Dear Mrs Veryan,
Alas, you’ve finally retired from writing your fabulous stories which have kept me enthralled ever since I was introduced to them. I can well understand why you chose to do this. As a friend of mine often says, “old age ain’t for sissies.” It is with delight that I find that rereading these favorite books is just as much fun the second (and third) time(s) around.
In this the third book of the Golden Chronicles you tell of how usually taciturn Meredith Carruthers finds, is forced to offer for, then slowly falls in love with his lady faire, the delightful and down to earth Phoebe Ramsey. As the story begins, we find that Phoebe is being slightly naughty in entertaining the wooing of one Captain Brooks Lambert. Her parents are aware of their mutual regard but feel that the penniless Lambert is a poor catch for their lovely eldest daughter. Add to that the fact that the Ramsey family, while not exactly paupers, don’t have much of the ready and are hoping for a wealthier suitor for Phoebe. At the family’s annual summer ball, they unexpectedly get just that and a slight scandal to boot when Phoebe and Mr. Carruthers are found in a compromising situation. What neither of them dares let on is the fact that they were attempting to help Phoebe’s younger brother Sinclair aid a hunted man.
The Jacobite Rebellion is over but the treasure gathered to help the cause, but not in time to do it much good, is hidden in a safe location. The whereabouts are a closely guarded secret and the men who carry the four stanzas of a riddle designed to reveal the site are hunted with ruthless efficiency by the army and anyone who fancies a fortune. When Merry discovers that an old childhood friend is one of these men, he immediately aids the poor fellow even though he personally loathes the Stuart cause. Now that he’s become involved, Merry is just as at risk of charges of high treason (remember what happened to Mel Gibson in Braveheart?) as is Phoebe’s brother and the hunted men. In order to make their sham betrothal seem real, Phoebe, Sin, and their mother travel back to Merry’s ancestral manse (which almost becomes a character in the plot) while also smuggling the injured fugitive. What follows is pulse pounding excitement as the trio dodge close calls, fortune hunters, irate neighbors, fight a duel, escape a kidnapping, smuggle out to France not only the close friend but also his lady and work out their own courtship.
What we, the readers, discover over the course of the book is the fact that Merry desperately loves Phoebe, more he declares in a matter of fact way that defies disbelief, than his own life. Merry is the type to whom all turn when in trouble and who holds himself to almost inhumanly high standards of conduct. His feeling of responsibility for anyone under his care is absolute and his word, once given, is carved in stone. As Sinclair says, “Yes. He is a man who acts rather than one who is all talk.” He is also forced to make some ghastly choices while trying to bring everything off, choices that could end all hope he has of winning Phoebe’s true regard and love.
And Phoebe, as we will see, is a woman worthy of this honorable man’s unswerving devotion. She is troubled by the false betrothal not only because of the way it was entered but also for the toll it she finds it will take on Merry’s family, which has some past scandals to live down, and her own. As she comes to know Merry and see what kind of person he is, she begins to realize that he, and not Brooks who was more than willing to go behind her family’s back to win her hand, is the man she loves. She is also the one whose quick wits and steady resolve bring them out of danger more than once as events unfold and who must also face a moment of crisis before being rewarded with the love she so unexpectedly finds.
A vivid cast of characters round out the story and we begin to see the redemption of a man who up til now has been a minor villain but who is destined for different things before series end. The danger is real, the action is nonstop and the romance is delightful in “The Tyrant.” Readers who are new to the series can feel confident in starting out with this usually lesser priced book and still get a full taste of your writing style. A-