Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Beautifully Dark Delight

I have been anxiously awaiting Máire Claremont's debut from the moment I first spied the cover. The lush art work led me to believe that the contents inside would certainly be even better. The Dark lady had me from page one and kept me entranced right through the final pages. The writing is solid. The Dark Lady’s hero and heroine are equally matched in strengths and tragedies.  The story weaves its way through the dark side of Victorian England, a side which is often forgotten.  Claremont draws readers into the dark recesses of an often cruel era where those who have power often abused such power. From a country side madhouse to the beautiful ballrooms of London this book takes readers on ride that so few historical romances do.
They had been friends since early childhood but destiny and duty fell in their paths. Lady Eva Carin has not only lost her husband but soon after suffers a much greater loss than that, the loss of her infant son in an accident of her own making. Her brother-in-law Thomas, the new Lord Carin sees fit to commit Eva to an asylum of which she has endured many cruelties including a regular dosing of laudanum and many pain filled beatings.  Lord Ian Blake has returned from India haunted by the events that led to the former Lord’s death and dreads coming face to face with Eva, but he knows he owes her the truth about what really happened to her husband. Ian is stunned to learn that she’s been committed, but upon entering the halls of the asylum that she has been placed in, he becomes livid and enraged. The only thing that stops him from committing murder is the thought of never being able to see Eva again. This sets off a chain of events that puts them both in danger as they each try to overcome the torments that life has thrown at them.
I was drawn into the story from beginning and my heart went out to Eva and Ian. The story telling is lush and simply draws you into the period. There are many strong secondary characters that will make you want to come back for a second helping. Beautifully crafted, and has been written in a fashion that believable for its time period. For a novel that has an overall darkness to it, the light soon begins to filter in.
Easily a Five Star

Friday, February 8, 2013

What Sweet Debut Just In Time for Valentine's Day!

I absolutely loved Anne Barton’s When She Was Wicked. Her characters were well developed, believable and likeable. Annabelle Honeycote is a seamstress in a Bond Street dress shop where she barely earns enough money to make ends meet for herself. Working for the dress shop however does not earn her enough to support her sick mother and younger sister.  By working in the dress shop Belle becomes privy to the sorts of gossip that the Ton would be willing to pay to keep a secret, these secrets all Belle to add to her small income via way of blackmail. Belle has rules though, only ask those who can afford to lose a small sum, only use a target once, and do not form a personal relationship with said targets.
When bell overheard the type of gossip that could ruin the Duke of Huntford’s sister, she develops full intentions to make Huntford pay to keep the gossip a secret. Owen Sherbourne, Duke of Huntford doesn’t take kindly to extortion of any kind.  Following his father’s suicide and his mother’s desertion he is tasked with raising his headstrong younger sisters. When he catches Belle in the act, he decides to make her work off her debt versus sending her to Newgate. His sisters are coming out and each needs new wardrobes.  Annabelle’s sweet personality helps the Huntford sisters to form a close knit bond with Belle. All Huntford wants is to do right by his family and right the wrongs from his parents mistakes. He has no intention of falling in love with Belle, but as Belle works her magic on fabric Huntford discovers a diamond in the rough. Huntford finds himself drawn to Belle’s sweetness and beauty.
Barton has written one of the sweetest romances I’ve read in a long time. The characters are well written and easily believable. The romance between Owen and Belle is natural and not forced. I found myself rooting for these two long before the end of the book. I can honestly say that I would highly recommend any romance reader to try Anne Barton’s debut. When She Was Wicked is the first in Barton’s Honeycote series and if the first one is any example I cannot wait for the follow up book.
Arc provided by Grand Central Publishing.