Desert Isle Keeper
The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall
The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall is Lotte R. James’ debut romance for Harlequin Historical, and it has more than a touch of the gothic about it. Rebecca Merrickson becomes the much needed housekeeper for Thornhallow Hall, an estate without a master… until William Reid, Earl of Thornhallow, decides to return home after years away. Rebecca is running from a man who paid her uncle in order to have her as his mistress, and William has been running from his grief over his sister Halcyon’s death and the accusation he caused it. I found both characters, especially Rebecca, to be very compelling. This title is both character and plot driven throughout, despite a short slow spot.
Rebecca Merrickson arrives at Thornhallow hall and finds the staff rather complacent and content to allow the house to fall into disrepair. They instantly dislike her, as she expects them to begin doing their jobs again, but she slowly begins to earn their respect by showing she is prepared to undertake menial jobs herself. In the meantime, William (who usually goes by Liam) meets with his solicitor in the hopes he can be free of the earldom, as he doesn’t feel he deserves the responsibility and wants to be rid of Thornhallow Hall itself. He is surprised to find his new housekeeper fast asleep in his library, and even more surprised to find she is attractive. He leaves her to sleep in peace, but is outraged the next day to find she has been cleaning parts of the house he had decreed off limits. He confronts her and is again taken off guard by her ability to stand up to him. He is even more intrigued by her.
Rebecca later finds Liam in an odd mental state in the library, and he nearly attacks her after having destroyed furniture and other things. She is able to calm him, however, and he apologizes for his behavior. Shortly after, Liam finds out Rebecca has been cleaning the East Tower, which he had decreed off limits because it contains the rooms inhabited by his deceased sister. The same sister that Liam is thought to have murdered. Rebecca gets Liam to open up about his sister, whom he affectionately calls Hal, by telling him why she took the post at Thornhallow Hall: her abusive uncle sold her to an evil man and she fled before he could collect her. She has been running from him for fifteen years. Liam and Rebecca profess their love for one another as her past finally catches up with her.
As I said, I found both main characters compelling, and I especially enjoyed Rebecca and her determination to improve her life and the lives of those around her. She is not afraid to upset the staff or even Liam to do the job she’s been hired to do. She is also not afraid to give Liam a piece of her mind and let him know when she believes he’s wrong. Speaking of Liam, he is exactly the brooding type of hero that I adore. He definitely has more growth as a character throughout the story as he is forced to deal with his sister’s death while falling in love with someone unsuitable for his station. He fled his home shortly after Hal’s death, and was unable to process his feelings before coming back.
This is not an action-packed romance, but there is still plenty going on in the story, which is well-paced, apart from a brief slow spot shortly after Liam and Rebecca become intimate – but it wasn’t enough to detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the book.
With engaging principals and a nicely-moving plot, The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall is a delight. I will certainly be on the lookout for the next book from Lotte R. James.