Hero: Alex, the Earl of Cardiff, never planned to be the earl. He had a father and older brother and so went off to war to make his mark. When he returns, he is severely wounded and hides his ravage face and body and heart in the castle of Heddon Hall. His servants are terrified of him. His stepmother despises him. He can’t tell if his estate manager is swindling him because he can’t read due to the loss of one eye and the headaches that come from trying to focus the other. When an uppity little maid arrives, bold as you please, on his doorstep, he’s intrigued despite his attempts to distance himself from her.
Heroine: Lady Laura Blake has had enough of being rebuffed. If Alex won’t return her letters and tell her what is going on she will figure it out on her own. She shows up at his estate in disguise, wearing her maid’s clothes and using her maid’s name. Once inside his household, she’s put to work in the kitchen. Being a scullery maid was not quite what she had in mind! Soon she’s elevated to be his personal secretary and that suits her so much better. Now she can spend her days with Alex… and nights.
Review: The first half of the novel is the best part of the story. If you want a happy ending that’s truly happy end at book one/part one. I enjoyed the setup with the heroine breaking into the hero’s lair as a servant (though how she managed it is a mystery because she’s a family friend, you’d think she’d be recognized by someone – Alex!!) I like Laura’s bumbling in the kitchen, her determination to reach Alex and break down his walls. I loved his elation at recapturing humanity and love.
However, after they come together the story goes downhill as they are separated, when the hero returns to his wartime duties for one last assignment. Laura doesn’t want him to go, but for his masculine and national pride, Alex must. Their separation leads to misfortune as Alex is captured and assumed dead. Laura experiences a miscarriage because of the news and also faces the doubly incapacitating grief of losing Alex and the babe. When Alex gets out of prison, he allows his evil stepmother’s cruel words to sway him from finding the truth of what is going on with Laura which causes a big misunderstanding. My friends, you know me, and you know I love angst, but holy moly this is too much. I also like more time together with the main characters and less time apart.
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So how do you rate a romance novel where the romance part was exceptional but the side story was wholly unnecessary? Once again I’ve managed to pick up a story where the author seems to think that it’s a good idea to include a history of sexual perversion on kids. What’s with this? The young girl that was abused was not the heroine this time but the side character who ends up doing unspeakable things herself on innocents and sinners alike in the name of justice seemingly unable to tell the difference. Why include this? I mean really? Who wants to read this? I don’t!
Most of this stuff is hinted at throughout the novel about the hero’s father being such a sleaze ball, a building that the son had to remind himself was not a fault for what happened, etc. The bastard is dead mind you at the start of the novel so we don’t see a continuance, just back story. It’s becoming gratuitous to the point of being like a retarded bathroom scene in a movie. Anyway you are warned ahead of time if this is not your cup of tea to deal with topics like this in a novel.
Now that that is out of my system, the romance between Grant and Gillian was a wonderful unfoldment. The Scottish Companion starts with Grant’s return to Scotland when his brother dies of a blood disease following shortly after their other brother died of the same cause. Dr. Feyton is worried that Grant may be suffering from the same disease and Grant decides if this is true he must marry immediately. Not wanting to go through the hassle of finding a bride he asks about Dr. Feyton’s daughter. A marriage arrangement is agreed upon and they go their normal ways.
Arabella would rather play at being a physician than be civil to anyone. She doesn’t like to be touched, talked to, interrupted, or forced to do anything. So right off the bat she hates the idea of marrying Grant and does her best to be disagreeable. Everyone finds her to be exactly that and many make asides to Grant about his foolishness.
Grant himself is feeling foolish because immediately upon seeing Gillian he finds himself attracted to her. She is a magnetic force on his life and he can’t seem to stop himself from seeking her out. He knows she’s hiding something and desperately wants to be let into her world. She makes him forget his losses, and overwhelming duties; she challenges his authority and is an intelligent companion who he seeks to impress with his experiments.
Gillian for her part knows that as the companion to Arabella, Grant can never be hers. She was foolish once in love and paid the price with her innocence and virtue. She lost the protection of her family, the love she thought was hers, and was censured by society. Only under Dr. Feyton has she received a modicum of protection and sense of purpose. She knows the price of love and passion so how come she can’t seem to resist the handsome earl? She wants to experience his kisses, she wants to be his, and she wants what Arabella is so blithely willing to toss away.
Rating: 2.5-3 Stars