Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Macalisters #5
Publication Date: 2/4/20
Number of Pages: 385
I have read three of the five books in this series and have enjoyed each of them. I enjoy the author’s writing style and the stories are well-plotted, interesting, and fast-paced. The characters are always well-developed and fleshed out. All of the books I have read so far could easily have been 5-star reads except for the very modern terminology, phraseology, and conversation-style which just drags me right out of the story. It isn’t that those things aren’t well-written and entertaining, it is just so inappropriate for the time that it jars me from the story.
I loved the first meeting between Luke Macalister, Earl of Kenswick, and Vivian Burke. As first meetings go, this one was quite entertaining. Vivian had no clue who Luke really was and felt very free to delight in his misfortune – and she felt free to share her unfavorable opinion of the new Earl of Kenswick. Vivian and her mother were living in dire circumstances in the groundskeeper’s cottage near the ruined hulk of their family home, Kenswick Abbey. They had been there for several years, caring for themselves and growing as much as they could of their own food – quite a come-down for the wife and daughter of a Baron.
Luke is a haunted man who is currently twisting in the wind. He was given an earldom he didn’t want and didn’t feel he deserved and at the same time, his vocation was taken from him. He absolutely had to get back his employment – he didn’t know how to do or be anything else. He had a plan – well, he sort of had a plan – and when he met Vivian, things coalesced and he knew how to make it work. He’d marry Vivian, give her the Abbey, get the earldom running and convince the Prince Regent to let him back into the spy business. All he’d ask of her is six months. They would act the happy couple for that time, then he’d be off spying again and she’d have her beloved Abbey.
Vivian agrees to his terms, but then, his cousin and former partner, Redley Ralston, Earl of Longfield, is accused of being a traitor and everything is turned on its head. Luke knows it isn’t true, but his former colleagues won’t help him prove it, so it is up to Luke and Vivian to clear Redley’s name. Their journey is filled with twists-and-turns, unexpected allies, and unexpected enemies. Some twists you’ll expect, others you won’t.
I loved Vivian’s quiet, steely strength. She was never filled with angst (thank goodness), always quietly confident and competent, and skilled in things she never knew would be useful. Luke was a wonderful character and I really liked him a lot. He was resolute in his belief in Redley and he treated Vivian with such admirable respect for her intelligence and abilities.
I liked the ending, but I think this is one of those books that could have reaped many benefits from having an Epilogue to finish out some things. For instance, maybe set it a year (or more) into the future where we could see how their marriage was going and how Luke is adapting to not being a spy (or is he still a spy?), maybe they are expecting, etc. Most importantly, to me, what of Vivian’s mother? I worried about her throughout the entire book. I couldn’t believe they’d just gone off and left her. Did they not leave her any money? Did they not find somebody to help her before they left? Is she now happily ensconced in the Abbey? I just felt as if that was left hanging.
This was a fun, entertaining, and interesting read and think you’ll enjoy it – especially if the modern turn-of-phrase, social interaction style, and wording don’t bother you.