‘The Marquess’ by Patricia Rice

STORY: Scarred in a duel over a feckless woman, Gavin Lawrence leaves America to take up his new duty as Marquess of Effingham, vowing never to care about others again. But lurking in the secret passages of his crumbling manor house is a courageous and exceedingly annoying young woman in terrible danger.

The self-sufficient daughter of a soldier, Dillian Whitnell guards her injured cousin in isolated Arinmede manor after an attempt on both their lives. Dillian hadn’t expected the new marquess to notice her, but his stubborn refusal to believe she’s a ghost turns into a hide-and-seek game that leads to increasingly close encounters. A game where irritation turns to intrigue, and intrigue to a forbidden passion as the real villain emerges from the past.

REVIEW: This story was such a pleasure to read. Patricia Rice gives us her version of the beauty and the beast, and I really liked her take on it.

Gavin Lawrence, recently titled Marquess of Effingham, a badly scarred man, has finally arrived in England to claim his title and properties, including an old and run down castle with hardly any servants. His brother Michael accompanies him for this adventure, and as younger brothers go, Michael is ever so obliging in throwing Gavin for a loop, and the latest one is particularly troubling to this impoverished newly minted aristocrat.

Dillian Whitnell has lived with her young cousin Lady Blanche Perceval for a while now, and to many in the society, she’s known as Miss Reynolds, Blanche’s companion. The pretence is deliberate even though the name is legitimate. The women have become very close confidants and mostly rely on each other, and not on Lady Blanches cousin, young Neville, Duke of Anglesey who neither of them trust and are suspecting of trying to kill Blanche.

The two main characters were very likable once you got to know them better and understand their backgrounds. Trust never came easy to them and trusting each other took some time. Once Gavin finds out who Dillian really is and learns of her childhood, he can’t help but admire the woman she’s become. The same goes for Dillian, although it was much harder for her to get to know the man behind the scars.

What I also appreciated in this story is the realness brought to the love scenes between the two. There was no coyness in them and the chemistry was purely sexual in the beginning. Both individuals knew what they wanted from each other, and frankly neither wanted nor could offer more, at the time. I liked that.

Even though the story starts off a bit slow, I understood the reasons behind it. The author chose that course in order for me to get familiar with the cast of characters as well as the setting of the plot, and I for one appreciate that she did. It helped me to understand the dynamic between the main and secondary characters, and the relationship between the hero and the heroine. As the story develops, so does the plot and the pace is picked up. Ms. Rice knows her craft and there were no loopholes left in this well written, very solid and highly entertaining mystery filled romance.

As beauty and the beast stories go, this one’s one of the best I’ve read so far. I also read the sequel to it, The English Heiress, which is Michael and Blanches story, and recommend it highly as well.