Whispers of the Night
Alcyone Carter is the stunningly beautiful daughter of a wealthy industrialist who wishes his daughter to marry a peer. After four Seasons on the fringes of society, he decides to settle for a foreign title and betroths his daughter to Baron Benedak of Hungary. Alcy and the baron have corresponded for four months and as Whispers of the Night begins, she is arriving at his remote castle. There she is immediately whisked into the chapel and the wedding ceremony before she can even change her travel-stained clothes.
On her wedding night, she discovers that she has married not Baron Benedak, but Dumitru Constaninescu, a Rumanian count. Dumitru forged Benedak’s last letter to Alcy, stole her and made her his wife. Dumitru is in need of a great deal of money. The Ottoman Empire is finally being pushed out of Europe and Dumitru’s lands and people are caught between Russia and Austria, both of whom would like to fill the vacuum. While Alcy wasn’t in love with Benedak and so doesn’t necessarily mourn his loss, she bitterly resents being used as a pawn and given no choice. However, there is a powerful physical attraction between Alcy and Dumitru and so they proceed with the consummation and work on building a marriage.
Both Alcy and Dumitru are complex characters with many layers to them. Alcy has a love/hate relationship with her beauty, knowing it has closed off as many avenues as it has offered opportunities. She is also a brilliant mathematician who has been published in journals, albeit under a man’s name. Dumitru is both shocked and fascinated by Alcy’s interests and brains, and she is thrilled to have someone who doesn’t dismiss her out of hand, but who talks to her and takes her seriously. I enjoyed the scenes where Alcy and Dumitru spend time together, constructing a relationship and falling in love.
Dumitru is a man who lives for his land and his people. Toward that end, he has also become a man whose second occupation is dealing in secrets and spying. He uses his network to his advantage, playing factions against each other, all with the aim of maintaining peace and obtaining prosperity for his people. Alcy’s money will help keep his corner of the world independent, but when he learns that half of her dowry is tied up in her name so that he cannot touch it, he plans to have papers forged to gain control of it.
Two months into the marriage, Alcy discovers Dumitru’s plans to get her money and makes the classic TSTL move: she runs away, though she is meticulous in her packing. This scenario jarred me, as the author had taken care to establish communication between the two. Given Alcy’s forthrightness and Dumitru’s appreciation of it, why did Alcy not confront Dumitru, have a blazing row, and eventually work through it? Instead, Alcy runs away without a word, puts herself in danger, and forces Dumitru to go searching for her.
It was at this point that the book started to go downhill for me, for when Dumitru caught up with her, Alcy made yet another reckless, boneheaded move which led to all kinds of problems for them both. The rest of the book is spent moving from one crisis to another, to an almost Perils of Pauline-like ridiculousness, while the relationship came to a standstill until much later in the novel.
I enjoyed a great deal about Whispers of the Night; the unusual setting and political machinations were different and interesting (though I would have appreciated being given a date to help ground the setting – from the political situation and the clothing, I’m guessing 1870-1880s), the fact that Alcy and Dumitru have busy lives and more on their minds than just each other, and the writing itself, which is beautifully done. However, from Alcy’s Great Escape onward, it was a frustrating read.
I debated a long while as to whether to give Whispers of the Night a B- or a C+. In the end, I decided that the good things were so good that they outweighed the bad and so, yes, I do recommend Whispers of the Night, but with serious reservations.