Again, My Lord
The second in Katharine Ashe’s Twist series, the ‘twist’ in Again My Lord is based on a famous and popular film (the name of which I won’t reveal so as not to spoil it.) With the exception of maybe one or two incidents, the book was a solid read with interesting and well developed characters.
Tacitus Casear Everard, Lord Dare, has a certain requirement in a wife: she has to have good teeth. Tacitus adored his mother, father and their insular little family of three were extremely happy, until Tacitus’ mother died and his father passed away shortly thereafter from a broken heart. Tacitus’ mother had never enjoyed good health and the culprit of much of her misery was her bad set of teeth. So, in order to avoid that type of heartache in the future, the sheltered and naive Tacitus determines to marry a girl with teeth that will not fail her – and hence him.
The young lady with the most exquisite teeth he has ever seen turns out to be Calista Chance. It does not hurt that she is beautiful as well, but Tacitus has one other requirement in a wife. He doesn’t want to fall in love with her. Love when lost causes nothing but pain and he is determined to avoid the grief that took his father’s life. When he decides to court Calista, he discovers that her father, the Earl of Chance has suddenly removed his family from town under scandalous circumstances and is not expected to return. Not to be deterred once he has made his selection, Tacitus travels to the Chance family seat intending to corner Lord Chance so that he can continue his courtship.
Calista Chance has presented a façade of frivolity to the world that hides a defiant and determined personality. When her father’s gambling brings the family to the edge of ruin, drastic measures may be called for. When Lord Dare turns up at the family estate, Calista is hopeful he may be her salvation. But alas, it is not meant to be and, when Tacitus leaves, Calista is forced into an abusive marriage.
Fast forward six years, and we find Calista Holland at an inn where she is planning to meet her sister. It seems that Calista’s husband has begun to abuse their son as well as Calista and she is frantic to get him away from his father. Richard Holland is obsessed with his wife and will allow nothing to take her attention away from him. Therefore she is not allowed to go all the way to the Chance family seat of Dashbourne, but must hand off her son at the half-way point so she can hurry back home to her husband. As fate would have it, Tacitus is also waiting at that same inn when one of the biggest storms in recent memory hits and all travelers are stranded.
The use of a time loop to further the story is a fairly clever if not entirely original device and for the most part, it works in this story. Calista begins this journey as a stressed, unhappy, impatient and somewhat haughty person, but as the days she relives stretch into weeks, we see tremendous personal growth in her character. For most of the book, Calista is the only one who remembers her interactions with the people at the inn and in the village that houses it. Her relationship and feelings toward Tacitus change dramatically, but he does not know it. Every inch of ground she gains toward changing Tacitus’ view of her is wiped away with the crowing of the cock. I wondered early on how Ms Ashe would get around the fact that Calista is married so that our hero and heroine do not engage in adultery. She handles this with a deft hand that is convincing without being clichéd.
Tacitus is the quintessential gentleman. After his heartbreak over losing Calista he decides to become a rake. But being a rake is just not in his character. His life was built on the firm foundation of the love of his two parents and he has too much integrity to become a wastrel. Their loss has made him retreat into himself and the insular nature of their family created a loner. He is an interesting, novel and well developed character. His stoicism hides a well of grief and it is impossible for the reader not to root for his happy ever after.
While the time-loop plotline does work in this instance, it seemed to go on for just a little too long. I found myself almost screaming at the book, “enough already!” Shaving off 20-30 pages during that particular section would have probably elevated this novel to DIK status in my opinion. But that is the only real criticism I have of Again, My Lord, and I would recommend it to those of us who love a good historical romance.