The Lover's Charm
If you’re the kind of reader who can’t stand deviation from romance formulas and rules, you might not enjoy The Lover’s Charm. I for one appreciate the twists Sandy Hingston’s given the genre; I would say she has succeeded very nicely and deserves at least a glance, if not a full-blown look.
Jack Cantrell, banished to the West Indies for the last ten years, is suddenly called back to England when word reaches him that his brother Robert, Earl of Avenleigh, has died. Jack is reluctant to leave his mistress Camille, but she’s pragmatic enough to push him into leaving, with the understanding that he’ll return and marry her. As a farewell gift, she gives him a magic charm and strict instructions never to take it off until they are reunited.
Jack arrives in Lincolnshire in the dead of winter and discovers that Robert left a massive pile of debts that he, Jack, must honor. It seems that Robert threw away a lot of money on his mistress Vivienne. On top of that, what’s to be done about Miss Priscilla Wilcox, the bishop’s daughter and Robert’s fiancee?
Pris is more interested in studying butterflies than she ever was in marriage – she only accepted Robert’s suit so everyone would get off her back about finding a husband. But the new earl’s appearance stirs longings in her that won’t go away; when he takes her to Vauxhall for her birthday and they kiss, she realizes it’s too late to stop herself from falling in love with him.
I cannot describe the many plot twists here without giving something away. What I can say, however, is that while The Lover’s Charm may bend some of the rules of the romance genre, it never completely breaks them, and everything that happens has a logical, believable feel to it. I know the hero’s not supposed to sleep with anybody once he meets the heroine, but Jack’s fall from grace makes sense in the context of the story, and he does feel horrible about it for the rest of the book. Good grovel material, you know?
I think what I like best about this book is the way almost everyone in it – both main characters and many of the secondary ones – grow in the course of events. The other thing that really grabs me is that Jack and Pris both have highly developed senses of humor about themselves and the world around them, and they even laugh while they’re making love. There’s a lovely running joke about her “scientific curiosity” – and she’s curious about everything!
A strong cast of supporting characters add to the pleasure of this read. Jack’s family of female cousins is well drawn, especially the allegedly mad Sephrina. There’s a shady lady, a childhood friend and former mistress of Robert’s, whose motives Jack should have suspected long before he did. And the young solicitor, Bennett, holds great appeal and makes for a charming secondary hero.
The book went just a little too long; the action could have been wrapped up in about 50 less pages than it took. Bearing that in mind, and with the warning that not all conventions are observed, I think you won’t regret falling for the spell of The Lover’s Charm.