By Patricia Veryan
Although I prefer her two other series to the Sanguinet series, the latter has some excellent books in it, and this is one of them. This title is not technically part of the Sanguinet Saga proper, although it is certainly in the same universe. It does not have the two eponymous villains in it or nor are they even mentioned for that matter. The only conspiracy is a personal one against our hero, Garrett Hawkhurst. What it does have are some brief appearances and mentions of some important characters that float in and out of the 6 book Sanguinet series: Tristram Leith, Harry Redmond, Jeremy Bolster, and Diccon off the top of my head. Hawkhurst and Mia Buchanan are separately both close friends with the same set of players in the series though they themselves have never before met. It is set at the great estate, Dominer, that was the home of the Duke of Marbury 5o or 60 years ago and featured prominently in The Golden Chronicles and its prequel, The Mistress of Willowvale. In that book, The Duke (called Muffin), who is one of the most memorable characters in the series, decided to bequeath Dominer to Kit and Leonie Thorndyke, Lord and Lady Aynesworth, his neighbors and friends due to his love for them and because they do not have an estate of their own to pass on to their own descendants. It’s a long story and that’s enough background. All this history is barely mentioned in this book, although it does provide some interesting context for readers familiar with the doings in The Mistress of Willowvale and The Golden Chronicles.
Euphemia (Mia, thank God) Buchanan, her brother Simon, along with her page, Kent, a former chimney sweep whom Mia rescued, are on their way to their Aunt’s place in Bath for Christmas. They are caught by a landslide while sightseeing on Dominer land and almost killed. Their lives are saved by Garrett “Hawk”(of course) Hawkhurst in an incredible act of bravery and risk to his own life. Simon and Kent are badly injured necessitating staying at Dominer for an extended period of time along with Garrett and his entertaining and eccentric family. Garrett is rumored to have murdered his wife and child some years before and so is shunned and ostracized by London society. It doesn’t take long for Mia, and later, Simon, to realize that he has to have been falsely accused. Indeed, Garrett is the victim of one of the most dastardly plots one can imagine. It is pretty evil, even for Patricia Veryan.
Garrett is a typical Veryan hero: Honorable, devastatingly attractive, falsely accused of something, and too much physical courage for his own good. He’s also too honorable for his own good, for that matter. Mia is one of my favorite heroines. She is beautiful, intelligent, sensible, brave, irreverent, and hilarious. Everyone loves her. The residents of Dominer all have unique personalities that spur the action along and entertain the reader. Among others, there is a dotty accident-prone aunt, a seemingly weak and bullied nephew, a sweet and shy sister, and a cantankerous and intimidating grandfather. There is darkness in this book, indeed, but it is leavened with some of the most comic scenes Veryan has written. And she can really write a comic scene, as well as provide witty banter to spare. She is also a master of thrilling fights, tense chases through the countryside, and dangerous threats and escapades. In this book, instead of her trademark action-packed climax, she has two! And of course, a passionate love story, beautifully developed. Two actually.
The resolution is as joyous as the mental and physical sufferings are harrowing. Just when you think the hero has suffered more than he can bear, Veryan doubles down. This can be very hard on the reader, as by this time we are very invested and anxious for the fates of all concerned. The mind-boggling, if amply foreshadowed, a coincidence that is at the heart of the happy ending can be forgiven. To add to the chaos and tension there is a lovably out-of-control dog, who becomes an unlikely hero at the end and saves the day.**5 stars out of 5**
May 29, 2021