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It’s hard to tell who was more confused during the first few pages of this book – our heroine or me. At least lovely widow Grace Paget is recuperating from the effects of laudanum. I, however, had no such excuse. But I would recommend that you tough out the first two chapters and keep reading. As you emerge from the fog, you’ll wonder what inspired author Anna Campbell to take this road less traveled.

Set somewhere in the English countryside in 1822, the book begins with the unorthodox way Grace, a widow in very reduced circumstances, meets Matthew Lansdowne, Marquess of Sheene. As the story progresses, there is the usual boy meets girl gyrations, complete with the requisite sexual tension and drawn out verbal foreplay expected in this genre. It is also, however, a story chock full of richly textured, wonderfully complex extremes. Grace is beyond poor, Matthew beyond handsome. The evildoers are truly evil; descriptions of their dastardliness are sometimes difficult to read. However, to make up for the ick factor, the love scenes between Grace and Matthew are frequent, intense and very well written. Matthew is surprisingly masterful in that department, obviously blessed with a quick mind and good instincts. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that he must have spent a great deal of his apparently abundant free time reading up on the topic.

However, what makes this book utterly fascinating is the background to the story and the back stories of the characters. Both are different and equally disturbing. There are two kidnapped beauties, a tormenting foray into mental illness, teenage rebellion reminiscent of the late 1960’s and finally, a Disneyesque ending rivaling Cinderella where all, thankfully is put to rights.

If you are looking for a novel approach to the typical historical romance, this is definitely it. There are extreme twists and turns, tension and torment, sex and satisfaction among other things, all of which makes it worth putting on your list of should reads. If you do decide to take the journey, remember to give the story time to slowly uncoil. A book like this requires patience and encouragement in revealing itself fully.

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