21 June 2013

The Mad Earl's Bride

Dorian Camoy has worked all his life to hide his sensual, dangerous side from his Puritanical grandfather.  His mother has the same passionate nature but when she descends into madness and is committed to an asylum Dorian's carefully arranged world comes crashing down.  When he also begins to experience the same symptoms of madness - pressure in the head, visual phenomena like ghosts - he concludes that he will die raving mad, like his mother, and secretes himself in rural Dartmoor.  A freak accident makes him the Earl of Rawnsley, a title he neither wants nor needs because his interfering relatives decide he needs a wife.  Fast.

Gwendolyn Adams wanted - wants - to be a doctor but for a woman in the early nineteenth century this is an impossibility.  So she has studied, found a mentor, and has been waiting for an opportunity to implement her education.  When her family proposes that she marry the "Mad Earl" she accepts.  Dorian, however, takes a bit of convincing.

What follows is a sweet love story tinged with sadness.  Dorian is determined that, if he is truly going mad, that he not hurt himself or anyone else in any way.  Gwen is determined to care for him and alleviate his symptoms - no matter the cost.  She investigates his mother's symptoms and reaches an entirely different conclusion: Dorian's mother wasn't mad and neither is he.  Gwen, armed with modern medicine, frees Dorian from the fear that he will die raving, tearing out his hair, drugged and manacled in an asylum but there is a bittersweet lining: Dorian isn't cured.  Even though they are free to love one another their future isn't the bright and rosy one so often conveyed in romance novels.

The Mad Earl's Bride also brings back a few beloved characters from Lord of Scoundrels - Bertie Trent (in a deliciously earnest role) and Dain (strangely, Jessica is only mentioned obliquely).  It is nice to see how Dain has come along since the end of his book a few months prior.

The Mad Earl's Bride was originally published in the 1995 anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss and has been re-released as a stand-alone e-novella by Avon.  I received access to a DRC via Edelweiss through the Avon Addicts program.

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