Second Thoughts is a well-written story with unbelievable plot elements. Given that the book is a paranormal/gothic Regency, that is fine, except that these unbelievable plot elements are really unbelievable. But with that said, I liked the hero and heroine and the secondary characters were also surprisingly well-drawn. That there would be no story without the spirits is unfortunate since Heath writes well, knows her history and can keep the reader interested even if it is not possible to suspend disbelief – or interest – in the supernatural for the duration of the book.
Kate Kingsley is a widow whose husband was killed in a duel, leaving her with a son and no funds with which to support them. She takes on work as a governess, and interviews for a position with Gerent Fitzarthur, Lord Carismont. Before the interview is even half over, he has changed his mind about the position. Instead of becoming his daughter’s governess, he wants Kate to become her stepmother, wedding him in a marriage of convenience. During the course of the interview, Kate’s thoughts and attention are focused on strange happenings around her, things that apparently only she notices. She accepts his proposal, and they are off to Carismont, the island where Gerent and his daughter, Genevra, reside.
Before long, it is clear that some malicious force is attempting to harm Kate and the rest of Carismont’s inhabitants, while it is also clear that there are good forces equally determined to stave the demon off. The various supernatural characters are off-putting, one-dimensional and distracting. Their dialogue seems to be a weak attempt at humor which, regretfully, does not succeed. The main impediment (a supernatural one) to the hero and heroine’s happy ending is awkward, as well. And, since two of the supernatural characters are introduced in the first scene, the reader doesn’t have the chance to get to really know the natural characters before the magic intrudes. Kate, Gerent and their respective children are interesting, believable characters and it was frustrating that there was not more plot focusing exclusively on them. In particular, Gerent seemed to be a fascinating character, and it was a waste of a good tortured hero not to find out more about him.
Sandra Heath’s writing is absorbing and her ability to embed details particular to the period was done well and refreshingly. For example, other traditional Regency Romances might include the heroine’s chagrin at wearing old clothing, but Heath goes beyond the standard detail, describing the three year-old outfit and explaining why it is clearly out-of-date without making it seem forced. I just wish she had relied more on a more believable story line in Second Thoughts to exhibit her expertise rather than trotting out spirits to magically propel the plot along.