As I settled into this book properly and got the feel of the writing and the plot, I was delighted to discover that I had landed into a story that rivaled some of the truly dark Gothic classical tales of old where evil plotted against the virgin heroine, where schemes for power and wealth were de rigeur, where the hero was a man in need of redemption and where a madcap and slightly over the top plot is acceptable. The only variance was the setting. Instead of a dark moldering castle, our heroine’s tale is set against the backdrop of the glittering wealth of Georgian London during the beginning of George II’s reign (okay well there was that scene near the end, but we’ll keep that on the hush-hush so as not to spoil it).
The story opens with a Prologue which begins with a dark tragedy and then continues on telling of the life a dissipated young nobleman, Lord Hadley Blanchard. His life is empty and he has plunged the depths of sin and reached rock bottom. His fall is complete when he makes a devil’s bargain to stay in funds.
Next, the heart of the story begins when a young innocent Mary Edwardes is forced by Sir Richard, the guardian her father appointed, to leave her country estate and go to London for the purpose of being married off as an heiress. She is alone and frightened so must do as she is told. Helping her in shedding her countrified ways is Sir Richard’s mistress, the unscrupulous widowed Countess Barbara Blanchard.
The Countess constantly schemes for money and for fulfillment to her lusty desires and then in the end she acts out of vicious jealousy. She is tired of Sir Richard so concocts a scheme to bring the prodigal step-son, Hadley Blanchard, home to help her steal the wealth of the young girl in her care by debauching her and marrying her. What she could not have foreseen was the effect such a pure innocent girl would have on a man who thought he was beyond redemption and thought he lost his conscience long ago.
Hadley agrees to Barbara’s plans, but has his own schemes afoot to restore his family title and lands, revenge himself against Sir Richard and yes, to gain a wealthy heiress as his wife. Between Hadley, the Countess, and Sir Richard, Mary is not completely unaware of the danger surrounding her, but knows she needs an ally. Hadley, plotter that he is, seems like her best bet, but she fears he will break her heart in the process because she is drawn to him almost from the first because he is the only one to treat her with kindness.
This book has a very twisty plot with that feel that made me see poor Marry as the tethered goat sacrifice to the wild beasts. Knowing who the villains were and being privy to their plotting didn’t make the story any less exciting because there was the tension of wondering how Mary and Hadley would navigate through the snares and dangers or get caught. That Countess could have given Machiavelli a good run for his money. It’s scary when evil is that determined and capable.
As to back drop, I have to say that I was impressed with the authentic feel of the historic backdrop that wove unobtrusively throughout the story. I think it a strong suit for this writer as I’ve noticed this is true in her other writings as well.
I enjoyed how Mary’s character was parts innocent and parts sass, but never naive. She was honest to the core even with her feelings of attraction and her desires when it came to Hadley. I wanted to shout ‘Bravo Mary’ when she looked Hadley in the eye and stated with honesty that she would take responsibility for her own actions- that Hadley wasn’t seducing her so much as she was allowing his advances because she wanted them. I also wanted to swoon when Hadley called her his angel and that she had saved him. Hadley excited sympathy even more so than Mary once his past was opened up to me. Then I wanted to cry when Mary heard his tale, didn’t believe in him and he was faced with the fact that his past had destroyed his future chance of happiness.
The other plot line which I will entitle ‘Mary’s Education By Hadley’ ran through most of the book. Hadley’s tantalizing lessons in passion escalated with each new meeting between the two. These scenes were refreshingly written even as they went from warm increasing in heat to scorching hot by the time all was said and done.
After the big scene near the end, I felt like the story did rush into its conclusion. I was happy with what came about in the end for some and wished that there had been explicit mention of some dispensary of justice for others.
The book offered an exceptionally good reading experience that engaged me from the start, touched many emotions in me and kept my interested to the very last page was turned.
Those who like their historical romances loaded with hot spicy passion and devilish intrigue would probably enjoy this story.
Thank you to the author who provided a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.