I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak
Published by Montlake Romance on October 15, 2013
Genres: Historical Romance
A shocking betrayal...
Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance.
But he wasn't the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last shocking confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood.
A forbidden love...
Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the scaffold—and the devil. The earl agrees, but Rachel is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead.
Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart…
The set up
Truman Stanhope, the earl of Druridge, has lived under a cloud of suspicion for two years. His unfaithful wife, Katherine, died in a fire at their manor home and many believe at his hand. Truman has no memory of what happened, only that he was on his way to confront her after learning she was pregnant with someone else’s child. He believes Rachel McTavish and her family know who set the fire and he’ll use any means to force her cooperation.
Rachel’s father recently died and her mother is desperately ill so she’s willing to accept medical help facilitated by the earl in return for telling him what she knows. When the people in the village learn of her betrayal of sorts, they turn on her and she’s ostracized. Truman and Rachel are falling for each other but she’s a commoner and he’s facing the gallows if he doesn’t find the real killer or succumb to the demands of a benefactor that can thwart his dead wife’s family’s efforts to charge him with the crime.
What I enjoyed
The mix of romance and mystery in an historical setting was a nice change of pace. Truman was a decent man, if not sometimes a bit clueless, and he was immediately taken by the bright and educated Rachel. She was strong willed, intelligent and attractive but still respectful of the social constraints of the 1830s. Their relationship was given an unintended boost and things steamed up pretty quickly. The obstacles they were forced to deal with because of her commoner status and his position made the affair poignant and really touching. Neither wasted a lot of time denying their feelings and there was always a sense that they were star-crossed lovers.
Solving the mystery was also interesting as there was a nice range of suspects to consider and my choices seem to change with each chapter. I still was unsure until the final reveal.
What bugged me somewhat
Truman’s passiveness drove me crazy at times. While he was passionate about Rachel, his reluctance to effectively deal with those who betrayed him time and again was maddening. In fairness, I think his behavior was perfectly fitting for the aristocracy of that era. It still was irritating:)
The bottom line
This was an intriguing mystery, a heartwarming romance and an interesting story overall. My frustrations with Truman aside, I liked how his relationship with Rachel developed. I’m not an expert of this era but the details of the story seemed accurate for the period. And, I know this isn’t intended to be a series but there are some secondary characters that really should be explored (hello, Penelope!).
I also love to talk about books. There’s nothing more exciting than to finish a great story and cover it A to Z with other people, exploring different perspectives and points of view. So, if you see something on my shelf you’d like to talk about, send me a message and we’ll talk!
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