Reviewed by May
Maximillian Burke has always prided himself on being the man every mother would want her daughter to marry. But after his scoundrel of a brother makes off with Max’s bride, Max discovers it’s more satisfying to be a rogue than the perfect gentleman. Forced to flee London after a duel gone wrong, Max seeks refuge at Cadgwyck Manor on the lonely coast of Cornwall, a place as wild and savage as his current temper. The tumbledown manor comes complete with its own ghost but oddly enough, it’s not the White Lady of Cadgwyck who begins to haunt Max’s heated dreams but his no-nonsense housekeeper.
The last thing prim and proper housekeeper Anne Spencer needs is a new master, especially one as brooding and gorgeous as the Earl of Dravenwood. Even as she schemes to be rid of him, she finds herself irresistibly drawn into his strong, muscular arms. When Max vows to solve the mystery of Cadgwyck’s ghost, he doesn’t realize it will put both of their hearts at risk and tempt them to surrender to a pleasure as delicious as it is dangerous.
We got to know Max in the previous book by Medeiros which was all about his brother and how he got back the love of his life (aka Max’s then fiancée). As that story ends we are shown the cracks in the mask of propriety Max wears, and glimpses of the very real, raw, and dangerous man beneath. To say I’ve been anxious for his story is an understatement and this book started with amazing potential.
Everyone scurried out of his path to avoid the caustic lash of his tongue and the contempt smoldering in his smoky grey eyes. They had no way of knowing his contempt wasn’t for them but for the man he had become – the man he had always secretly been behind the mask of respectability he wore in public.
The problem is, after Max moves into Cadgwyck Manor nothing about this book makes sense to me. He is supposed to be this dark brooding villain, perfect for the crumbling manor and yet he does nothing bad, has no epiphanies or moments of clarity, growth, or anything. He just is there, acting like a very ordinary gentleman for the most part and doing nothing much interesting aside from stealing bread from the kitchen by stabbing it with a knife.
He made it as far as the door with his prize before returning for the butter and a plump sausage. The servants were all gaping at him as if he’d gone stark raving mad but in that moment he didn’t care what anyone thought of him as long as his appetites were satisfied.
He paused in the doorway just long enough to give his housekeeper a curt nod. “Thank you, Mrs. Spencer. That will be all.”
I truly felt like with Max there was a bait and switch. I was promised this horrid man, this man who had shunned society and was living life on his own terms. Yet what we get is this ordinary gentleman who is somehow obsessed with a painting and even fancies himself in love with the girl from the portrait. Seriously? I couldn’t buy that at all.
The mystery of the ghost, and the secrets of Anne Spencer are all obvious from the start, and since I knew exactly what was happening I was bored by it. Anne herself is incredibly dull because she’s so busy being the model of propriety when she isn’t acting out and screaming at Max about something or another then she’s busy feeling guilty for something in her past. There was just nothing compelling, and nothing for me to like about her.
Medeiros has such a gift for storytelling, and has such a way with words that this book made me utterly frustrated to see her talents wasted in such a way. There is no romance, no sexual tension or sex scene, no action or drama or any real depth to this story. It also wasn’t especially touching or interesting or funny – so I wasn’t quite sure how this story was supposed to engage me as a reader. It’s just people hanging out at a crumbling manor getting to know each other and being fairly polite about it. The supporting characters are never fully developed, and for that matter the main characters remain impossibly flat and lifeless.
The only thing saving this book from a total fail is that Medeiros has such a way with words and delighted me with several scenes and moments. Her writing truly can sparkle, and had it been a better developed story about the characters we saw in the first few chapters, perhaps it would have been an amazing read. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make this a positive reading experience overall.