Damaged physically and sexually, Melanie the Dowager Duchess of Yaxley escapes from an abusive son in law to become a housekeeper in a remote Northumbrian village. The Master of the house, Jarrow, is a widower with a delightful daughter, but few funds. Jarrow has his scars, but he also has a secret life that unnerves Melanie when she discovers what it is that occupies his nights. This historical romance with its great sense of time and setting, leads the reader through the clash of the scarred personalities, troubles with excise men to a resolution which surprises them both. Slowly Melanie realizes that Jarrow might just be the man who can make her believe in second chances.
At the beginning of this story we are made aware that although Melanie is applying for, and getting a housekeeping post in a remote country house in Northumbria, she has a secret - in fact several. She has left an abusive husband and carries the mark of their relationship on her face, though she doesn’t brood on the past or tell us how this happened.
What we do know is that she is also an aristocrat and yet she is content to wash her taciturn employer’s clothes, cook his meals, clean his house and be a governess to his daughter as an ‘invisible’ servant rather than endure her former life.
Jarrow too has something hidden, maybe in his past, but most certainly his present, which is alluded to but not explained and when Melanie discovers what it is, she fears for his future.
Jen Black’s characters are beautifully crafted, and her air of mystery pervades the entire book making it impossible to put down. There are no wilting virgins in this novel, both the main characters are grown-ups with tragedies they have learned to overcome and then to live with, so when they come together at the end we cannot help feel they deserve their happiness.
A definite keeper and one which I hope will be available in paperback before long. My Kindle and my E-Reader are close friends, but I still like to see my favourites on my shelves.
Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Press in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour