Title: The Dark Lady
Series: Mad Passions, Book 1
Author: Máire Claremont
Genre: Historical Romance
Sensuality Rating: Steamy
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Published: February 2, 2013 by Signet Eclipse
The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor...
Lord Ian Blake has returned from India a broken man. Years ago, he pledged to Lady Eva Carin—his childhood companion and first love—that he would bring her husband back alive. His failure haunts him. But even his jaded soul can’t anticipate the shocking sight of beautiful, independent Eva confined in a madhouse.
Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind. For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy—and prove her sanity to England’s unforgiving aristocracy. But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva’s tragic past are finally unlocked.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Dark, gothic historical with a star-crossed romance.
The Set Up: Eva and Ian were childhood friends and first loves but their other friend, Hamilton, married Eva. Hamilton was jealous of Ian and dragged him to India to keep him from Eva. Hamilton was mysteriously murdered and Ian returns to England a broken man to confront Eva. But Eva is now an opium addict in an insane asylum. Will Eva and Ian fight their past and Eva’s enemies to be together?
Why I Read this Book: I liked the synopsis and eye-catching cover.
What I Liked: This is a well written gothic historical in the line of Henry James. The insane asylum is historically accurate making it even more scare than a figment of an author’s imagination. Eva’s addiction and Ian’s guilt are realistic and compelling storylines. Their romance is both a reunion and one of star-crossed lovers so both their emotional and sexual intimacy has a frantic giddiness to it that fit the dark atmosphere of this novel but didn’t wow me.
What I Also Liked: I really liked the flashbacks to Ian, Eva and Hamilton’s childhoods. Hamilton is dead by the time this novel begins but he’s very much present so it was very well done to show who he was and how he affected Ian and Eva’s lives so much. The flashbacks were heartbreaking but shows readers why Eva and Ian are the characters they are. The author has a good sense of time and integrating the flashbacks with the present plot.
I also like Mary, a fellow victim in Eva’s asylum. I can’t wait to read this firecracker’s story and hope she’ll be next in this Mad Passions series. This novel also hinted at who her hero may be and I liked him a lot too so hope this author writes the next story quickly.
What I Didn’t Like: The ending was just too neat but also left a HUGE thread dangling. The asylum is run by a cold, vindictive woman and she plots often how to make Eva pay for her escape but NOTHING is said about this at the end! This woman’s revenge plans have their own scenes but then the ending includes nothing about this. Big oops! Additionally, the villain is brought to heel too neatly and quickly and there is the big soap opera ending that I can’t say or it’ll spoil. But I will say it reminded me I was reading a HEA plot and it layered it on thickly!
IMO: This is a decent historical novel if readers don’t mind dark, sinister plots or reunion romances.