From the blurb:
When Beth Hawley journey’s to Lord Wraybourne’s castle to help her friend prepare for her wedding, she has to share her carriage with two unexpected travelers: the rakish Sir Marius Flectcher and an unidentified elderly woman who was found unconscious.
But Beth realises that neither the bride nor the groom is happy. Some mysterious shadow from the past seems to haunt her friend Sophie, and the elderly woman, suffering from memory loss, may hold the key.
Beth turns to Sir Marius for help, but he seems to have his mind set more on romance than the danger at hand…
Written by: Jo Beverley
First published: 1990
This blurb sets the reader up to think this Regency romance is going to be about Beth but in fact, it is about Sophie – who isn’t actually Beth’s friend but rather the sister-in-law of Beth’s former student. Beth and Sir Marius are in fact the side plot even though we meet them first.
I have to say that this really did upset me – probably more than it should have, but I was so excited to start reading a book about an ‘older‘ heroine that when it pivoted to the more usual, young, impetuous heroine I was extremely disappointed.
However, if I’d had this more realistic blurb from the original publication then I’d have had my expectations properly set:
Something is wrong. Lovely young Lady Sophie Kyle fears her handsome fiance Lord Randal is having a change of heart about their upcoming marriage. Why else would the once notorious rake respond to Sophie’s playful flirtations with a stuffy “Behave yourself”? Tensions grow as the wedding day approaches and anonymous threatening letters arrive at the castle. Dark shadows from the past seem to haunt the bride-to-be while she grows most anxious about her future. And as the guests gather to witness the ceremony that will unite the uncertain pair, they become players in a frightening drama of mystery and intrigue … as well as in a dangerous test of love.
What Did I Like?
Sadly, very little about this book appealed to me. I did like the interactions between the ‘Dark Angel’ and other characters – including the small boy, Stevie. Which is unusual because usually, I can’t stand cute children in a story. But in this case, the interactions between Verderan and Stevie were lovely as was Stevie’s role in rescuing Sophie later in the book.
What Didn’t I Like?
Full disclosure, I haven’t read the book proceeding this one Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed and I do think that if I’d done that I might have been more invested in this book. As it was, because I didn’t know the characters and didn’t really care about them, the whole scenario between Sophie and Randal just seemed melodramatic, over the top and very much a case of ‘just sit down and talk already!’
Similarly, I didn’t get the interactions between Beth and Sir Marius. They seemed forced – the whole relationship seemed forced and false actually. She talks about “degenerating to behaviour more fitted for a schoolroom” (i.e childish) but I don’t actually see that at all.
Their whole relationship seemed more suited for a novella rather than a novel – very short, very rushed and no substance to it at all.
How did I feel at the end?
That’s really the important thing, isn’t it? Did I feel the HEA was right? Did I feel happy or disappointed by the misunderstandings? Was I left with a warm and fuzzy feeling or wishing I could get my money back?
Ok, no surprises here – I did not feel the HEA was right. The misunderstandings between Sophie and Randal could have been cleared up with a simple conversation, whilst the villain seemed more like a plot device to allow Randal to be the conquering hero.
I definitely was not left with a warm and fuzzy feeling but I am intrigued by Verderan – I think I’ll give his story a go very shortly: Emily and the Dark Angel.