on 13 December 2002
What I like about Kat Martin is that she can write a good, seemingly straight genre book, and take it that little bit further into something more. Here in the sequel to ‘The Fire Inside’, a Regency romance is thoroughly intertwined with murder, mystery and the very likely incarceration of the central female character.
Jillian Whitney, well born but now broke, had found an unlikely heroic figure in her kindly guardian. Unfortunately, most of the ton interpreted their relationship as being that of a physical nature, and Jillian’s reputation was in tatters. Adam Hawthorne, the wealthy Earl of Blackwood, also thinks this of the relationship, and is in the process of trying to have her switch protectors when her guardian is killed.
Surprising them both with an altruistic streak, Adam takes Jillian in and offers her his protection while the murder is investigated. During this time the two get to know each other and grow closer. The situation is muddied by Jillian’s now ruined reputation, the proving of her innocence, and the effect any relationship between them might have on his family.
The secondary characters are as interesting as the main two, with Adam’s sister Maggie’s own romance and the relationship between brother and sister being an engaging secondary line to the main story.
Although this book is a sequel, it stands alone as a fully fleshed out story in it’s own right. If you enjoy a good murder mystery story, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this tale as much as readers of Regency romance will.
Kat Martin begins this tale with a viewing by the hero of the heroine, a girl whoes father has died, and left her to the care of a friend. When she moves in to that friend's house, a man old enough to be her grandfather, rumors start to circulate that she is his mistress. Jillian stands accused of his murder when he is shot at home, and the butler finds her standing over the body. Jillian runs out the back, panicked that she will be found guilty of a murder that she didn't commit, and runs into Adam Hawthorne, Earl of Blackwood who is out taking a walk.
Adam has been hurt in the past by women, and now regards them all with wary caution. He has determined not to marry (but this is a romance novel, and we know from the start that this stand will not last until the end of the book.) Jillian just wants to get on with her life, maybe find a job as a governess, but now that she stands accused of murder, that will be impossible, even afterward, because she has been wrapped up in scandel.
Adam takes Jillian with him back to his house, since he believes that she is innocent. The majority of the book is spent trying to prove that Jilian is innocent.
Little time is spent on emotional development, the author just tells you that it has happened, but you don't really get to watch the changes as they happen, making this a somewhat flat read. All of the development seems to happen as blinding flashes in the mind of the protagonists. Still though, this book is worth picking up on a rainy Sunday afternoon.