RECEIVED FROM: Net Galley for Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Isabella Fairchild has spent years dreaming of Death – not as something which happens to the body, but as a man dark and sexy, a fictional man who owns her heart. When the man she envisioned walks through the door introducing himself as the Earl of Black she’s not sure what she should do. The couple shares an attraction burning and dangerous. It’s the last thing Isabella wants to find because her deepest fear is to end up like her mother – alone, cast aside and ruined with a bastard child she can’t support. Isabella was that child and she’s done everything she can to ensure no one knows it. She knows she isn’t in Black’s league for anything other than being ruined, but Black won’t just walk away. Black knows Isabella’s secrets, but he has dangerous secrets of his own. But will his secrets be her doom?
This book is more of a three point five stars than a three. I actually really did enjoy reading this book; however some of the parts of the book I didn’t feel were explain well and left me a little confused. Other parts were a little hard to believe.
This book has a nice fast pace with an intricate and well written plot. It relies on plot and characters to tell the story and while it includes a few foreplay scenes as well as one sex scene this isn’t the focus of the story by any means. The problems with this book were mostly period believability issues. If you’re a fan of regency romance (which I have been since I was a teenager) you know the basic rules by heart. Girls married young and by the time they reached regular marrying ages in this century, they were considered an old maid on the shelf in that one. Nobles for the most part married nobles and when they didn’t it was something scandalous and a bastard child even of partial noble blood didn’t stand a chance of marrying into a title. If you haven’t already been married and expect to ever get married you are a virgin, you didn’t sneak away to men’s homes. Finally females didn’t go anywhere without some sort of supervision and for the most part maids didn’t count. I’m not saying anything that regular regency readers haven’t heard a million times before. Jude Sheldon is the Earl of Black, Isabella Fairmont is the bastard daughter of a noble mother and a commoner father. It’s surprising to even find her living in her Uncle’s home considering he’s a Marquis and she’s only his niece by marriage. In most regencies if she was there it would be as an employee, not as someone to be shown and marriage to a member of the ton. Isabella is 23 and close in age to her also single cousin Lucy; both are supposed to be incredibly beautiful but unmarried. Lucy’s suitor the Duke of Sussex also has an unmarried sister who appears to be older than both girls, though her single status is understandable considering she’s blind. Lucy has had some sort of affair with a man who may or may not be dead but isn’t some sort of outcast, whether this fact is known or not once she gets married someone is going to know. Lucy keeps encouraging the idea of Isabella having an affair as well. Not to mention the two women go all sorts of different places with barely a maid for a chaperone. These places include a séance in a graveyard at midnight. The behavior and the thought processes of these women doesn’t fit with the time period in any way, shape or form. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the characters and the story but I can’t review the book without mentioning these obvious deviations from the regency rules of the game.
Another major issue I had was confusion; it has some elements that could be construed as paranormal. The three leading men Black, Sussex and Alynwick are supposed to be the Brethren Guardians charged with guarding three relics with incredible powers. Black’s charge is an amulet containing seeds from Eve’s apple. It’s never really completely explained what these things do. And while at times it alludes to them being something more than noblemen it doesn’t really explain it. While this is one of the most interesting parts of the plot it was also the most confusing. I personally hope this is expanded upon and better explained in future novels. Who’s ending up with who by the time this trilogy is completed is already clear as it is in most romance titles. This is the section of the plot that remains a complete mystery and I for one am highly intrigued.
Overall I really enjoyed this plot, the descriptions were excellent, the story line was intriguing. One thing I really liked that she did with the novel is that Isabella is an aspiring novelist. She’s writing a love story about Death in her journal and the book goes back and forth between the actual story and the story which Isabella writes. One thing I didn’t understand though is that Black seems to know some of the lines in the story without ever reading them. Again this alludes to him being something more than a man but it never explains what.
I felt for the most part all the characters in this novel were well fleshed out. Isabella is a likeable heroine. You can relate to her struggles to do what’s right and expected instead of what her heart and body is screaming for her to do. Considering her lot in life versus Black you can also see why she believes to him she’s nothing more than a potential mistress or fling, someone to ruin before moving on to marry an acceptable Miss and you can also understand considering her past why she’s so frightened by this. In most regencies she’d never be anything more than a mistress or a member of the staff. I mean you can see into Black’s thought enough to get the idea that he wants more than that; however it’s completely understandable why she wouldn’t really see it. All he really shows her initially is that he’s attracted to her physically and really good at seduction.
Black is the perfect example of the brooding hero and he’s meant to be that as he’s actually compared to Mr. Rochester from Charlotte Bronte. Well technically they’re referring to Isabella’s fictional hero Death, but since Death is basically the fictional version of Black it can be assumed that the correlation is supposed to also occur to the reader about Black. He’s stayed away from her because of his obligations and because people believe he’s a murderer thrice over and even though he isn’t, he feels responsible for those deaths. He’s very much the alpha male character; however he’s got a calculating way of doing it. He backs Isabella into a corner and gives her ultimatums she can’t find her way around. If you didn’t know his thoughts his feelings about her, he might not come across as a likeable character but since Featherstone brings you right inside his head at various points in the novel it’s more like he’s doing what he feels he must to get her attention.
The villains were a little less fleshed out, both Orpheus who we really don’t know much about beyond that he’s evil and Isabella’s suitor Mr. Knighton don’t have a lot of fleshing, but I think a lot of that is to make sure the reader really don’t feel for these characters. I think the idea was that Featherstone didn’t want us to know them enough to ever consider siding with them.
Memorable secondary characters include Isabella’s cousin Lucy who’s surrounded in intrigue and unanswered questions, her unwanted suitor the Duke of Sussex, his blind sister Elizabeth and the wily rogue the Marquis of Alynwick. Each of these characters are somewhat fleshed out, but they’re clearly secondary and we don’t leave this novel feeling we truly know them, but more feeling that we want to know them. They seem real but each of these characters has secrets that aren’t revealed before the novel’s end.
Despite the lower rating which I gave for the initial reasons listed this was the kind of book that I didn’t want to walk away from. It was well written and an enjoyable read from cover to cover, highly recommended....Continua