Two years ago the impoverished Earl of Hawkeswell made a marriage of convenience to an iron foundery heiress. Verity Thompson was wealthy enough to solve all his problems, until she vanished on their wedding day. After two years of unpleasant speculation, unable to access the fortune he married and unable to marry elsewhere, matters for Hawkeswell are desperate. But the last thing he expects when accompanying a friend to the county is to find his errant bride alive and well, and a mere stone's throw from London...
The RAREST BLOOMS series continues with the revelation that quiet little Lizzie is a runaway bride, the same one moreover who has made one of Lord Sebastian's (Ravishing in Red
) closest friends a laughing stock. With such humiliation to be laid at her hands, it's unsurprising that Hawkeswell is angry and a little prone to ordering his reluctant wife around.
Not that Verity helps much. Yes, she has reasons for what she did, but she is wilfully blind in her rebellion, childish and occasionally selfish, which makes her capitulations look spineless. She talks a lot, but her actions frequently prove otherwise. Hawkeswell is no saint either - he's arrogant, pushy and far to used to his own way - not to mention a little light on personality. We're told all about his anger, but he forgives Verity far too easily, and their relationship gets physical long before any of their problems are resolved. In truth, I found the first half bloodless and dull.
The second half does pick up as both characters settle and become more interesting. However, the erratic development of the secondary plot throws far too much light on their relationship, which isn't the best Hunter has ever produced. Nor is the climax and resolution of the secondary plot. It's rushed, light on details, with all the action occurring off screen. It feels very much an afterthought to throw difficulties in Hawkeswell and Verity's way.
One good thing, however, is the further development of the Duke of Castleford. He was unpleasant yet intriguing in 'Ravishing in Red', but here he really comes into his own. I cannot wait to see him come into his own (probably against Daphne next year).
Madeline Hunter can always be relied on to mix the less well-known aspects of England's history with a poignant and seductive romance. All of those hallmarks are here, but they simply didn't mesh for me. It isn't badly written, but I know she can do so much better. Here's hoping things pick up for Cynthia in Sinful in Satin