I’m of two minds about this one. On the one hand, Julia Ross is a skilled writer whose prose is always a joy to read. On the other, regretfully, the story she tells here isn’t a very interesting one.
Frankly, my assessment of this one is echoed by my feelings about Games of Pleasure, the author’s last book, that I noted was “a pretty good book that could have been a better one” in my B- review. The nauseatingly named and self-sacrificing Miracle Heather, whose romance featured in that earlier book, appears here as well, in, unfortunately, a greater than cameo role. The story is more than a bit on the melodramatic side – especially in its last quarter when a series of last minute highly improbable developments ensures an HEA for everyone. Still, there is that prose, something that always amounts to a very great pleasure.
Widowed schoolteacher Sarah Callaway approaches Guy Deveron for assistance in locating her cousin and only living relative who has mysteriously disappeared. Not knowing where to start the search, Sarah believes that Guy can be of help since her cousin wrote to her of the extraordinary kindness the nobleman showed to her.
Of course, the cousin didn’t tell Sarah the whole truth about her life, including the fact that she spent some months as Guy’s mistress. Guy, for reasons of his own having, I suspect, more to do with the author’s need for a Conflict rather than logic, doesn’t tell Sarah the truth about her cousin – including the fact that the letters she wrote Sarah of her life as a governess were a complete fabrication.
So, Sarah and Guy begin working together to find Rachel and have lots of opportunities for Guy’s family (from Night of Sin and Games of Pleasure) to be really wise and oh-so-very-nice to the distraught Sarah.
The main characters themselves are, as always, largely well drawn. Readers will be happy to know that Sarah isn’t one of those dreaded virgin widows, and the love scenes – once you get there – are very nice. Guy, however, is a shade too perfect, even if he is a nincompoop for failing to reveal the Big Secret which, of course, keeps getting Bigger and Bigger as the story goes on.
But, on the whole, the bottom line is that there just isn’t anything to get excited about here except for the author’s always readable prose. Add in that melodramatic ending and my ambivalence about recommending this book becomes even greater. Readers could do worse, certainly, considering the disappointing crop of historical romances these days, but if you’re new to Julia Ross, I’d recommend her ultra-fabulous My Dark Prince as a far better place to start.