This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Bigamy! Murder! History! Romance! Oh yes! I was hooked by the blurb on this trilogy and really wanted to read it when all those words jumped out at me. Blended all together, it did indeed make for good reading. The trilogy was the story of three women who were all married (or thought themselves married) to the same man, Jean Cuvier. It all begins with the discovery of his murder and takes the reader through what happens next for each of Cuvier’s widows. Each book puts a different widow in the main character slot, but there is the tie to the overarching mystery of who killed Jean Cuvier.
The first book, Wronged, is the story of Marian Cuvier, Jean Cuvier’s legitimate wife. Marian has been estranged from her husband in many ways for years so she doesn’t mourn his death. His lies and infidelity do bruise her spirit and make her doubt herself, but Marian must set this aside and concentrate on what she must do to care for her family and secure their future. All she has is half of the shipping company that her son inherited from Cuvier’s estate. The trouble is that her business partner opposes her coming to take an active role in the company and wants her to sell out. Louis Fournier has his own reasons for this and he deceives Marian all along, but what he didn’t expect- neither of them expect- is the strong attraction they share.
The plot moves along at a good pace and I enjoyed the drama caused by their romance and the intrigue Louis’ deception causes. They were both strong headstrong characters who had their flaws, but it was great to see them over come them. The dip into history is just a shallow plunge, but the author did a good job making me feel like I was in turn of the century New Orleans with the focus staying on the plot and not the backdrop. The murder mystery is relatively untouched for the first book, but Marian and Louis’ torchy romance made it a good strong first installment.
The second book, Betrayed, is the story of Nicole, who now has to scramble because now her unborn child is illegitimate because of Jean’s deception. Nicole has the sugar plantation that thankfully Jean put in her name, but now she has the scandal of being the wrong wife to a bigamist and expecting his child. Nicole’s big concern is that her unborn child not have to go through the same stigma that she did all her life so she sets out to find a man to give her child his name. Enter Maxim Viel. Max is not the drifter he allows Nicole to think he is. No, he’s the man who wants to buy her plantation to restore it to his family who lost it the generation before. Nicole won’t sell so now he sees the perfect solution when she asks him to marry her. Too bad Max didn’t realize that this marriage of convenience would become so much more. He’s now on borrowed time to make sure his lies don’t catch up with him before he can get Nicole to want the marriage as much as he does.
This plot carries over one of the themes from the first book in that the heroine’s romantic interest is trying to deceive her for his own gain and then gets tripped up by falling in love. Nicole and Max are both intent on their own needs and both have worthy reasons, but those become barriers to their relationship. I love learning the background of each of these widows and seeing how they have to be so strong to overcome what has gone before in their lives and learn to trust and be happy again. Again, with this second story, the murder mystery is secondary, but there are clues that tantalize the reader with a possible answer leading me to really anticipate the final book.
Book three, Beguiled, is all that I hoped for when it came to the murder taking more of a stronger role. Layla was the wife accused from the beginning and stayed the police’s chief suspect. She had the most reasons to hate Jean Cuvier and she hates his lawyer, Drew Soulier, almost as much. He is determined for his own reasons to represent her case and she is just as determined not to trust him. Layla concedes the need for Drew’s help since she can’t afford a lawyer and is in a battle for her very life. Everyone is keen on believing that Layla is the killer and the facts stack up high against her. Even though Drew has his doubts about Layla’s innocence, he is determined to get her acquitted both to further his political career and because of his long time attraction to her. Layla and Drew are both repelled and attracted to each other making theirs a heated romance on more than one level.
In this one, I was not as enamored with the heroine, Layla, as I was with the other books. I have strong sympathy for her plight and I really want her to find happiness, but she does some really dumb things that hurt her own cause. Drew wasn’t forthright with her, but he gave her no reason for the amount of hate and distrust she bore him. I loved it when he called her on her misconceptions and she was forced to see reality for the first time. Go Drew! The mystery was well developed and I loved how all the clues were there if you are looking for them. I actually figured it out rather quickly, but that didn’t make me grow bored because I loved watching it all unravel to the big ending.
I did have a sense when the series was through that I wanted more of an explanation into the psychology of Jean Cuvier and his motives particularly when it came to Marian and Nicole. Seeing all the widows get their stories did make for a satisfying epitaph to his life in a way knowing that his deeds lead them to true happiness.
All in all, it was a good trilogy that I can recommend to those who enjoy spicy American Historical Romance.