Desert Isle Keeper
The Black Angel
Historical romances often seem to exist in a vacuum. Generally the writer seldom bothers with the social attitudes and problems of the society at large. After a reader has finished an historical novel, she does know a bit about the manners and mores of the ton, but what of the world outside that little closed-in group?
Barbara Samuel’s new historical novel The Black Angel is first and foremost an enthralling and sensuous love story. But this love story is set in the larger world of Georgian Society and examines racial and religious prejudice and the double standard as it applies to women. The book never stops still to lecture the reader – no, it uses the examination of social problems to illuminate the characters and advance the story. This examination of social problems and prejudices add a richness and depth to the book that I seldom see in an historical novel.
Lady Adriana St. Ives is the daughter of an Earl. She was raised for a long period of time at her father’s estate on the island of Martinique. Riana is a not a demure English rose. She is a passionate and unconventional woman yet she is not a hoyden either – Riana is a true Original. When pursued by Everett Malvern, a baron and bastard nephew of the king, they had an affair. Malvern began to gossip about their affair after its finish and Riana’s brother Julian called him out. When Julian killed Malvern in a duel, he was forced to flee the country and Riana’s reputation was in tatters.
Tynan Spencer, the Earl of Glencove, is Irish. He is a friend of Riana’s father and is known in Society as The Black Angel for his dark good looks and his rakish reputation. Before his death, Riana’s father asked Tynan to marry her. Tynan agreed – he respected the man and the social position of the St. Ives family will give Tynan the opportunity to get a seat in Parliament where he wants to work on Irish relief. In order to do this, Tynan has to keep his Catholicism a secret. Were it known, he would lose his land and never be allowed into Parliament.
Riana and Tynan’s marriage gets off on a rocky start. She is still hurting from Society’s branding her as a loose woman for having had an affair. She is determined to tamp down her sensuous nature, but Tynan is so warm, and loving and passionate, that Riana can’t help but fall deeply in love with him.
When Riana’s brother Julian returns and is faced with a trial for having killed Malvern, Riana is forced again to face her anger and resentment over Malvern’s treatment as well as her guilt over her brother’s predicament. In Riana’s eyes, it is Malvern and his ilk who are dishonorable – not women like her. But she is the one who is the target of obscene broadsides and bawdy street rhymes.
As for Tynan, his wife’s bravery in the face of social ridicule and Julian’s public defense of his sister give him much food for thought. Their bravery in the teeth of public scandal makes him re-think his own act of keeping his religious faith a secret. He wants to acknowledge his faith publicly, but doing so will negate all that he has worked for behind the scenes and if it were known that Tynan is a Catholic, Riana would be even more shamed.
The Black Angel examines other prejudices of Georgian Society as well. Riana has half-siblings who are the children of her father’s black lover from Martinique. The St. Ives family loves and accepts both of them, but what of the larger society?
Even though The Black Angel‘s storyline examines society’s prejudices, it is does not lose sight of the growing love between Riana and Tynan. Barbara Samuel can write some of the best love scenes I have ever read. They are elegant and simple with no purple prose cliches to be found. As well, they convey the sense of holiness and sacredness that lovemaking can be between two people who are devoted to each other. I found myself re-reading those passages in awe at how beautifully they are written.
The Black Angel is one of the very best historical romances I have read this year. I do not hesitate to recommend it to any and all. It is a superb book – simply superb.