The Outcast's Redemption
This final book in Sarah Mallory’s series about the Infamous Arrandales focuses on the eldest of the siblings, Wolfgang, who, we learned back in The Chaperone’s Seduction, had been accused of murdering his wife and stealing a fortune in jewels some ten years previously, and is living in exile on the Continent. In his absence, his younger brother, Richard, has struggled to maintain the family home and lands, but even though it’s made his life difficult, he has never made moves to have Wolf declared dead or lost his belief in his brother’s innocence.
After ten years abroad, Wolf has returned to England following the discovery that he has a daughter, and is determined to clear his name. When his wife died, she was pregnant, but Wolf was hustled away so quickly at the insistence of his family that he never realised that although his wife eventually died, their child did not.
As he is still wanted for theft and murder, Wolf travels under an assumed name and arrives back in Arrandale calling himself Mr. Peregrine. He seeks aid from the local vicar who insists that Wolf stay at the vicarage while he determines his course of action. But when Grace Dunscombe learns that her father has taken in yet another stray, she is immediately on her guard. The tall, darkly handsome Mr Peregrine, with his disheveled hair and rumpled, travel-stained clothing looks like he’s up to no good and Grace hates the idea of her father’s being taken in by some ruffian who is clearly taking advantage of his good nature.
Wolf immediately senses Grace’s animosity and tries to reassure her that he is no threat to her or her father, but for all his charm, Grace continues to treat him with thinly veiled hostility. She has no idea of his true identity of course; she was away at school when he fled the country and now, Wolf and the vicar believe that the fewer people who know Mr Peregrine’s true identity, the safer it will be all round. But still, Grace can’t help thinking it curious that the servants are bending over backwards to make their unwelcome guest… welcome.
Wolf begins his quest to prove his innocence by returning to the scene of the crime, Arrandale Hall, to see if he can locate any of the old servants who may have been there that night. At the time, Wolf had been so distraught on discovering the blood-covered body of his wife that he was unable to take note of much going on around him; all he does remember is that his father seemed in no doubt of Wolf’s guilt and urged him to leave the country before he could be arrested. Yet he learns now that it was actually his cousin, Charles Urmston, who had put the idea into his father’s head, suggesting that it would be better for Wolf to be out of harm’s way until they could find out what really happened. But when the famous Sawston diamonds were discovered missing after Wolf’s flight, that put the seal on the belief of his guilt.
While the mystery element of the plot is fairly predictable, it’s nonetheless enjoyable, and the romance between Wolf and the prickly Grace is well realised. Much of Grace’s initial hostility stems from the strong pull of attraction she feels towards Wolf, something she strives to ignore, not only because she is betrothed to the local magistrate, but because she still carries in her heart the memory of her first love, who died before they could be married. Not wanting to face the prospect of such shattering loss again, she wants a safe, quiet life, which is exactly what she will have when she marries her fiancé. Yet there’s something about Wolfgang Arrandale that stirs her in a way she’s never experienced, and the intensity of it frightens her. So when Wolf announces he is leaving Arrandale for London, Grace should be delighted… and would be were it not for the fact that she has just made arrangements to travel there herself in order to avoid him and now she can’t back out. The story moves to London as Wolf continues to seek information to help his cause, but a sudden and potentially life-threatening setback means that Grace must risk more than her heart in order to keep him safe.
The Outcast’s Redemption is a simple, but well-told story and I enjoyed it. The identity of the villain is obvious, but this isn’t really a whodunit so much as it is a whydunnit, howdunnit and what-do-we-do-now?-dunnit, so that isn’t a problem; and the mystery is decently wrought. More importantly, Wolf and Grace are engaging, well-rounded characters who act and think like adults, and the chemistry between them leads to some deliciously sensual moments. I do, however, take issue with the placement of the book’s single sex scene right at the end; it’s as though Ms. Mallory felt she had to throw one in somewhere and it was the only place to put it. (In that she was partly right – it wouldn’t have worked elsewhere, either). To be honest, I’d have been quite happy had it not been in there at all; the story is complete without it.
That fact aside, the novel is well written and conceived, and although it’s the last in a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone. Anyone looking for a quick, emotionally satisfying read with a dash of mystery could do a lot worse than pick this one up.