I didn’t think I’d enjoy this book as much as I did. I’ve never been fond of Regency Romances but this one hit the curiosity spot. With a delicious combination of romance, suspense, murders, adultery, and a creepy ghost story to boot, this book was definitely one of those rare finds.
Upon completion of her education, Celia Fairmont found herself in the mercy of some charitable distant relatives. Moving to Ashbourne was a challenge in itself; because she has to get used to living a much more affluent life that she was accustomed to. But adapting to the life inside the mansion and to the dictates of the society would be the least of her worries. The haunting of Celia Fairmont begins as her dreams are plagued with nights of forbidden passion and a restless ghost of a man intent on harming her.
I really loved that the author was able to mix all the eclectic elements into one scrumptious story. She created an impressive balance that didn’t feel like she was favouring one over another. The romance wasn’t overdone and the er, intimate moments were tasteful for the most part. I’m hardly knowledgeable with the amorous relationships of the Victorian period, but I’m not sure if an unwed man and an unwed woman would fall into bed, so to speak, quite as easily as Phillip and Celia did. No matter. I’m all for uncontainable, irrisistible,all consuming desires (I can’t believe I just wrote desires). The process in which our MCs uncovered the mysteries of the ghosts were paced really well. None of the conflicts were resolved in a forcible manner.
There is also a sort of reincarnation element to this story. Phillip and Celia’s connection to the past and the reason why they were both being haunted was to right a wrong and to bring about an eternal justice – although in Celia’s case, her connection didn’t have anything to do with her lineage. Hers was by virtue of an uncanny resemblance to Caroline Leighton – an ancestor who had a tempestuous forbidden romance while being married to the Earl of Ashbourne at the time. Rumoured to have abandoned her children and husband to be with her lover, she’d become the notorious adulterer in the history of the Leighton family. The forbidden relationship was told through Celia’s dreams sequences. The best thing about the author’s writing was her ability to stimulate convincing emotions from her characters and in turn, successfully conveyed them to her readers. Caroline’s desperation was irrefutable and her fear of being found out was fierce. On the flip side, I found it hard to gauge her lover’s emotions and it was mostly because the author opted not to write about Phillip’s dreams. I understood to a point. This book would’ve been a door stopper of a novel had she decided to write about Phillip’s dreams simultaneously with Celia’s.
Over all, this was a fantastic read – a fast one at that. Every single element of the story was a page-turner. Ms. Wildes also managed to accompish one thing that had been the single reason for my adverse allergic reaction to Regency novels: she simplified the very formal language of the times.