Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lady in White - Denise Domning

Widowed Lady Arabella Purfoy becomes a pawn in a game played between Queen Elizabeth and Lord Nicholas Graceton, casting Belle into a marriage she doesn't want and into a household that doesn't want or welcome her. Master James Wyatt, steward to Lord Nicholas, is determined to keep the interloping Belle away from his vulnerable and ailing master. Only too late does he realize that Belle's quiet courage and pure spirit have won his heart, leaving him hopelessly, irrevocably, in love with his employer's wife.

I enjoyed Lady in White even more than I did Lady in Waiting. Lady in White is Nick’s story, or at least it is supposed to be Nick’s story because what happens is that he is not the only hero in this book.

When Kit made his bargain with Lady Montmercy in the previous book, one of his goals was to have his brother Nick married to the Lady’s daughter Arabella. The dowry would allow Nick to regain his title and build the family’s fortune. While the contract between them was dissolved when Lady Montmercy’s real reasons were revealed, the queen decided that the marriage should go ahead as proof of Nick’s (a catholic) good intentions towards his monarch. And that is how Arabella (Belle) newly widowed and with a young daughter finds herself on the way to meet her new husband accompanied but his right hand man – Jamie.

Belle and Jamie have a problem from the very beginning; they are immediately attracted to each other. I had a bit of trouble understanding how this could come about so soon but since they start spending more and more time together I really started seeing the attraction. But they are both honest people and determined to fulfill their duties so they don’t reveal their feelings to each other.

When they arrive at Nick’s castle their welcome is less than warm as everyone is catholic and Belle and her family are seen as the enemies. It is also obvious that despite the queen’s command and the presence of one her spies to witness the marriage and the bedding Nick is hoping to escape from it. In the previous books we were aware that Nick had a lady love, Cecily, with whom he hoped to marry, he finally does in the beginning of this book (the first chapter is wonderfully atmospheric and seems right out of a gothic novel) and that will be just one more problem that they will have to deal with as they try to comply with the queen’s wishes and the fact that her envoy would like none better than have some treasonous act to report.

So this ends up being as much Belle and Jamie’s story as Nick and Cecily’s. Jamie tries to protect his friend to point of pretending to be him when it was needed and Belle goes along with the deception because she recognizes that Nick is a good man and is trying to do the right thing by his wife and his name. When Jamie and Belle confess their feelings to each other they are torn between what they feel and what their duty is. Will they be able to find a way to be together? We can’t help but wish that they all may have their happy endings, because they are all very nice people caught in a desperate situation, but it soon becomes obvious that that is not going to happen. This whole story has a much more suspenseful feel than the previous one, a lot more subplots, and I really enjoyed that. There is also a ghost in the story and while its presence is more of an atmospheric feel for most of the action in the end it’s the ghost that is determinant for the well being of one of the main characters.

I have really enjoyed Denise Domning’s stories, both the medievals and now these. I have now added her books as Denise Hampton to my WL and I fervently hope that she decides to write new stories in the future.

Grade: 4.5/5

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