Fans of old school romance a la Kathleen Woodiwiss will take Veiled Passions to their hearts. Unlike Woodiwisses’s tomes though, this book is not overwritten although it is lush. It features larger than life characters and one of the most romantic, wounded heroes I have ever encountered. If only the heroine hadn’t been such a snob through most of the book, this would have been practically perfect.
Kieran Mullen, her brother Rogan, Duke of Eton and her sister-in-law Emeline are in Venice where they are enjoying the carnival with its masked balls and where Rogan is conducting some business. Kieran is happy until she sees Samuel, Duke of Westminster who three years ago was the cause of deep, soul shattering pain to her – pain that she has kept to herself and not shared with a soul. Kieran goes out toward the canals for some fresh air, and Samuel follows her. They quarrel, Kieran falls into the canal and Samuel leaves her. Luckily she is rescued by Matteo da Gama who is struck by her beauty and senses the loneliness that she hides with anger.
Shortly afterward, Matteo comes to Rogan for help. He has been falsely accused of a crime and if Rogan, an English Duke will vouch for him, perhaps the Doge will be lenient. Because of Rogan’s word, Matteo is not jailed, but he is exiled from Venice for five years. Grateful to him for saving Kieran’s life, Rogan gives Matteo the job of overseeing the repairs and renovations on a house he owns. On the voyage to England, Matteo learns something about the trauma Kieran endured and senses that she wants revenge on Samuel. He is determined to help her, and if there is one thing he knows, it is the vendetta. At Rogan’s home, Matteo finds he loves the job and he and Kieran become closer. However, the secret she is carrying and the effect it has had on her place what seems insurmountable roadblocks in the path of their relationship.
Matteo – sigh – what a wonderful hero he was! Born the son of a courtesan, he was on his own from a very early age. As a teen, he was taken by a countess as her toyboy and grew up fast. Matteo has the heart and soul of a poet, he plays the cello, he is a philosopher, an artist and a man who has the capacity to love deeply. Rogan early on understands Matteo’s worth, as does Emeline. However, it takes Kieran almost till the end of the book to realize the treasure that is Matteo.
Frankly, Kieran is spoiled and more than just a trifle snobbish. She may have grown up as just the daughter of a sea captain, but her brother is a duke, and don’t you forget it. The trauma that she suffered was an appalling one, and has left a deep mark on her soul and for that I did cut her some slack – but her snobbery left me cold. At least her family finally told her off for her attitude and good for them. Although Kieran mellowed at the end of the book, I still though the wonderful Matteo deserved someone better.
Despite my coolness toward Kieran, I felt very warm toward Veiled Passions. I loved the Venetian setting, I loved all the characters (but Kieran) and the style of the writing is lush and romantic and perfectly fits the mood of the story. If you like larger than life, ultra-romantic tales, this is your book.