At nineteen, Beatrice Corning fell in love. With a portrait. Of a dead man. Now five years on, Reynaud St. Aubyn is back from the dead, ready to reclaim his life and rightful place as the Earl of Blanchard. Who currently, and unfortunately, is Beatrice's uncle.
Seven years of captivity have changed Reynaud from the mischievous young man in the painting. Now he's ruthless and determined to take everything the usurping earl possesses. Including his forthright, enchanting niece.
But fights for the title and rumours of madness are just a fraction of the troubles Reynaud faces. Attempts on his life, dark memories and the presence of a traitor soon threaten everything. And even if he does win back all that was stolen, how much will it mean if loses the precious new things he has found?
The Legend of the Four Soldiers (To Taste Temptation
, To Seduce a Sinner
, To Beguile a Beast
) series comes to an end in fitting style. The spectre that has hung over the other novels, Reynaud St. Aubyn, is resurrected and the previous heroes are reunited for one purpose: to discover who betrayed them at Spinner's Falls.
Reynaud is suitably intense after his experiences, with a savage need to be in control. His single-mindedness is only ever softened in Beatrice's presence, as she draws his experiences from him. Yet even with her he is ruthless and possessive, while Beatrice herself wavers between angelic, practical and terribly romantic.
With Reynaud's return and the battle for the title, not to mention the ongoing mystery of the traitor - and return of old characters - there is a lot going on here. As such, I did feel that the main relationship suffered and became at times superficial. Reynaud and Beatrice happen to both be there, so of course they fall into bed, marriage, love. The steps towards love are all there, and they have all the right conversations, but something is lacking. It feels rushed, and missing Hoyt's usual deft touch for passion, empathy and inevitability.
However, despite something missing at the beginning - and perhaps in the middle - by the end it does work, and the action carries everything towards the rightful end. Not my favourite Hoyt novel, but a solid conclusion to an excellent series, complete with another charming fairytale.