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Friday, October 29, 2010

Descent Into Darkness by Laura Hogg

Descent Into Darkness by Laura Hogg
Publisher: Moongypsy Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (142 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Duncan Amberley has come back from war, fighting Napoleon's men on a ship. Clarissa Hale is a lovely shopkeeper with a great sense of humor. A heroic heart rests inside this insecure, intelligent beauty, and she will be called to prove it. Clarissa and her love are pitted against each other for the sake of their families and some terrible accusations. She will be in constant peril as she gathers evidence to convict Duncan's dangerous brother of a harrowing crime. Duncan's heart breaks when he discovers something about Clarissa's sister. Can their love survive the results of their investigations? They devise a dangerous plan to get to the truth, which brings them into the heart of Napoleon's camp in 1812 Russia as spies. Risking everything, they must get to the truth.

The cover alone would make me start reading Descent Into Darkness, although the title kicks off the intrigue quite nicely. It is 1811 and we find Miss Clarissa Hale, shopkeeper, trudging down the road.

The minor plights that beset Clarissa – and brother Gilbert – at the start, are just a beginning to the challenges Clarissa will face. From her first trudging steps through the bleak landscape and fog, we quickly become acquainted with her rather tough and determined approach to life. She hasn’t all the advantages – but she copes with reality uncomplainingly. Her brother calls her “a gem,” and we readers are inclined to agree.

Perhaps we're less enthusiastic during our first meeting with Captain Amberly; although he is gentlemanly we cannot care for his companions. Clarissa is too aware of his interest… and of his what might be less than honorable intentions. In her reduced circumstances, could that indeed be the best she could hope for? She has no doubt about what she requires – at least, at the first. For this book is truly a romance, and love may sway a heart, even one so steadfast and honorable as Clarissa’s. Before chapter one is complete, we readers find ourselves thoroughly entangled in her hopes dreams and doubts.

Amberly certainly is attractive and, what is more, manages to say the right things. He likes educated women (good heavens!) he speaks of music… and we wonder if Clarissa's heart will betray her. At the start, it is easy to believe her love will cause her descent into darkness…that this is all a carefully woven romance, but it is more. There is more waiting for young Clarissa; from a dangerous journey to a kidnapping, and before her is a darkness we could not have predicted. What seems a subtle romance actually involves a tangled tale of mystery and intrigues around the war. Shared sorrows unite some – but loyalties and family have a huge role to play here. The unpredictable nature of this story combines with the well-maintained tone and believable characters to keep the interest building throughout. Specifics of the war are perhaps a tad complex, but one need not know the details of the conflict to understand the challenges to various people loyalties, or how differing loyalties could tear a family apart.

The pace and setting of this historic romance seem perfect. The dialogue is different enough to hint at the year, without being extreme enough to distract. The courtesies of the day are carefully observed (or acknowledged at least, for we must admit that Clarissa is not of the upper classes.)

The shop, their ‘regulars’ and even their goods are all wonderfully appropriate and become a remarkably visible backdrop for much of the tale. The family members – even the remembered sorrows, give wonderful depth to even lesser characters.

Any fan of the historic romance will enjoy Descent in Darkness.