On a recent day of malingering, while, for once, I didn’t have any urgent commitments, I gave in to my need for a bit of escapist brain candy. Denise Domning has offered her book as a freebie on Amazon for a while, and since it’s described as a Regency romance, I was intrigued enough to download it–according to Amazon’s records, way back in March. What confused me: The cover didn’t look anything like a Regency romance cover: I was expecting more like a murder mystery with the darkling undertones and mysterious, floating playing cards.
The blurb was also barely descriptive:
One broken urn, one fallen earl and a kiss for a wager.
Add Scotland, an ace up a noble sleeve and a runaway card sharp,
then let the chase begin.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I started reading. The characters are engaging and the storyline is intriguing. The scene is set in the first chapter:
She turned on their father. “Papa, you can’t make a draw because you’ve bankrupted us. Have we ever emptied the house of furniture before leaving London after the Season? A few weeks ago a disreputable looking man tapped upon our door. He informed us that you had mortgaged this house to him shortly after Mama died. Since you have not paid him, he has foreclosed upon us. Let me say too that he very much enjoyed telling us he had never expected you to pay him and had always intended to take our home as his own,” Eliza finished with a defiant upward jerk of her chin.
Cassie’s heart ached as she again wallowed in the depth of her failure. She should have tried harder. How had her mother managed so well when all Cassie had been able to do was keep the lids on the boiling pots of Roland’s catastrophes?
The tone wasn’t the mistorical disaster described over at Insta-Love Book Reviews, but it wasn’t the formal relationships and filial support I would normally expect from a Regency romance. If you can suspend your inner critic on that count (and for me, it was easily done since Roland really is the height of a terrible parent) the story rolls along with the standard “he was my first love” and “how could society condone our union” tensions. I enjoyed the main character’s secret talent, as well, since it introduced a hint of the paranormal into that setting as well. From that perspective this original version of the book cover, then, does point to the potential for genre bending Domning brings to the table with the tale.
I enjoyed the story not because it conformed to Regency rules, but because the story was fast-paced and left me needing to know how Cassie would work her way out of the calamity set up in the first chapter. So for anyone looking for a bit of escapism in the vehicle of a character who needs to learn to find her own worth, this is a quick read with a few unusual elements–and worth the download at its current, free state.