19 May 2016

New Release- Bride of a Distant Isle- Sandra Byrd

Daughters of Hampshire #2 
384 Pages, March 22nd 2016, Howard Books
Audio, Print and Ebook 

An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother's honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.

Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?
And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

I’d heard many good things about Mist of Midnight, the last novel in the Daughters of Hampshire series when I requested this one. I decided to read the prequel first, although it was not really necessary as they are both standalone books and there is no connection in terms of the characters.
I’m more used to Regencies then Victorian gothic thrillers cum Romance, but Mrs Byrd’s series would appeal to all fans of historical fiction set at this time I believe. The setting was immersive, and the story kept my attention pretty much from the outset.
There have been other stories exploring madness and the treatment of those considered mad in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, but I think this one was one of the best. The subject matter was treated sensitively, and was realistic in the context of the tension between the family members. In a way, even the audience and the protagonist aren’t sure if everything was as should have been.

There were similarities between this and the last book, as it has an English heroine with a rather exotic background. In this case she is half Maltese, believing herself to have been the illegitimate product of an affair between and English gentlewoman and a Maltese soldier. Annabel is strong and intelligent, although a little vulnerable, and the details about Maltese culture and customs are well researched and well incorporated into the story. There was also an interesting twist with her being Catholic- and unusual and perhaps daring step in Christian Fiction. It was necessary to make a lot of the detail work, and was never really an issue with me.

There’s and handsome dashing hero who may or may not have honourable intentions (like last time), and a suitably awful antagonist, plenty of mystery and intrigue with original twists and turns and a satisfying conclusion. In a way, it gives seasoned historical romance readers all they would want, without so much of the mushiness and cheesiness one gets in some novels. As last time, I did notice a few Americanisms which stood out, but apart from that, no major complaints. I only wish international reviewers like me could get print copies of books like this more easily. Never mind, I shall strive to buy it at some point.

I received an electronic version of this title from Howard Books for the purposes of review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

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