Dear Ms. Featherstone:
I confess that I read this book because I just loved the cover. The positioning of the characters, the color of the dress, the frills at the cuff of the man’s outfit. It was very evocative. The soft against the hard. It’s a clinch but an evocative, sophisticated clinch. This is the second book in the Brethren Guardian series and I have not read the first one.
Lucy Ashton seeks passion. She thought she had found it in the arms of an impoverished artist, Thomas. The night that she offered herself to this artist she had given him a lace handkerchief with her initials embroidered on it. Lucy believed that this handkerchief was lost to her when a fire consumed her beloved’s rented rooms. She seeks his presence through seances and soothsayers, exploring the occult for answers.
Lucy’s father, however, wants her to marry the “passionless and priggish Duke of Sussex.” What is worse is that the Duke of Sussex has returned Lucy’s handkerchief but while the Duke of Sussex wants answers about where Lucy’s handkerchief was found, Lucy begins to weave fantasies of reuniting with her artist beloved.
Sussex is part of a group known as the Brethren and they guard some artifact, as far as Lucy knows. “Their business was mysterious and secretive, and dangerous. From what she knew of their secrets, there existed an onyx pendant, which was the very essence of evil, and some sort of chalice they protected.” Lucy took the necklace and swallowed one of the seeds inside the pendant in hopes that it would connect her with her dead lover. Now Lucy is being told that Thomas is an enemy of the Brethren, a rogue Freemason, and thus an enemy of good.
Lucy’s portrayal is one of a hapless but privileged young woman who had no control over her life. Her taking the lover, her seeking out the occult is her way of taking control. Accepting her father’s choice would be an acquiescence that she is powerless. I think that is an interesting concept but I couldn’t really understand Lucy’s thought process here. Could a passionless and priggish man be part of a secret and mysterious and dangerous society?
Lucy’s constant reference to Adrian York, the Duke of Sussex, as passionless isn’t effectively carried off because the reader sees Adrian’s point of view and thus we know he is full of passion. Repeated protestations by Lucy ring hollow. This is likely a more effective technique if the story is told primarily from Lucy’s point of view, either in limited third or first person.
Instead the alternating point of view made it hard to drum up sympathy for Lucy’s position. The reader knows her artist is the bad guy. The reader knows that Adrian totally loves her. The reader knows that he burns to get her into bed. I objectively understood what was supposed to be portrayed here but it wasn’t convincing.
Adrian is not passionless and priggish. He’s in love with Lucy and torn up that she appears to be in love with a man who killed a friend of his in cold blood, a man who is an enemy of the Brethren Guardians. Fortunately, Adrian’s quest to win Lucy’s hand is aided in part by his sister and Lucy’s own cousin. Adrian has enjoyed what Lucy seeks and that is rigid control over his life and his emotions (because of a secret!) but he seeks to lose himself in Lucy.
The secret society, the grail artifacts, and the rogue freemasons were probably there to provide suspense but the it seemed more like a game amongst men than a true and riveting danger. I also felt that it took away from the romance even though part of the conflict arose from the secrets and artifacts.
I did enjoy the close friendship that Lucy enjoyed with her cousin and Adrian’s sister and once the romance got rolling, I enjoyed Adrian and Lucy together. The secondary romance between Adrian’s sister who is blind and the supposedly philandering Marquis of Alynwick is heartwrenching and ends in a cliffhanger.
There were a couple moments of in the book that had my eyebrows raised including one love scene which took place when both were supposed to be in imminent danger and may have been brought about by slightly drugging both of them. And there was a huge coincidence that brings the story full circle. Suffice to say I liked the cover much more than I enjoyed the book. Finally, I wasn’t sure whether this was supposed to be a play on Pride and Prejudice with the Duke of Sussex playing the part of Darcy. C