This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance
Released on August 7, 2014
Scarred military vet with dark past nursed back to health by a savvy vicar’s daughter just sounded too good to pass up. I hadn’t read this author before and was keen to try something new in my historical romance. I was duly impressed by the author’s writing. There was a hint of the gothic right alongside social issues of the time next to an unusual, fun heated romance.
The story opens when William, the Viscount Blackthorn, comes home. He is near death from wounds sustained in the war and is not only prepared to die, but actually welcomes death. He comes from a cursed line of greedy, foul and lecherous men and he is content that his tainted bloodline will die with him. It is the only reason he has returned to the home estate that he vowed never to see again because of the pain and misery he experienced there growing up under a hateful, cruel father and treated badly by those in the neighborhood who took their revengeful anger out on him as a boy because they couldn’t fight his powerful, wealthy father. But as things tend to do, his plans are not to be. Instead, due to the help of a long ago childhood friend and angel, he is nursed back from death to survive albeit scarred and a tad less than whole. Death might have been easier, but life has suddenly gotten interesting with Hannah Foster in it.
Hannah, the eldest daughter of the vicar, is resigned to her spinster status. She is content caring for her widowed father and two younger sisters, assisting her father with parish affairs, and visiting amongst her common friends in the village. Then one day a scruffy stranger looks near death where he is insensible out amongst the tombstones and she comes upon him. Only under the dirt and scruff is the young boy now a man that she took pity on and became his only friend when he was young and lonely. Hannah hasn’t seen William since he was a boy sent off to school by his cruel father and she knows what everyone thinks of him for staying away so long and letting an unscrupulous estate manager strip the estate and oppress those who live on it and the village in its purview including the vicarage, but she is still determined to breach propriety and nurse him. No one else would go near him or the estate because of the black curse on his family. Hannah can tell herself that none of what she is doing for William is as bad as it seems because her intentions are good- that is until he is alert and now they have a problem.
William steps up and does the honorable thing though he hides the fact that he wants to do it. If only Hannah will learn to care for him in return and if only he didn’t have this curse on his bloodline that threatens to drive a wedge between them. And if only, he had faith that his good deeds can negate the effects of the curse.
The plot on this one isn’t that unusual, but set against the backdrop of the family curse, the battles against social ills such as slavery and child mineworkers and the call to faith, it takes new life. Normally, I’m not one for ’causes’ of any variety in my romance reads, but when an author can blend it in without it taking over a story then I can not only tolerate, but also enjoy it. In this case, the social injustices and spiritual themes worked very well with the story. The curse was the grounds for much of what happened and I enjoyed the gothic-feel it added to the story and how it was used to set up the barriers to the romance.
The main characters were both strong, loveable and grow personally and together. They are written with depth. Hannah as an elder sister and the responsible one can be a bit bossy, but I enjoyed how that added some fun dialogue and tension between her and William, who as a military officer and aristocrat, is also used to being in charge. Both are also lonely and vulnerable opening up and relying on each other. They had their disagreements, but I enjoyed how these moments didn’t string out too long.
As to the passionate side of things, it was a shocker to get a hold of a book with two- yep, check it- virgins. The author did a good job of balancing the obvious awkward moments that would come as a result of this with a build up of passion that would keep the reader into this couple. They were both honest and unashamed in their lovemaking and had to learn how to be together. The author also did a good job painting a true picture of a newlywed couple trying to get on together, but also get on in their community. Many authors overlook this and it was so unique and refreshing to see this aspect of a relationship included.
I should also add that the secondary characters were a plus too. There were good scenes with Hannah and her family and friend, Grace. William with his friend and also with Hannah’s family was good stuff. I look forward to irascible Grace’s book which is next.
In the end, I was satisfied with this one enjoying the backdrop, plot and couple. Those who enjoy historical romance with a slightly more serious tone, strong characters and dialogue and warm passion should try this one. It can be read as a standalone though it is a first book in a series.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.