Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Second Lady Southvale - Sandra Heath

Miss Rosalind Carberry defied all warnings when she accepted Lord Philip Southvale's proposal. Her father distrusted the breathtakingly handsome, fabulously wealthy Englishman. Rumors ran riot about his persisting passion for his beautiful first wife. And war fever was rising between his country and Rosalind's America. Nonetheless Rosalind believed Philip's warm words and her heart's ardent answer. Alone she set sail to England to join with him in wedlock. It was only when she landed that she discovered the awesome odds against her--as she faced a rival who seemed to hold all the cards in a game of love with no rules and all risk....

Miss Rosalind Carberry met Philip, Lord Southvale at a ball at her parents’ house in America. They fall in love at first sight and despite her family’s fears that Phillip might not have forgotten his first wife, dead at sea a year earlier, she decides to have faith in him and accepts his proposal.
However just a few days before the wedding Lord Southvale is forced to return to England and they decide Rosalind will meet him in London for a Christmas wedding. But the war is very close and Rosalind decides to depart a bit earlier to join Philip before the boats stop crossing the Atlantic.

On arrival, she stays at an Inn in Fallmouth where she knew he had friends. Her maid is sick but they are very well received and in fact the inn keeper’s wife doesn’t hesitate to tell her that Phillip’s first wife was not the paragon he thought and that he was the only one who couldn’t see it. Rosalind eventually continues to London but she finds Philip away from home and if she is civilly received by his aunt and sister the same doesn’t happen with, Celia’s, the dead first wife brother, who thinks she is a fraud at first and then proceeds to tell her that Phillip will never marry her.

Rosalind is always very composed and tries to understand the odd fact that Philip doesn’t seem to have mentioned her to anyone of his family. She spends some time with his aunt and sister and the ladies do get along very well. So well that the sister soon tells her that Celia was an evil woman who ruined her relationship with a young man just to get her revenge on an imagined slight.

When Philip finally comes home his first reaction on seeing Rosalind is quite disagreeable. He had written her a letter saying he couldn’t marry her after all but she left America before the letter arrived so she is quite surprised by this turn of events. While at first Philip doesn’t want to explain anything and just wants to send her away he eventually tells her that Celia is still alive and that’s why their relationship is impossible.

But with all that she has found out about the other woman Rosalind and Philip’s sister eventually find a way to prove Celia’s infidelity and provide Phillip with the motive for a divorce.
I did like Rosalind for the start and found her a very levelheaded heroine, I could see where the story was going but it was such nicely told but I didn’t mind it at all. I think the main weakness of the story was that everyone knew Celia was an egocentric and selfish woman who had never loved her husband nor been faithful. Had she been less of a black character I think we would have felt that Rosalind’s place was more threatened and that would have made for a more poignant read.

Besides we are told several times that Philip was completely blinded to her faults and believed her the best woman on earth. However, when he explains to Rosalind that Celia is alive we see that he finally sees her for who she is, but we never find out what made him change his mind. I think would have been interesting and made for a more intense read.

Grade: 4/5

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