Friday, July 30, 2010

The Guardian - Joan Wolf

Gentle Reader:

My husband is dead and my four-year-old son is the new Earl of Weston. Perhaps even more catastrophic, however, is the news that my husband named his brother the guardian of Giles and of all the immense Grandville estate.

Stephen... five years ago he was banished to Jamaica and now he is coming home. Once the thought of Stephen coming home to me was all I wanted out of life. But not anymore. I have made my life without him. I have my son, my horses, my home.

There are some things that are unforgivable, as Stephen will find out if he thinks he can take up where he left off with me.

My fondest regards,
Annabelle Grandville

I usually enjoy Joan Wolf's stories, especially the regency historicals she wrote in the first person, they always have some drama, some angst and agony and some of favourite stories have those ingredients so I am always ready to try new ones. This one was not an exception and added another particular favourite of mine - the second chance at love story.

Annabelle and Stephen were childhood sweethearts; they grew up together because her mother was married to his father and thy fell in love. However, five years before the start of the story, Stephen is accused of being a smuggler and, to keep a friend safe, he admits to the charge. He was sent to live in Jamaica and didn't even have time to say goodbye to Annabelle. When she found out that she was pregnant (I don't think this constitutes a spoiler as it is revealed early in the story) her mother made her marry Stephen's brother Gerald and make him believe the son was his. While Annabelle has resented not hearing for Stephen at the time, the discovery that she had married his brother has kept him away. But now, Gerald is dead, and has made Stephen his son's guardian.

When Stephen arrives there's a natural awkwardness between them and they both resent the other. Part of his responsibility to the boy is to take care of the estate business and Stephen is looking forward to it after his similar work in Jamaica. However, Stephen soon becomes suspicious that money is being embezzled and starts suffering mysterious accidents.

I did like the sparks flying between Annabelle and Stephen while they don't sort the past. The mystery of who is stealing money and Stephen's accidents also takes up a big part of the action and I quite liked that too. Both of the characters were interesting and believable and the tension between them was really good. I did think, at times, that Annabelle protected her relatives a bit too much but I guess it was also her anger toward Stephen that ruled her at the time.

However, despite my enjoyment of their story, I had two problems. First the plot reminded me too much of another Wolf book called The Arrangement and I don't like to read and being reminded that I've read the same before. It's not the same but it also involves a guardian and his ward's mother. Secondly since Annabelle and Stephen are now in laws they wouldn't have been able to marry because it would be illegal in England at the time.

Still, I'm giving it a good grade because when I could ignore that, this was one good story and I'm looking forward to read more of these books!

Grade: 4/5

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