Carolyn Jewel's second book The Spare really shows her growth as a writer. Her first book demonstrated her talent, but there were a few nagging problems, as if she did not fully know her hero and heroine and how they would react, or she made them do things that seemed totally against their characters. In this book, you see none of that. Her craft is stronger, and a subtle deftness is in her prose that makes this book so strong, so perfect. The Spare is a touch more sedate, elegant, with a dram of Paranormal/Gothic saying Jewel really has found her meter. This book is just so "assured" and it lets the reader settle into the spiraling story and enjoy it completely. It really leads me to look forward to her third book. Sebastian Alexander is "a spare" - a younger son who never thought to rise to the earldom destined for his brother. He has pursued a career in the Royal Navy and had his life mapped out. He loved the life at sea. But suddenly he is beached. The "spare" is now an earl. Through a series of mysterious events, his brother is dead. Sebastian is wounded in battle and is recovering when news comes of his brother's murder. He must come to grips with his fate and the trouble surrounding his brother's death. There was a witness to the crime, one who could supply the answers to the dark riddles - Miss Olivia Willow. She was there that night, and was almost killed as well. She is the key to Sebastian learning why his brother died. Only opening that key is not as easy as he hoped. Olivia, a vexingly beautiful redhead, cannot recall what happened that night. Three days of her memory is missing. Haunted by the ghost of his brother, Sebastian thinks this loss of memory is too convenient, too suspect and he will not rest until he unlocks the riddle of Olivia and knows everything she does about that fateful night. Olivia is very beautiful, but a "poor relation". She is leery when the new earl invites her to his house party, invited to "even out the numbers". This gives Sebastian the chance to probe her story. Olivia is a strong character, one the readers will immediately identify and love. She lives on the edge of the gentry, but her poor means has held her back, yet she carries herself with a grace, serenity and ability to see past the surface of others. It's in Olivia where I see the most maturing in Jewel's writing. Olivia is just such a strongly defined character, so believable that she quickly has the reader wrapped around her delicate little finger. She is an outsider in this wealth and tries to remain on the edge, not attracting attention at the gathering. However, Sebastian will not permit that. Their acquaintance begins as an adversarial one, though both sense an attraction. As Sebastian's investigation moves forward, he shifts from doubt to grudging respect, then into love. Again, Jewel demonstrates the growth in her talent by having such a strong relationship between these two wonderfully crafted characters. Sebastian's growing love for Olivia even has him fearing what he might learn as he unlocks the truth hidden in her mind. Jewel just goes all out in this utterly radiant turn of the screw, where a ghost walks, romance sizzles and characters are so bloody brilliant!