Revenge is sweet, but true love is sweeter. That is the lesson the hero
of Patricia Oliver’s new Regency romance must learn. That it takes him
an inordinate amount of time to figure this out, well the male of the
species has never been known for his wisdom when it comes to a conflict
between his pride and his heart.
Miles Stephens, Viscount Halifax had known Miss Mathilda Heath for
years, but when he saw her all grown up, he fell immediately under her
spell and proposed forthwith. Mathilda’s parents were delighted that
the heir to Earl of Southmoor wished to marry their daughter. Mathilda
was also quite pleased; she found the darkly handsome viscount a
properly romantic figure - until she got to know him. During the months
between their betrothal and wedding day, Miles performed none of the
pleasant courtesies or lover-like gestures that would have warmed the
heart of a romantic seventeen year old. So her youthful admiration and
love died aborning, particularly when another neighbor began to pay
court to her.
Sir James Parmenter might have been a mere baronet, but he clearly loved
her and she fell in love with him. Thus, on the eve of her planned
wedding to Viscount Halifax, Mathilda eloped with James, married him,
and headed off to India. Ten years later, she has come back to England,
the widowed mother of two young sons.
Miles had been crushed by Mathilda’s defection. He had, indeed, loved
the lovely young girl she had been, but had been unable or unwilling to
show her the way he felt. Moreover, she had left him to face the
embarrassing scandal that had followed. He had retreated from society
for several years and had only reemerged at the insistence of his mother
that he find a bride to carry on the family name. But none of the young
misses he met had suited him. Now he hears that Mathilda has returned
and he hatches a devious and diabolical plan. He will court the widow
and abandon her, just as she abandoned him.
Mathilda had hoped to remove quickly to the property her husband left
her near Bath, thus avoiding both Miles and the scandalmongers. But it
is not to be. She meets the earl and discovers him much changed. He is
no longer the cold and remote figure of ten years earlier. Her previous
fond feelings toward Miles revive under his kindness to her sons and his
consideration to her. But can they overcome past hurts?
There are a number of nice twists to Oliver’s tale. The most refreshing
is the fact that James turned out not to have been a rotter and their
marriage had indeed been a happy one. Mathilda may regret the hurt that
Miles suffered because of her elopement, but she never once regrets
marrying James. This is a welcome departure from the conventions that
usually govern stories about second chances at love.
Another neat twist is the way that Oliver has Miles gradually come to
understand exactly the role that his behavior played in Mathilda’s
flight. He’s pretty slow at comprehending that he might have been
culpable and almost leaves it till too late. But at least Miles does
finally get it.
If I have any problem with the book, it comes right at the end, when
Miles’ scheme begins to play out. But this is a minor quibble; it could
have happened this way, so I accept the author’s prerogative to tell her
story as she sees fit.
Patricia Oliver is a very interesting Regency author. When she is good,
she is very, very good. With Broken Promises, she is very, very good.