A True Prince

 
Come Midnight by Veronica Sattler
(Zebra, $ 5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6922-7
****
It is hard for me to imagine that a story based on trading your soul to the devil to save your son could be a great romance. In Come Midnight, Veronica Sattler has convinced me.

Lord Adam Lightfoot strikes a deal with the devil: his soul for the life of his son, Andrew. Andrew has suffered both a head injury and a disabling leg injury in a carriage accident that has also claimed the life of his mother, Adam’s estranged wife. Although Adam does not have a close relationship with his son, he cannot bear to see Andrew taken from him. Having lived through the horrors of war, and a loveless marriage, Adam feels as if he has no soul, so what better thing to use to save his son. A game of chess is used to negotiate the final bargain: the devil will heal Andrew, and Adam will give up his soul after just 40 more years of life.

Little does Adam know that help is on the way in the guise of a young Irish lass known as the “Irish Angel.” Caitlin O’Brien, fresh from the Isle, is a young, naďve healer, blessed with “the Sight,” that mystical ability to see into the future.

And part of the future Caitlin has seen is a chess match against the devil himself, in a room with a man with a facial scar looking on. Left alone by the death of her foster mother who has taught her all she knows about healing, Caitlin is journeying through England helping the poor any way she can. One of Adam’s servants knows of her healing power and brings her to the house to help the young master Andrew.

Wnen Caitlin meets Adam, she knows he is the man with the scar from her vision. She is frightened, but knows that she is meant to be there. Little does she realize that not only will she help to heal Andrew, but her biggest task will be to heal Adam’s soul with true love.

Caitlin’s speech is full of the Irish brogue that sets a tone for the story. There is something enchanting and lively to hearing that lilt to the words that makes me want to dance a jig. And this story is full of lively repartee, caring, innocence and fun. Andrew and Caitlin bond immediately and their growing sense of love whittles away at Adam’s dark moods. He begins to bond with his son and in doing so, also bonds with Caitlin.

Although they have the dark shadow hanging over them, each brings light to the other in the form of their love. Adam is drawn by Caitlin’s freshness and optimistic view of the world. Caitlin is drawn by her sense that she can heal the pain she sees in Adam’s eyes, while experiencing the physical attraction between a man and a woman for the first time. Adam knows he is doomed, but cannot shut out the love he feels for Caitlin. And when they finally consummate their love, the scene is full of the energy and caring that they feel for each other.

The devil is truly evil incarnate, with many tricks and intentions, but is portrayed primarily in the form of an English Lord Appleby. He finds worthy opponents in both Adam and Caitlin.

Sattler tells us in an author’s note that this is a sequel to her earlier novel, The Bargain. Ashleigh and Brett from that story are brought into this tale and enhance it. Their willingness to befriend Adam and Caitlin when at their lowest ebb speaks to their loyalty and love, which in turn gives me the urge to find a copy of The Bargain to discover their whole story.

Two cautions that I feel the need to offer. There is a disquieting scene of near- rape that I had to push aside in order to enjoy the romance. Caitlin easily forgave Adam due to the depth of her love, so I was able to get past this. Second, the vivid imagery portraying the evil side of the devil may be disturbing to some.

Come Midnight is a dark tale about selling your soul yet develops into a paradox with lively dialogue, intriguing characters and a great love story. It is hard to imagine…but here it is.

--Shirley Lyons


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