The Marriage Campaign

A Scandalous Journey

A Twist of Fate
by Susannah Carleton
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20937-0
Sometimes before writing a review but after forming my opinion of a book, I check the TRR Archives to see what my colleagues have said about an author’s previous work and to refresh my memory when a book contains continuing characters. I was struck by Cathy Sova’s comments about Susannah Carleton’s last book - that there were too many characters and that the romance got lost in the crowd. Perhaps the author took this friendly criticism to heart because for the vast majority of A Twist of Fate, we have a two character story and the romance of David Winterbrook and Madeline Graves could hardly be more front and center.

A Twist of Fate is a “snowed-bound” romance. (I should note that Carleton did her homework; she checked with weather historians and set her tale in the midst of one of Oxfordshire’s worst blizzards.) Lord David Winterbrook has been visiting a friend and decides to ride across country rather than stay in his carriage. He wants to get home to his beloved daughter Isabelle. David gets lost; the weather turns nasty; and he comes across a woman trying to get her gig out of a ditch. Always the gentleman, David dismounts and approaches to offer help. When the woman turns, he knows that the Winterbrook legend is true, that the men of his family immediately know when they have found their true love. This is the woman for him.

Lynn Graves is grateful for the strange gentleman’s help. Since he has muddied his garments to get her gig out of the ditch, she feels compelled to invite him to her small cottage to warm up and to make himself presentable. Before extending the invitation, she studies David carefully and decides that he is truly a gentleman. Lynn has every reason to be wary of men.

The planned brief stop becomes a lengthy stay, thanks to the horrible weather. There is simply no way that David can travel further. Nor is he particularly anxious to leave. He is smitten indeed and wants to learn more about his hostess.

Slowly he uncovers the story of Mrs. Graves’ past. She is the widow of a soldier who clearly treated her badly. She is largely deaf because of an injury, one David gradually realizes was the work of her husband. She has every reason to dislike and distrust men and to avoid the married state. She is also lovely, intelligent, caring, and hard working. In short, further acquaintance convinces David that she is indeed the woman he loves. But he also realizes that it will be no easy matter to convince Lynn to love and trust him.

Lynn has every reason for her fears. She eloped with a handsome soldier at seventeen and when her father refused to hand over her dowry, her husband showed his true colors. He was a brute and she was brutalized. Her family would not intervene; she had made her bed. Only his death set her free. She has no intention of ever marrying again. She is happy with her quiet life. But David is clearly very, very different. She finds herself falling in love with him. But can she overcome her fears and marry David?

A Twist of Fate is a quiet, sweet romance. David is the perfect personification of the beta hero, the kind of man that every mother wants her daughter to marry. Lynn is a woman who is beset by understandable reservations about marrying again and understandable fears about her ability to accept her marital duties. The discovery of David’s high social position only adds to her misgivings. But in the end she is strong enough to reach out to the future.

Susannah Carleton has written a gentle and enjoyable romance about the healing power of love. Those readers who enjoy sweet stories will certainly enjoy A Twist of Fate.

--Jean Mason

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