Series: A Novel of Mad Passions #2
Format: provided by author
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Signet (October 1, 2013)
The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor…
Lady Mary Darrel should be the envy of London. Instead, all society believes her dead. For Mary holds a secret so dangerous, her father chose to keep her locked away…and have a grave made for her near her mother’s. Driven to the edge of desperation, Mary manages to escape the asylum, only to find that her fate yet again rests in the hands of a man…
Edward Barrons, Duke of Fairleigh, longs for some way to escape the torment of his father’s crimes. In Mary’s warrior spirit and haunted gaze—which so mirrors his own—he finally sees his path to redemption. He will stop at nothing to keep her safe, even as she seeks revenge. But will the passion they discover in each other be enough to save them from their demons?
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Claremont crafts a tale about two people who have lost their capacity to trust, to open up, and to love. Mary has suffered at the hands of people in power, and the various abuses have left her feeling perpetually afraid and certain she will never again feel safe. And yet despite all of the pain, all of the horror she has witnessed and been a victim to, Mary still has her spirit. And that is what draws Edward to her, the hint of a strong woman under the pain and the fear. So he takes her into his protection, and they begin to circle one another, Edward longing to earn her trust and Mary certain she will never trust again. Both have their secrets, both have darkness in their pasts.
I was kind of surprised at how quickly Mary's secret was revealed, and how abrupt it felt, but it was necessary in order to start the main part of the plot: Mary's revenge on her father. I had been expecting a story about Mary's growth as she recovered and learned to trust Edward, of his opening up to her. And this book certainly offers that, but it runs alongside Mary's thirst for vengeance.
This book surprised me with it's darkness. I hadn't been expecting this turn, but I found myself hungry for it. The abuses Mary suffered were well beyond horrific, and I could sympathize with her desire to repay that pain with her own hand. And Claremont can write some utterly spectacular fury. It was almost palpable from the pages, and it gave these tormented characters a lot of life.
But the quest for vengeance isn't a healthy one, a fact that Edward realizes not long after he sets Mary upon it, but by then it's too late. Mary is at odds; from moment to moment, she goes from longing for Edward, hoping and praying he'll open up to her and love her, and then shuttering herself in her anger and fury as she thinks of how she can seek her retribution against her father. She evolves from a broken, scared, and distrusting woman to someone who can and will use any means to her ultimate end: revenge. It's not a beautiful transformation, and it's heart wrenching to read.
And somehow, for being such a dark book, Claremont managed to have some parts that were so adorable that I had to cover my face with the book to hide my dopey smile (I was in public at the time). There's sweetness in Edward and Mary's interactions that leaves the reader hoping that they can both shake the shadows of their past for the hope of the future.
I'm going to finish by reiterating what I've said before: this is a dark book, and Claremont does not shy away from any difficult scenario. This book features domestic violence, abuse, and rape, and if any of those topics make you uncomfortable, this might not be the book for you. But the story is well written, and there's sweetness, humor, and hope in the pages that make it well worth the read.
Her arm lowered ever so slightly. "Why are you being so honest?"
"Because you would not believe my lies."
(I couldn't make up my mind, so I included a second. Is that cheating?)
"Are you sure you don't desire help? Boots are devilish tricky."
She arched a brow at him. "I think I can manage a pair of boots."