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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes

The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (395 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Valentine Windham, youngest of five illustrious brothers, regards music as his only worthy accomplishment. With the onset of symptoms that render him incapable of playing his beloved piano, Val retreats to the country to hide his disability from friends and family and loses himself in the work of restoring a secluded, tumbledown estate…

Ellen Markham has secrets and grief of her own, but she gradually comes to admit her attraction to the handsome stranger on the neighboring estate. As these two lonely souls begin to find comfort in each other, they discover hidden depths of passion that they’ve both been hiding. When Ellen's past rises up to threaten her hopes with Val, she must choose whether to trust him, or continue to suffer in a silent, lonely purgatory of her own… But Val isn’t going to watch the woman he’s come to love as much—or more—than his music run away…

The Virtuoso bears out the saying that “When one door closes, fortune will usually open another”. Bereft at being denied his music, Valentine (Val) Windham plans to bury himself in the refurbishing of a rundown manor. However, the gentle, unassuming Ellen FitzEngle, once the mistress of the old manor, opens new feelings, hopes, and purpose for Val.

Deciding how to do justice to a story so revealing of emotions that range from the depth of misery to ecstasy while it entertains with subtle humor, understatements that sparkle, descriptions that bring places and people to life in one’s imagination, plus a tension building undercurrent of downright meanness, takes some thinking about.

This book stands alone in its completeness. However, it is the third book of the trilogy about the sons of the Duke of Moreland. If you read The Heir and The Soldier, The Virtuoso will catch you up on the Windhams you already know and will bring into bright focus the youngest of the sons, Valentine, who has always felt like a misfit that his father did not understand.

With his music Valentine gave one of his brothers a lifeline when war and traumatic stress had dragged him to his own personal hell. His music soothed the misery of another brother, allowing him to rest when pain wracked his body, and little Winnie’s nightmares abated with help from her Uncle Val’s music. Valentine had enchanted great audiences with his amazing music. Now, he must give up his music for an undetermined length of time, maybe forever. Music is his muse, his mistress, his soul’s home. How will he fill his days?

His lucrative businesses function well without him, so he and his friend Darius Lindsey go to a dilapidated manor Val won from Fredrick Markham, the new Baron Roxbury, a devious wastrel young Lord who was known to sell his vote in Parliament to the highest bidder—along with other mean, reprehensible doings that furnish him with money.

She’s waited for me” is Val’s first thought when he sees the neglected yet elegant, graceful, serene manor; all at once he has purpose in life. But oh, my, that which is just a short distance through woods brings even more purpose to his life.

Ellen FitzEngle, widow of the former Baron of Roxbury lives in a cottage there among her flowers, herbs, fruit trees and vegetable garden along with Marmalade, her cat. Even with the beauty and bounty she creates, Ellen cannot dispel the guilt, grief, and fear that dogs her tracks in the day and haunts her nights. On the outside, she has a graceful serenity about her, yet on the inside she feels inconsequential and unworthy of love and the station in life that should be hers.

As new neighbors and acquaintances from time past, Val and Ellen forge a unique connection. They soothe each other’s deepest wounds while standing together against a common adversary. Their love that grows and the gentle erotic love scenes are breathtaking.

The many truly interesting secondary characters help propel the plot along and create sub-plots as they fill in needed back story and actions—some humorous, some intriguing, and others dangerous and devious. The interactions of all the characters reveal life in and around a small village in the Regency time of English history.

Grace Burrowes’ unique writing style captivates immediately and her use of understatement, gentle humor, and remarkable imagery engages all the senses.

The Virtuoso, like her previous novels about the Moreland family, is a sensual, delightful tale. It transports readers back into English Regency time and immerses them in vicarious experiences with Valentine and Ellen. Ms. Burrowes sets just the right pace for revealing a smorgasbord of emotional needs, fears, and secrets while creating a love story that makes the heart sing with joy and the soul sigh with satisfaction.

The Virtuoso is a splendid, sparkling, sensual love story--a keeper.