Review: The Dark Affair by Maire Claremont

Review: The Dark Affair by Maire ClaremontThe Dark Affair by Maire Claremont

Series: #3 Mad Passions
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Signet on March 4, 2014
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars  

This book fell into my hands and other than knowing it was a historical romance, I didn’t know much about it when I started to read it.  What a delightful surprise I got!  I didn’t realize when the series was called ‘Mad Passions’ that the mad part was meant literally.

This was the third book in a series of historical romances that are loosely tied together with at least one of the characters of each book associated with being in a madhouse or diagnosed as mad.  On a side note, I read this one out of order and had no trouble so it could be read as a standalone or read before the others in the series.

I’ve always been fascinated in a macabre pitying angry sort of way when it came to the way insanity and people who were deemed insane were treated throughout history.  Reasons to be declared insane and what happened to people locked up as insane were wild and varying.  Treatments were bizarre and torturous leaving a person’s sanity gone in the end if they weren’t insane from the beginning.

In the case of this story, Viscount Powers was placed into a madhouse by his father to be treated for his addiction to opium and his dangerous need for it.  The earl is taking drastic measures to restore his son and one of them involves employing the revolutionary ideas of an Irish woman who nursed men in the Crimea and now takes on the medical cases of the men who didn’t come back from the war unaffected.

Lady Margaret Cassidy left famine-ravaged Ireland behind after the deaths of her sorrowful and down-trodden parents and she never looked back.  Margaret boxed up all her feelings and put them behind a strong emotional wall where they couldn’t hurt or weaken her.  She still cares very much for her people and does what she can through aid and what money she can give through her nursing job of the English soldiers.  Her latest medical case threatens to topple her with the onset of feelings she has when she encounters her grief-stricken patient.  James Stanhope, Viscount Powers, is a challenge.  He lost his wife and daughter and has no desire to carry on his life normally without them.  He definitely has no plans to cooperate with Margaret by letting her dig into the core of his grief and bring it to light so he can begin healing from it.

Besides the desire to make Powers whole again, Margaret is given a shocking proposition from James’ father that at first she negates, but then when her brother comes to her with more trouble, she is forced to accept the Earl’s request.  He wants her to marry his son, help him beat his addictions and then give the Earl an heir.  In exchange, she will have money and influence to help her people including her brother.  Margaret is determined to treat the situation she finds herself in like any other patient- nurse relationship, but Lord Powers defies her abilities to remain detached at every turn.  He challenges her even as he accepts her challenge in turn.  Who is helping whom more and at what risk?

This is a marriage of convenience plot, but it was written in such a way that it was unique and new.  The story is naturally of a darker nature due to James’ issues with grief, anger and addiction and Margaret’s background of having grown up through the Irish Potato Famine and being Irish amongst the English.

The characters and their situation were drawn with depth and understanding.  It’s not just about the romance and passion though there is that too.  Things take their time coming to the point so the reader has to exhibit some patience with the pacing.  The relationship between them is complicated and hard too because they must slide between nurse-patient and husband-wife.  James has encountered and participated in most vices so he is more jaded, but he is also more open and honest too.  Margaret for all her experience with hard realities is repressed and innocent.  She tries to carry herself with detached aplomb, but is soon confronted by her own hypocrisy for her denial when James holds up a mirror so she can see her own issues.  The crisis comes when James gives her an ultimatum that comes down to whether she will open herself to him or continue to hide herself from him.

I found it all engaging and refreshingly different from most of the historical romances I have read recently.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters and seeing their development personally and toward each other.  The side story about her brother was of interest too.

I would definitely recommend this one to those who enjoy historical romance and are in the mood for something a little darker and grittier.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • ki pha

    I’m still waiting to read this and I know I’m going to love it!

    • I had this one given to me so I didn’t know what to expect, but now I can’t wait to go back and read the others.

  • I’ve read about this series before, the setting is unusual indeed, and very interesting !

    • Exactly! I loved the unique setting and I hope to get back to books one and two. I guess in those cases the ladies weren’t put in by concerned parents and really were deemed mad. Talk about scary.

      • I really like the way you see things 😉

        • That’s a lovely compliment, thank you Iza!

  • LOL Sophia yet another one that I can’t read! I’ve got this on my review backlist. I got a bit behind last month so haven’t managed it. Do you see me *flailing* because I’m totally flailing not being able to read reviews. lol

    • Oh, me too! I’m behind, but I guess we picked opposite ends of the stack to work on and catch up. 😉 I’ve had to skip several reviews at your site too. I take a quick glance to see how you scored it and your opening impression and then force myself to stop reading. I love getting other people’s thoughts so I know the torture of not reading them right away. 😉

      • ::snort:: We must have. Glad to know I’m not the only one a smidge behind. I managed to get all of my May ones read (as of this morning) so heading back to the ones I’ve missed this year. Hoping if I can keep up I’ll get to read everyone’s reviews since mine will be up and ready to go ahead of time 🙂

        • Sounds like a plan! I should probably just do that when I get behind.

  • I think this is one of the most unique series in historical romance. I think the premise of the “Mad” romance is simply “addicting”. (yeah, I know that was awful) This is coming up in my TBR and I’m so excited. I’m glad I read your review so I can really, really die from anticipation.

    • It took me by surprise, Sebella, and I wish I had known about it before. The ‘Mad’ element is so unique. From what I understand the first two books in the series touch on that theme more so than this one even. I’m always glad to help influence wish lists and TBR piles. Haha!