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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Spurned Viscountess by Shelley Munro

The Spurned Viscountess by Shelley Munro
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (247 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind's only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn't expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.

Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry—not when he's plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.

Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close—and tempted into passionate kisses—Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife...

Secrets and betrayal, stubbornness combined with a dysfunctional family, all conspire to make The Spurned Viscountess a riveting and nail-biting read.

The overall tone of this story is gothic in nature. Whereas the gothic stories I’ve read before always lead me to believe that a paranormal influence was behind everything, all it ended up being was a normal twisted regular human doing dastardly things to the innocent and trusting in a place with bad decorating. That is not the case in this book. Well, okay, they probably could use a new gardener.

Ms. Munro has the paranormal aspect being a good and valuable, albeit problematic, reality twisted by fear and spite. It played well with the plot motivation and movement and actually lent itself to a more victimized heroine.

Rosalind is a refreshing lady. She’s a character who showcased the best of what a good lead character should do. She’s innocent yet not, special and steadfast yet can get the willies on occasion, is loyal and has an active and clever brain which she uses to try to keep herself out of hot water. It gets her in trouble more times than not but her heart is in the right place. Her challenge is to get into the heart of her husband, Lucien. To that end I have to say that Rosalind had a good emotional equilibrium. Every time she thought she found a crack in Lucien’s stubborn and chilly persona he’d shut her down. It was Rosalind’s reactions and actions to his shutdown that had me respecting her character. Not only that, but I thought she was a perfect counterbalance to the recalcitrant hero. She had pluck and I enjoyed how she didn’t take orders. If she knew she could make a difference, she didn’t sit on her tuffet and wail; she waded into the thick of things and hashed it out.

Lucien is quite the mystery man; not just to the reader but to himself as well. The author used POV shifts to get into his head and I’m glad she did. Rosalind might be totally frustrated with Lucien but a reader will be able to better understand the demons that plague the hero. They are pretty substantial and, once revealed, both astounding and not a little bit sad. It’s tragic. Despite his faults, his determination and his bullish behavior, Lucien is a man who needed to be healed and a reader will eventually be amazed at how sensuous and gentle this gruff bear of a man can be -- when he lets himself or when he forgets. By the same token, he’s typical for this type of gothic tale in that he plays things close to his chest and acts mysteriously when the need arose. A reader can’t know everything and I learned some of his history the same time he did which made the reading experience fuller.

Secondary characters flavored the book with some misleading and teasing dialogue and actions that had me questioning who the villain was. Imagine my surprise when all was revealed! It was creepy and vindictive and not a little bit bloodthirsty. There is some sadness as well that I didn’t expect. By choosing the victim she did, Ms. Munro managed to heighten the emotional and dramatic tone of the story to a disturbing level. Of course that kept me swiftly turning the pages because like the main characters, I wanted justice done. I really didn’t like Lucien’s aunt; what a stuffed crab. Yes, there is a reason but still, lighten up.

The Spurned Viscountess is a well written, amazingly vivid story with plot twists, daring do and a mystery ending in a climax sure to entertain and astound readers of suspenseful historical romance. The happily ever after has a quaint and adorable touch filled with passion and sensual promise which I sighed over. I had a very good time reading this book and I enjoyed myself immensely. Ms. Munro has delivered another winner of a story.