A Matter of Convenience

A Matter of Honor

A Matter of Pride

 
Ever Yours by Gabriella Anderson
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7445-X
*****
Gabriella Anderson is a good storyteller. Ever Yours is a wonderful example of a historical romance that draws you in and keeps you there until the end.

Ivy St. Clair is almost on the shelf. After three seasons, she is told by her father to settle for a good offer. The man she agrees to marry is Lord Wynbrooke. But before the betrothal can be announced, Ivy discovers she has inherited a small property in Devon and some funds. To collect this inheritance, she must travel to Wales and deliver a portrait to a friend of her benefactor. The benefactor is Lord Stanhope, a man who courted Ivy’s mother, but lost her to Ivy’s father. Stanhope explains this in a letter, but leaves out the reason for the need to deliver the portrait.

We quickly learn that the friend is Auburn Seaton, Earl of Tamberlake, who is nicknamed by the ton “The Monster Earl”. Several years ago, Tamberlake was involved in a carriage accident that resulted in a fire. The fire caused a scar on his face, and the accident knocked out his eye. This once handsome Earl is now disfigured. Shortly after the accident, his fiancée cried off and Tamberlake went into seclusion at his Welsh estate.

Ivy and her brother, along with Mrs. Pennyfeather (Stanhope’s housekeeper) travel to Wales. There Ivy confronts Tamberlake and as you might guess, helps him accept himself. Ivy grows to love him, but has to return to London due to her betrothal, which is announced while she is away. Tamberlake fights his demons and comes to claim her as his own. There is also a little mystery to solve – who is trying to kill him?

There is a wealth of depth to this story that is interwoven with a skill not often seen. Wynbrooke shows up in Wales with his friend, Thorndike. We learn that all is not as innocent as it seems with this duo and Tamberlake is confronted with how to help Ivy from having to marry this man. Ivy’s brother, Christopher, is a bored nobleman searching for a purpose in life. Mrs. Pennyfeather acts as if she is more than a housekeeper, yet she is a mystery.

Ivy is a well-rounded young woman. She is aware of her duty, and accepts she must marry. Yet, she doesn’t even know Wynbrooke in any depth and yearns for adventure or excitement. She jumps at the chance to go to Wales. She is intelligent, interesting and strong-willed without being a bore or obstinate. She has a lot of common sense. When she looks upon Tamberlake without flinching, he is lost. When she tells him to basically quit feeling sorry for himself, he falls in love.

Tamberlake is a noteworthy character himself. He is tortured, but not to the point of melancholy. He is more resigned to his fate. He doesn’t wallow, he acts. Once he realizes not all the ton are like his fiancée, he takes the mature route, and acts like a man. He is a bit high-handed, but Ivy doesn’t let him get away with that for long. They are a well-matched pair and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them fall in love. Although there is some sexual tension, their romance is based on getting to know each other and this added to my enjoyment of their story.

Anderson is masterful with her interjections of humor at just the right times. She writes a scene when Ivy arrives in Wales that had me chuckling and set the stage for the rest of the visit. When one of the servants discovers broken carriage parts in the mud that he wants Tamberlake to see, he carries them through the house. The dry wit of the butler was understatement at its best.

There is only one slight issue that I struggled with and that is Anderson’s injecting 21st century acceptance of homosexuality in a character from the 1800’s. I think most men, even forward-thinking ones, would not have been able to accept this without wanting to identify those involved.

Ivy and Tamberlake are two of the best characters I have read this year. Their story is one that I will want to come back to time and time again. That puts Ever Yours right on my keeper shelf.

--Shirley Lyons


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