From the cozy confines of a tiny seaside village to the glittering crush of a fashionable London soiree comes an enthralling tale of a thoroughly mismatched couple…poised to discover the rapture of love.
There was no doubt about it. What Miss Harriet Pomeroy needed was a man. Someone powerful and clever who could help her rout the unscrupulous thieves who were using her beloved caves to hide their loot. But when Harriet summoned Gideon Westbrook, Viscount St. Justin, to her aid, she could not know that she was summoning the devil himself…
Dubbed the Beast of Blackthorne Hall for his scarred face and lecherous past, Gideon was strong and fierce and notoriously menacing. Yet Harriet could not find it in her heart to fear him. For in his tawny gaze she sensed a savage pain she longed to soothe…and a searing passion she yearned to answer. Now, caught up in the beast’s clutches, Harriet must find a way to win his heart – and evade the deadly trap of a scheming villain who would see them parted for all time.
Harriet Pomeroy is a “spinster” amateur archeologist – specializing (read: obsessed) in animal fossils. She obtains the majority of her fossils from her explorations of a series of caves located near her home. The area (including the caves) is owned and “ruled by” the Earl of Blackthorne Hall, Gideon Westbrook.
Six years prior to the start of this novel Gideon “lost” his honor – he was engaged to the local Rector’s beautiful young daughter. One day she goes to Gideon and informs him that she is pregnant. He dissolves their engagement…and she goes home and shoots herself. Everyone – including Gideon’s parents – believed that it was Gideon who “ravished” his young and beautiful fiancee who he discards once she becomes pregnant. Gideon’s honor is besmirched throughout his small hometown – he becomes known as “The Beast of Blackthorne Hall” – as well as throughout the entirety of society. He throws himself into his work (managing his family’s many estates) for the next six years, growing more and more bitter.
Then one day Gideon receives a letter (read: summons) from a Miss Harriet Pomeroy. She demands that he come immediately to Blackthorne in order to route the smugglers she’d discovered. She was outraged that the smugglers were using her caves to hide their loot. Their illegal smuggling activities were impeding her work and Harriet was NOT amused. Gideon decides to humor her – mostly because of the interest in if she was imagining things or if his land was being used illegally.
When Harriet and Gideon meet for the first time sparks immediately fly – and Harriet leaves the encounter having somehow attained full belief that Gideon was A) completely honorable and trustworthy and B) going to get rid of the smugglers – leaving her free to go discover more fossils. I was nonplussed at how quickly Harriet trusted Gideon. While she did not know of his past when they first meet – she trusts him implicitly even after being given the salacious news. I can understand taking everything you hear with a grain of salt…but Harriet’s immediate trust was…unusual to me.
Due to a series of [Harriet responsible] misfortunes, Harriet and Gideon get trapped in the caves (which flood during high tide) alone overnight. Which means, of course, that Gideon must offer to marry Harriet or her reputation would be ruined. Harriet – who is pretty modern in her ideas of marriage – tries to downplay the possibility of her ruination because she never intended on marriage. Harriet was much more interested in her fossils and she also considered herself much “too old” to marry at her age. Gideon forcefully explains to her what the lost of honor really means – at least from his horrific experience – which makes Harriet agree to the marriage. She did not want to sully Gideon’s reputation further.
The two get engaged and Harriet is taken off to London to “acquire social polish.” Once there Harriet finds how horrible Gideon’s life must have been. People try to talk her out of the nuptials AND she’s even kidnapped by friends to “save her” from the horrible The Beast of Blackthorne Hall. Regardless, Harriet and Gideon get married…and things are going [relatively] well.
I loved Harriet as a heroine. LOVED her. Harriet was (like most of Quick’s heroines) preoccupied with her own quirky hobby – the collection of fossils – but something about her preoccupation was endearing. She was excited and eager to share her (informational) discoveries [she would NOT share her fossils, she was under the constant fear that a thieving fossil collector would steal from her]. She was able to quickly make friends who cared about her greatly. One of the things I liked most about Harriet was her consistency. If she made a promise, she stuck by it. Once she decided that Gideon was a good man, her opinion was never swayed. She refused to listen to the tittering of the Ton and even verbally (and once physically IIRC) attacked someone who would dare to disparage her husband. LOVED Harriet. She allowed zero shit; she was taking names and kicking ass.
Gideon was…more cardboard cutout than a fully fleshed out person – especially in comparison to Harriet. There’s not really much to distinguish Gideon from other Quick heroes that I’ve read lately. He’s tall, rich, a noble, an alpha male. The only difference here was Gideon’s appearance (to others, not the reader) of a lack of honor and a scar on his face that disfigures him. The reader isn’t even given that great of a description of the scar so I really have only a vague idea of what it looked like and how it impacted him (visually). The other major Gideon difference was that Gideon was in direct conflict with his parents and the rest of society. No one was “afraid” of him and he had no pull in society. Usually Quick’s heroes have some type of “dangerous edge” that makes screwing around with them dangerous.
One of the things I liked the most is that Harriet was used as a catalyst in the repair of the relationship between Gideon and his parents (especially his father). I loved the fact that SHE didn’t do anything besides be herself. Harriet took no one to task or gave any lectures. It was simply her presence and the absolute trust she displayed in her husband that helped to move the relationship building with the parents along. The reason I like this so much is that often a major change like this [in Romancelandia] is usually brought about by the direct actions of a character.
Again, this book (printed July 1992) seems to be quite like “Scandal” which was printed February 28, 1991.
I’m starting to feel this author is very much like Stephanie Laurens and David Eddings – two authors I love but who are very repetitive – they write the same characters/characterizations and plot-lines/tropes time and time again. Although there can be something quite…therapeutic from the repetition.
The ending of the book was kinda WTF for me. The antagonist was…sorta out of left field. And the reasoning of the antagonist was…crazy sounding. It would have worked better (for me) if the antagonist had been portrayed as crazy – but instead the antagonist was simply greedy and he felt deserving. But the ending did wrap up the remaining loose ends.