Their Destinies were bound by a shimmering thread of desire...
For Lady Laura Blake, there is only one man in the world: Alex, the Earl of Cardiff. Yet ever since he was wounded in battle, Alex has locked himself away in his great stone castle at Heddon Hall. Believing himself to be less than a man, he conceals his ravaged face behind a leather mask... and hides his scarred soul beneath an icy aloofness.
A mere child when he went off to war, Laura has blossomed into a beautiful young woman Alex scarecely recognizes. The compassion and desire he sees shining out of her eyes tempts him to ease his pain in her sweet, sensual embrace. But as need flames into uncontrollable passion, an evil fate comspires against them both, weaving a web of treachery and betrayal that could bring heartbreak or happiness to those who dare to love...
I first read this book several years back, and was blown away by it. It reminded me very much of a Judith McNaught book, in the wide-eyed innocence of the heroine and the jaded hero just waiting for the one who can "see" him as he really is. First published in 1995, it was Ranney's first published book.
I love Laura's optimistic view, and once Alex lets down his defenses, he's just wonderful. I love them together. There was sort of an innocent, awakening type of love they shared.
I hated that he didn't have the nerve to say goodbye to her in person when he left for the war. And that Laura didn't want to let him know she was pregnant before he left, trying to lessen his burdens. In typical romance "big misunderstanding" fashion, when Alex returns, he takes the evil stepmother's word for Laura's infidelity and betrayal, never stopping to think about who was giving him the information.
For Laura's part, I thought her journey into and out of her deep grief was very well done, and fairly realistic, especially for the time. I can't imagine losing my husband and child all in one day. Some of the scenes written about Laura's grief made my heart hurt.
The extra touches, like using William Pitt himself as Alex's superior, makes it more plausible that he would go off again to a war that left him disfigured and miserable.
This book is definitely written in an early-mid 90's fashion, with descriptive prose and a grand, sweeping, epic-type feel. I adore Ranney's early works - this and the Highland Lords series are absolutely fantastic.
I will say that I enjoyed it just a little less this time, simply because my tastes have evolved slightly. I likely won't reread this again for a long time for the same reason I'm afraid to reread McNaught. I don't want my changing tastes to overshadow the memories of how much I love the book.
If you're a Ranney and a McNaught (historical) fan, you'll likely really enjoy this book. If you're more jaded, maybe not so much.
And now a huge thank you to Nath for hosting the Re-Read Challenge for 2009 (and into 2010). I took another look at so many books that I enjoyed. And I also noticed that almost all of my rereads were historicals. I think that's because my comfort reads are historicals. Maybe next year I'll have to look at trying to reread some contemps. But then again, maybe not...