From the blurb:
England 1812. Severely injured at the battle of Salamanca, Edward Thurston, the new Earl of Sinclair, returns home to his beloved Fly Hall. Determined not to present his prospective bride with the wreck he believes himself to have become, he decides to end his betrothal, unaware that Lady Jennifer, for vastly differing reasons, has reached the selfsame decision. Throughout the campaigns, Edward was often seen relying greatly on a miniature he carried, and it is to this token he clings upon his return. Will he eventually find happiness with the girl in the portrait, or will he remain firm in his resolve not to wed? Reason dictates one course, his heart another.
This is an endearing love story following Edward Thurston and Lady Jennifer’s journey after the break-up of their betrothal, and it is told from both character’s perspectives. You cannot help but feel for handsome Edward, who has returned home from war severely affected – both physically and mentally – by the atrocities that he was part of whilst away. He cannot bring himself to ask Jennifer to deal with this aftermath and so he breaks off their engagement:
“Ironic is it not? To the outside world ‘twould appear that I have time aplenty, but you see, I have not. I am to be married, John. Or, more rightly, I was to be married. Yet how can I expect a wife to commit herself to the wreck I have become?”
Edward is a very caring man, close to his family and very honourable, so when Jennifer later needs his help, he does not turn her away. What follows is an unexpected adventure that allows them to finally get to know each other properly.
Despite the seriousness of the topic of post-traumatic stress, this book has a lot of fun elements. I love the quirkiness of Lady Jennifer – she certainly isn’t your usual historical romance novel heroine. She is feisty, she is smart, she isn’t afraid of other people’s opinions of her and she certainly does not swoon. But she is confused about her feelings for Edward and at times somewhat naïve of the complications of love:
“Ned, I must know. Did you offer for me out of a sense of honor? Did you feel obligated to offer marriage?”
She saw his shoulders stiffen, and his tone was cold when, without turning, he answered, “If that is what you truly believe, you silly girl, then yes. If that explanation satisfies you, and it is how you perceive it, yes.”
There is also a sense of mystery to this book. Edward is obsessed with a miniature portrait which he took with him to war and depended on during his long convalescence. Why can he not let it go? Who is the image of? What does it mean?
This book is a mix of adventure, romance and mystery. It’s not highly descriptive, but focuses on a well-crafted plot. I liked the myriad settings, with the characters going from the London ton scene to country estates to travelling on public coaches and staying in cheap inns with commoners. The pace and intrigue make this a real page turner – I wanted to know what would happen and who was in that portrait, and I wanted to keep reading to make sure that Edward and Jennifer would be happy. I was not disappointed, but I was kept guessing until the end.
I look forward to reading more from this author.
The Portrait is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.