I Adored a Lord
Once upon a time there were three little girls whose parents sent them on a ship from the West Indies to England. What happened to their parents, no one knows, but the girls first found themselves in a foundling home and then adopted by a sweet, if absent-minded vicar. Among the Gypsies who camped near their village in the warmer months was a fortune teller. This fortune teller told the girls that if they ever wanted to know who their parents were, one of them must first marry a prince. And, thus begins Katharine Ashe’s Prince Catchers series. The first book saw Arabella Caulfield married to her duke. This book is Ravenna’s story.
Ravenna Caulfield seems to have been born a tomboy. From her earliest memories, she longed to be outside and with animals. Her adopted father despaired of her in relation to her lessons, but Ravenna learned what she needed to know through doing, and taking care of animals became her passion. When she was just 17, she wrote a letter applying for a position with Sir Beverley Clark and Mr. Pettigrew as a “pet handler” for their 12 dogs, two birds, and one pig. Sir Beverley and Mr. Pettigrew were dismayed to see that R. Caulfield was a young lady, so Ravenna suggested they adopt her. By the time Ravenna has reached her mid-twenties, Sir Beverley and Mr. Pettigrew are as beloved to her as any real fathers could be. When her dog Beast who had come to live with her at Shelton Grange died, Ravenna fell into a depression. Sir Beverley and Mr. Pettigrew suggested a trip to France to take her mind off of her loss. It was only when she arrived at Chateau Chevriot, Ravenna learns she had been tricked. The “trip” is actually a house party for a prince who is searching for a wife. Ravenna is determined to stay as far away from him as possible while also avoiding the “mean girls” who have descended to catch a prince. She does not escape the notice of Lord Vitor Courtenay however.
Vitor Courtenay is a man divided. He has two fathers: The one married to his mother (the Marquess of Airedale) and his blood father (Prince Raynaldo of Portugal). Vitor also served both Portugal and England in the war with Napoleon. Having been captured by the British and mistaken for a spy, he was tortured by none other than his brother Wesley, the Earl of Case. His experiences in the war led him to several monasteries to recover both mentally and physically. He has come to Chateau Chevriot at the request of Prince Raynoldo to make sure his other half-brother, Prince Sebastiao, finds a suitable wife. The guests have barely arrived before he steps wrong with Ravenna Caulfield when he mistakes her for a servant in the prince’s stables. Before he can adequately apologize, a man in Prince Sebastiao’s castle is murdered. What follows is a murder mystery along the lines of Gosford Park. Ravenna and Vitor team up to attempt to catch a killer.
The relationship between Ravenna and Vitor is the best part of this book. She speaks her mind with plain language and the back and forth banter between the two is what makes their new friendship and budding romance believable. Vitor is a hero right out of central casting. He is kind, brave, honorable, and luscious. The romance is both fun and authentic.
While most of the secondary characters were well developed, there was a slight tendency toward caricature with some of the “mean girls.” The murder mystery began well enough, but fell apart a little at the end as the author seemed so intent on distracting the reader from the real killer that she went a little overboard with potential suspects, false accusations, and confessions. The ending made up for it though. It was wonderful. While I did enjoy the murder mystery as a plot device, the looseness of the murder resolution detracted somewhat from the rest of the story. However, the book did hold my interest once it progressed past the relatively slow beginning.
Having finished the book, I now want to know more about Ravenna’s sisters. While this book will not make my personal DIK shelf, it is a solid story by an author new to me. I look forward to reading more of Katharine Ashe.