Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Review: The Dark Lady (Mad Passions #1) by Maire Claremont
The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor...
Lord Ian Blake has returned from India a broken man. Years ago, he pledged to Lady Eva Carin—his childhood companion and first love—that he would bring her husband back alive. His failure haunts him. But even his jaded soul can’t anticipate the shocking sight of beautiful, independent Eva confined in a madhouse.
Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind. For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy—and prove her sanity to England’s unforgiving aristocracy. But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva’s tragic past are finally unlocked. ~ Goodreads
This book started out SO good. Really dark and unlike anything I've read before, especially in a Historical Romance.
The heroine, Lady Eva Carin, had lost her husband to war and her infant son in an unfortunate accident of her doing. The trauma and guilt sent her into such a state of depression that her brother-in-law sent her to an asylum, claiming her insane. Polite society believes she is "resting" at a lovely spa but poor Eva is really living in horrific conditions where the patients become hooked on laudanum and are beaten or even raped on a regular basis.
Lord Ian Blake comes back from the war in India to ask Eva for forgiveness to relieve a heavy burden on his heart concerning Eva's dead husband Hamilton. The three were best friends as children but grew apart due to Hamilton's increasing jealousy of Ian. Still Ian followed Hamilton to war with a promise to Eva to protect him. When he realizes what has happened to Eva in his absence, he stops at nothing to rescue her and prove her sanity. Recusing her from the asylum turns out to be the easy part. Riding out Eva's addictions, getting her to trust again and overcoming both their guilty conscious is more difficult than he imagined.
I know this sounds really dark, and it is, but it's so beautifully written and once Ian enters the picture with his stubborn determination, you know that things will get better for Eva soon. I love how the author was able to address really tough topics while still giving the reader something to hope for. The relationship between Ian and Eva is not one of instant lust, or the usual silly romance. After what Eva has been through, you know her mind will take time to heal and Claremont gives her characters the space and time they need. They have a very strong foundation to build on from their past friendship.
The Dark Lady is told in alternating pov's including a few past tense chapters from Hamilton. It was a great way to show how everyone first became friends and how it turned sour.
Unfortunately around the half way mark the story took a turn more towards integrating Eva into proper society. To be fair, I HATE this part of historical romances so I might not be the best person to judge this aspect. Eva had to be accepted and shown to be sane to get out from under her brother-in-law thumb so it's understood that she would have to be introduced back into society. What didn't work for me was that there was such a focus on that aspect that it took me away from her and Ian's relationship, losing focus of both Eva & Ian's inner demons. At that point they were just ….I want you, but I'm a horrible person, I did horrible things…then Eva is whisked away for a week to learn to drink tea. While Ian started out so steadfast, he was suddenly acting aloof. I wasn't really into that.
I was so very happy that Eva and Ian get their HEA (I don't think I'm spoiling anything with that did bit) but it happened so quickly and way too neatly for my tastes. It almost had a soap opera feel. This is the first book in a new series called Mad Passions. We were introduced to Mary (Eva's cellmate) but by setting up Mary's book there were thread's to Eva's story that were left wide open.
Final thoughts: This book starts out dark, so it's probably not for the faint of heart but it really is a heartwarming story of triumph and worth it if you can get through that part. I don't think the second half lived up to the potential of the first but it was still very good.
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Buy the book! The Dark Lady: A Novel of Mad Passions