Monday, February 27, 2012

Blame it on Bath: The Truth about the Duke

The second in Caroline Linden's new Truth about the Duke series, Blame it on Bath is the story of Lord Captain Gerard de Lacey, the youngest offspring of the late Duke of Durham. All three ducal sons  are entangled in what has come to be known as the Durham Dilemma, a situation which may find all three declared bastards and destitute. Each brother sets off on a mission to find and dismiss the rumor that their parents' marriage was illegal and their father was a bigamist.  Edward, the middle de Lacey, had his story told in the recently reviewed, One Night in London. 

Gerard is home on bereavement leave from the Peninsula Wars, and is determined to use his time to track down the blackmailer threatening his family and his livelihood. He finds himself propositioned into marriage by the widow Lady Katherine Howe. A merchant's daughter who married a viscount, Katherine is starved for attention and affection and finds herself still in love with Gerard, years after a chance encounter on a rainy country road.  She needs this marriage in order to extricate herself from the expectation of a match to her dead husband's heir. Lacking any self-confidence, Kate sees Gerard as her ticket out of the quandary heavily promoted by her formidable mother. Fortunately for her, Gerard needs an heiress to marry in order to guarantee his income should the Durham Dilemma resolve itself against the De Lacey's. And so, after much thought, he agrees to the marriage.

I loved this book because Gerard himself is so very lovable. He's the quintessential romance hero. Despite an arranged marriage, he tries to make a go of it and when faced with Kate's insecurity complex, he takes his time to coax her (both in bed and out) from her shell. She begins to truly believe in herself for the first time in her life and in return, earns Gerard's love for herself as well.  The blackmail story becomes the backdrop for this beautiful love story set in Bath.

Blame it on Bath is out on February 28, 2011. I look forward to reading elder brother and heir, Charles' story. I've found that this novel is incrementally better than the previous one. If that continues to be the case,  the last in this series will surely not disappoint, especially since Charles has the furthest to go to redemption.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mariana, by Susanna Kearsley

The lure of Susanna Kearsley's story telling in both The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden was just too much, so I couldn't resist reading Mariana. If you enjoy this author, resistance is futile. You won't be disappointed, as Mariana is more than up to the task of settling in right among those two wonderful novels.

Julia Beckett is drawn to one particular  farmhouse in Exbury. Known as Greywethers, and located adjacent to Crofton Hall, the seat of the de Mornay family, the 16th century house calls to her from childhood, and as an adult of 29, with a job as an illustrator for children's books, she has the wherewithal to purchase it. As she settles in, she becomes aware of coincidences and what can coyly be described as side effects, of living there. She sees a gray stallion with a mysterious rider, who seems to be watching her from a copse of trees. Then, she has what seem to be a series of hallucinations. She finds herself in the Greywethers of the 1660's, as Mariana Farr, a girl who has come to live with her devout uncle during the plague years in London. As she comes back to herself after each "episode," Julia realizes that these are not hallucinations, or the product of too little sleep, but something quite different, and she feels compelled to continue her journeys into the past in order to experience the love that Richard de Mornay had for Mariana, and by doing so, answer questions that pertain to her own life.

Ms. Kearsley's secondary characters which include Julia's vicar brother Tom,  Geoff de Mornay (the owner of Crofton Hall), her friend Vivian, Vivian's Aunt Freda and Geoff's friend Iain Sumner, pull the story together and add the puzzle pieces that completes the picture of both Julia and Mariana's lives. While Mariana's tale is a compelling, tragic, but somewhat predictable love story, Julia's happy ending comes in the form of a lovely surprise, one we may have suspected at first, but brushed aside for a different outcome. I was happy to see that my first impression was correct in this case.

Mariana, like all of Ms. Kearsley's novels, pushes the envelope of reality without actually breaking through the seal. The story telling is so good that we put aside our doubts and questions and truly believe that the basis of these stories are entirely plausible. As with the other two wonderful novels I reviewed here, I didn't want to turn the last page. It's hard to find an author so adept at suspending reality and taking her readers along for the ride. I'm grateful to have found this one.