If many European Historicals are set against a backdrop of wallpaper history – enough history to make the book of a certain time, but not so much as to overwhelm the reader – then Ever Yours is a flat, white latex paint model. Except for the date in the front, a few mentions of crinolines and one mention of a train, the action in this book could have taken place at any time in the 19th and early 20th century. That said, however, the author’s writing style is pleasantly witty, and her characters make a valiant effort to distinguish themselves from their bland backdrop.
In an unusual bequest from Lord Stanhope, an old acquaintance of her mother, Lady Ivy St. Clair will receive a house and a small annuity if first she will deliver a package to a man in Wales. Ever game for adventure, Ivy convinces her parents to allow her to make the trip from London even though she is newly betrothed and will miss part of the Season. Her brother and her benefactor’s housekeeper accompany her on the journey.
Auburn Seaton, Earl of Tamberlake, the man for whom the package is intended, is nicknamed the Monster Earl. With half his face disfigured and an eye lost in a horrific carriage accident, he lives in seclusion and with no intentions to ever go out in Society again. The package Stanhope sends via Ivy is a portrait of Auburn before the accident.
Unlike most others when they meet Auburn, Ivy is far from repulsed by his appearance and genuinely doesn’t see what everyone else does when they look at him. She does not even see the difference between the portrait and his current appearance. She enjoys his company, joins him on his walks, shares her opinions, and gradually realizes she is falling in love. Her strong sense of honor, however, will not allow her to break her betrothal, even though she has second thoughts about the arrangement – especially when her superficial fiancé arrives in Wales with an equally flighty friend.
Ivy and Auburn are both interestingly drawn, and their personalities occasionally peek out from behind the formulaic character types. For example, although Ivy is the plain, intelligent, thoughtful woman of her family, she is also uncompromisingly plain-spoken and feels loyalty towards a family who doesn’t deserve it. For his part, Auburn is the tortured, tragically hurt, dark hero, but his insecurity about his appearance is palpable and he is genuine in his awakening. The secondary characters do not fare nearly as well, however. Ivy’s parents, sister, and betrothed, as well as Auburn’s ex-fiancée and servants, are right out of the cookie cutter catalogue. The impediment to Ivy and Auburn’s happiness is a problem for a lot longer than it should have been, and there are some bizarre dramatics at the end of the book that make it seem as if there was another, far more serious, book trying to make its presence felt.
As mentioned at the start, there is also a problem with the setting. Besides some very minor details, the story could have taken place anywhere at any time in the past, and its lack of specificity is disconcerting. For example, Ivy and Auburn meet in Wales – a fascinatingly wild, rugged place that would have been a dramatic change from Ivy’s London – but both locations are so sketchily described that it’s impossible to feel the scene change. All in all, Ever Yours is a pleasant little nugget showing some promise of a fun, frothy read, but too much is missing to make it a completely satisfying experience.