Monday, December 26, 2011

Lily, by Patricia Gaffney

To say that I'm still shaking from this novel would be not be an understatement. In the best combination of dark, gothic story telling and heart lifting historical romance, Patricia Gaffney takes her characters (and readers) on a veritable roller coaster of emotions, from the deepest reaches of human despair to the totally euphoric feeling one gets when an outcome is exactly as one's heart would hope.

Lily Traherne, gently bred daughter of an inventor and sometimes drunk, finds herself with a new guardian after her father's death, one who sniffs out her inheritance and hatches a plot to gain control of it. When things go awry and Lily must flee Lyme Regis and run for her life, she finds herself in the far corner of Cornwall, at Darkstone Manor, ancestral home of Devon Darkwell, Viscount Sandown. Cynical and depressed, Darkwell suffers from a deep disappointment in his life, and when he meets Lily, who is posing as a servant in his household, he's after only one thing. When that one thing turns into an obsession for them both, the trouble begins. Just when we think things are beginning to go the way of all historical romance novels, Ms. Gaffney snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and plunges the characters back into situations that are untenable, and to some readers, including this one, even uncomfortable. We wonder at every turn how this story can ever, in any sense of the word, turn out happily. And we are left wondering right up until the very last. Like Lily, the reader is more than ready for something good to happen, for both Devon and Lily to come to their senses and face the inevitable. We are left waiting for a good, long time.

With engaging secondary characters, like Devon's brother Clay, and Lowdy and Galen, fellow servants at Darkstone, Ms. Gaffney succeeds in lightening the mood, at times. For the most part, the novel stays dark and like a storm blowing in off the ocean (and there are many in this book) wild and uncertain. I loved it. Uncertainty and historical romance make great bedfellows. I wish more authors in this genre would try it. Available from Open Road Publishers.

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