Desert Isle Keeper
A Breach of Promise
A Breach of Promise is the ninth book featuring William Monk, Hester Latterly and Sir Oliver Rathbone. Those of us that have been waiting, not so patiently, for some kind of resolution between Hester, Monk, and Rathbone, good news, the wait is over! However, I am not going to spoil the surprise for you. If none of these characters sound familiar, and you like a good Victorian mystery, stop reading this review and run down to your nearest bookstore and pick up, Face of a Stranger, the first book featuring these characters.
Rathbone has been approached by a brilliant young architect, Killian Melville, who is being sued in a breach of promise case. Barton Lambert is suing Killian because of a broken engagement to his daughter, Zillah. Barton Lambert has been Killian’s patron and a strong supporter of Killian’s beautiful designs until this situation developed. The entire Lambert home has been built using Killian’s architectural designs. Killian swears up and down to Rathbone that he never asked Zillah to marry him and he was not aware that his attentions would result in marriage plans. (Apparently an unwritten Victorian society rule says that the prospective groom need not actually ask the young woman, but merely spend a great deal of time with her.) Rathbone takes the case against his better judgment, and cannot determine how to successfully defend his client, since all Killian will say about the matter is that he cannot possibly marry Zillah. Zillah is, by all accounts (including Killian’s), a delightful, attractive, and intelligent girl. Killian states there is nothing wrong with Zillah or her family, and no, he is not married. Killian also admits that he spent a great deal of time at the Lambert home talking with Zillah. Rathbone knows that his client is hiding something from him because any other man would not hesitate in marrying Zillah, whether the declaration was formal or not. Why risk a breach of promise suit?
Rathbone reluctantly hires Monk to help him discover what Killian is hiding. Monk explores the Lambert family background to determine if there is a problem in the Lambert family that Killian won’t reveal, and Killian’s own past. Monk finds nothing suspicious or helpful to the court case. Rathbone knows that if he does not win the suit, Killian’s livelihood as an architect will be finished, even though Killian himself does not believe he will be shunned by society. Rathbone vacillates between feeling sympathetic for the overly naive Killian, or angry at him for being such a fool about the whole matter.
Rathbone and Monk seek Hester’s input and female perspective about the situation. Hester is involved in her own difficult situation. She has been employed by a society family as a nurse for Gabriel Sheldon, a handsome young man who was one of only four survivors of a horrible battle during the Indian Mutiny. Gabriel has terrible facial scars and has lost an arm. His young wife, Perdita, does not know how to deal with the situation, and Victorian attitudes and prejudices on both sides are difficult to overcome. Hester must help them both to look past their prescribed roles and expectations if they are to have any meaningful relationship for the rest of their lives.
As I’ve come to expect in an Anne Perry mystery, all the subplots blend together in a seamless outcome that was completely unpredictable – at least for this reviewer. The author does her usual in-depth study of Victorian society and the ridiculous attitudes about women held by people of the time. The interaction between Monk and Hester is, as always, emotionally painful. Rathbone is also forced to examine his fear of commitment and marriage. The most excellent Henry Rathbone also makes a small cameo. My only disappointment with the story was that the resolution that devoted followers of the series have been waiting for does not happen until the last page of the book! I thought that the fans deserved better since the triangle between Rathbone, Monk and Hester has been present for the last eight books. Nevertheless, this book goes on my keeper shelf as one of the best examples of Anne Perry’s story-telling ability.