Dangerous Passions

Innocence Undone

Night Secrets

Nothing But Velvet

 
Silk and Steel by Kat Martin
(St. Martin's, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-97281-4
****
If you prefer romances that are lighthearted and full of humor, then Silk and Steel might not be your best bet. But if you're like me and enjoy as much heartwrenching angst as possible, then have I got the perfect Regency historical for you.

Douglas Roth, the Earl of Dunstan, will go to whatever lengths necessary to keep his niece, Lady Kathryn Grayson, from inheriting her late parents’ estate, Milford Park. Dunstan falsely accuses Kathryn of attempting to murder his daughter and has her incarcerated at London's horrific St. Bartholomew's Hospital for the Insane. With Kathryn permanently tucked away, the estate reverts to Dunstan.

When the opportunity to escape presents itself, Kathryn does not hesitate. She slips away from her captors and hides in the luggage boot of a carriage heading out of the city. When Lucien Raphael Montaine, the fifth Marquess of Litchfield, arrives at his country estate, Castle Running, he discovers the bedraggled stowaway in his carriage. Upon hearing Kathryn's story, Lucien offers his protection.

Although temporarily safe at Castle Running, Kathryn is terrified her uncle will find her and return her to St. Barts. So she does the only thing she can think of to keep herself safe, she tricks Lucien into compromising her and forces him to marry her.

Naturally, Lucien is livid at her duplicity, but he agrees to the marriage. By marrying Kathryn, he is forced to give up his fiancée, Lady Allison Hartman. In Lucien's eyes, Lady Allison personifies the perfect wife, she is docile, manageable and obedient. Everything the headstrong Kathryn is not.

Kathryn soon realizes she is in love with Lucien, and by forcing his hand in marriage, she has created an entirely different sort of nightmare for herself.

Silk and Steel clearly illustrates the frustrations of being female at a time when all of your decisions, for good and evil, are dictated by the men in your life.

This is the slightest sketch of a complicated plot that speeds along at a blistering pace. There is never a lag in the action. As soon as one crisis has been averted, another occurs. It was impossible to put the book down.

Kathryn's the best of heroines, strong and intelligent. Her terror at the thought of returning to the hell of St. Bart's is clearly drawn, making her less than honorable choices understandable. The price Kathryn pays for those choices is almost painful to read.

Lucien, initially, is the stereotypical stoic hero. It was a treat to watch his evolution into a man who learns to love deeply and to allow the woman he loves to be herself.

Silk and Steel is obviously a sequel. Jason and Velvet Sinclair from a previous Martin novel, Nothing But Velvet, make a prominent appearance in this book. But it's not necessary to have read their story, I haven't and didn't feel as if I'd missed anything.

When you read Silk and Steel, be prepared for an emotional roller coaster ride. It's one I heartily recommend.

--Karen Lynch


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