The Spurned Viscountess by Shelley Munro is a romance story set in England with strong Gothic undertones. In addition, the story includes a mystery that runs parallel to the romance. Rosalind, the heroine, is sent to marry Lucien, Lord Hastings, but upon meeting him sees her future as loveless and cold. Lucien doesn't want to marry her, who he silently calls his English mouse. He is still in love with his wife, who died along with his unborn child in a murderous attack and wants to find their killer, not marry some woman he's never met. In addition, he doesn't remember anything about his life in England because of the attack, which scarred him both inside and outside. But Rosalind is stronger than most people give her credit for, and she resolves to marry him and hopes that he will some day at least care enough about her to give her children.
Lucien slowly begins to get used to his English mouse, and it doesn't take long for him to see that she is made of sturdier stuff than he first thought. Someone is trying to harm her, and each time, Rosalind shows her strength and courage, even as household members are dying around her. Lucien finally begins to see that his wife is someone he cares about, just in time for both of them to be in real danger. Their love is proven through this danger, and when they are safe again, both look forward to the pitter patter of little feet.
The Spurned Viscountess is a sweet story but a well written story. Munro describes the setting on the coast of England in detail, making the reader feel they are there with Rosalind as she walks near the water or high above on the cliffs. Lucien is a romantic hero with a past who the reader grows to like and wants to see get a second chance at love. Rosalind is a strong female character, and Munro makes her character full and interesting.
The romance is sweet when it finally occurs, but the mystery is something out of any Gothic novel. There is a large, eerie castle; secret passages; a dangerous villain; and strange goings on in the castle. All of this adds up to a delightful read. If you like the idea of the dark, brooding romantic hero with a past, a la Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights but in a far less gloomy story, then try Shelley Munro's book. This Broad found it simply enjoyable.
The Spurned Viscountess was provided for review by the publisher, Carina Press, through NetGalley.
Marriage, Mystery, and Murder, Oh My!
In The Spurned Viscountess, Shelley Munro introduces us to Rosalind, a young English woman with a rare gift. She sees the memories and intentions of those she touches, and is quite convinced this gift is in actuality a curse. Others feel uncomfortable around her, and Rosalind is on the verge of becoming a spinster. Furthering her troubles are rumors that she is a witch, so her family sends her to St. Clare Castle for an arranged marriage with the heir of the estate, Viscount George St. Clare. The Viscount, known as Lucien, suffers from amnesia, and has returned to his English family unconvinced that he is, in fact, the missing George St. Clare. Badly scarred in an attack years earlier and still mourning the murder of his first wife, Lucien marries Rosalind begrudgingly with no intention of husbanding her proper, but strange occurrences in and around Castle St. Clare compel the two to come together as each of their lives is endangered.
Desperately searching for the mysterious and elusive smuggler known only as Hawk, Lucien is determined to avenge his first wife's murder, but he discovers that investigating that crime may put his new wife in mortal danger. As love grows between the two, they seek to rediscover Lucien's past and catch a killer before it is too late.
Shelley Munro's story is excellent. What it lacks in depth and detail it makes up for with interesting characters. Not lengthy, with only 251 pages, The Spurned Viscountess is an easy, enjoyable read. Rosalind is a typical heroine with more bravado than brains at times, and Lucien is written nicely as the reluctant lover with a mysterious past. While neither character is outstanding, they do work well in the story together. What makes Munro's tale stand out, is the mixture of romance, mystery, and murder. She also had great supporting characters in the story, which actually made the mystery....ahem, mysterious.
Anyone looking for an easy page-turner will enjoy this story. The Spurned Viscountess was provided to me free of charge through Net Galley from Carina Press Publishing. The opinions in my review are solely my own.