|This is a dark and brooding gothic tale that is very slow to start and ends with a lot of action in a short period of time. The Dark Viscount may appeal to fans of Simmons’ other works, but I found it almost tedious to get through.
Sydony Marchant and her brother Kit lost their scholarly father in a carriage accident, and just when they realized that they had no means to support themselves, Kit inherits Oakfield from an old aunt they hardly knew. At twenty-something, Kit and Sydony are close siblings and as the story begins, they are moving from London to explore their new home. What they find is a rundown, eerie house with battlements, ivy-covered brick and a puzzle maze in the back. The servants had abandoned the estate and the locals seem unwilling to help or even talk about the mysterious goings-on that are rumored to happen in the maze.
Bartholomew Hawthorne is an old childhood friend. When younger, the three were inseparable, at least until Kit and Barto began excluding Sydony for more manly pursuits. But Sydony and Barto had always been close, seeming to share the love of adventure. Sydony’s memories of Barto are of the times they played Robin Hood and Maid Marian, with a chaste kiss during one of their last encounters.
For Bartholomew, he has fond memories of the brother-sister pair, but now that he has been educated at Eton and been forced to assume his role as a peer, he has hardened his heart. He also remembers Sydony as more than a friend. However, Bartholomew is now suspicious of the pair. Bartholomew has come home to find out how their fathers died in the same carriage accident. There are rumors of ancient Druid ceremonies and evil happenings. No one knows whom to trust. But as Bartholomew spends with Kit, he realizes Kit is the same unassuming man that he was as a boy, one who is smarter than he lets on, but who sees the world in a way that a man with a title cannot see it. And Sydony is just as fascinating to him now as she was as a young girl. He struggles with his need for her and the distrust he feels for everyone.
This story took forever to develop. The first quarter of the book alludes to mysteries and secrets. It is another quarter before we know what the three characters know. Once all is put together, there is a reason for concern and time to find out. Sadly, the next quarter of the book stalls somewhat, perhaps in an attempt to build the mystery and at the same time, stoke the fires of attraction between Barto and Sydony. Neither of these attempts successfully pulled me in and I found myself struggling to pick up the book and care what was going to happen. Finally, in the final chapters of the book the whole story ties together and the lust felt by Barto and Sydony explodes (in a relatively tame sense with nothing but kisses) into love. By this time, I just wanted the tale to be over.
My favorite character in the story is Kit. He is at times a bit dense but he seems to be the most fun and is still filled with a boyish energy, tempered with manly excitement about the possibilities he sees in his new property. He saw the attraction years ago between his best friend and his sister and is thrilled they finally have a chance to get together. He plays at a bit of matchmaking, but even this was understated; I didn’t realize that is what he was doing until he revealed it at the end. I would love to see a love story for him.
Bartholomew was a nice guy, but his moods and demeanor are not ones that pull me in and had me rooting for him. Sydony is a mixed bag of anger at Bartholomew, exasperation that she could not find out all the secrets and a bit of an airhead when it came to her reaction to her feelings of attraction. I liked her grit but there were times when I rolled my eyes at her actions.
The Dark Viscount is a lackluster story high on the gothic and low on the romance scale. I have read better stories from Simmons, but others may like this style.