of a strong insightful heroine does something for me. I wasn’t sure if I would feel this for Halle’s Pascal, but her careful crafting of his character in this story illustrates her talent in romance writing. We shouldn’t like him, but you can’t help but fall for him. Now, to be fair, my favorite Dumont hero after reading the trilogy is still Blaise. There is just something magical about Blaise and Seraphina. However, Pascal’s redemption through the love of Gabrielle is special. It’s a reminder that love can save. The reason this works in Disavow is Halle’s ability to offer her readers Pascal’s’ psychology.
At its core, Disavow is a story of abuse. The resolution to the “mystery” of Ludovic Dumont’s death won’t be a surprise for anyone who has read the first two books of the trilogy. What becomes a bigger surprise is the depth of his brother Gautier’s evil. No one in this story has escaped his depravity. Each person’s life has been changed by his villainous actions, by his abuse, which means that his rule of terror is coming to a close. How this is dealt with in Disavow is incredibly satisfying, albeit a bit anti-climactic. However, for much of the book, the reach of his abuse of power illustrates the depth of hurt in the other characters, Pascal included. Once more is revealed about his relationship with his father, along with the revelation of Gabrielle’s story, Pascal’s humanity shows. It’s here where you will find the genius of Halle’s storytelling. We shouldn’t like him. Really. His stalking activities of Discretion and his actions against Olivier are terrible, but a humanized Pascal is one of the best things of the Dumont trilogy. Halle’s use of Gabrielle as the impetus for Pascal’s evolution shows the power of romance.
The second part of my “kink” in romance is the depth of power in a strong heroine. Gabrielle encapsulates this easily. Even in her weakness, Gabrielle is the fiercest character in the trilogy. Through her development, Halle exposes her readers to the truth and consequences of power and abuse. In Gabrielle, she gives her the power to change the story and its characters. She holds the greatest power in Disavow, and Gabrielle wields it responsibly, illustrating the determination and tenacity of women to effect change. It is ONLY because of Gabrielle that we can accept Pascal as the hero of Disavow, and it’s is the best depth of this story.
The best part of the final book of the Dumont trilogy, Disavow, is its ending. It is here where the humanity lies. It is here where we learn that relationships can heal and people can change and find their happy endings in the name of love. It is here where Halle reminds us why the genre of romance can both teach and titillate us.
In love and romance,