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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Maiden's Mistake by Elizabeth Ashtree

A Maiden's Mistake by Elizabeth Ashtree
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (197 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Camellia

Fire stole his future, until she reclaimed him from the ashes.

Knowing he can never have children of his own, Jonathan Everleigh, Earl of Mercia, marries scandal-plagued Juliette Markham, saving her from disgrace. But when he finds his ruined bride is still a virgin on their wedding night, Jonathan is vows to annul their marriage. But when Juliette discovers that she actually is with child, this time from her wedding night, she is as determined to stay married as he is to leave her.

When Jonathan’s past catches up with them, the Earl and Lady Mercia must navigate their marital problems, countless dangers, and a final confrontation with the madness plaguing them.

If they can make it out alive, love might be there waiting for them on the other side.

“Ignorance is bliss” may be true for some, but for the pretty, playful, inquisitive nineteen-year-old Juliette Markham it is not bliss, but bodaciously bad. Her lack of knowledge turns her world and pretty much everybody else’s associated with her topsy-turvy.

Jonathan Everleigh, the widowed Earl of Mercia, cannot refuse his dear friend Carlton Markham’s request. He agrees to be temporary guardian for Juliette while Carlton and his wife travel to America. But he feels old and cursed. His unfaithful wife and her child died as had his family years before. He survived the fire that killed his family and inherited his title at age fourteen—his youth lost, heavy responsibilities, scars from the fire, and finally the death of his unfaithful wife and a child had shaped his life. He believes everyone he loves will be taken from him, so he locks himself away from love and lives to do his DUTY.

Although a formal, unemotional man with a serious voice, his new ward, the adventurous Juliette, sees him as a man in his prime, tall, strong, and with scars that do not matter a whit to her. She's not intimidated by him but finds him fascinating, mysterious, and intriguing while others feel he's a force to be obeyed and even feared if crossed.

Nobody steps over the mark with him, but Juliette doesn’t know that. She goes to his library not properly attired, causing him to think red-hot, base thoughts (how dare she!). She asks to read his books that no one touches. She moves a chess piece that no one touches—a silent challenge. He reaches his limit when she does not obey when he orders her to stop as she runs to help a woman, whose skirt is on fire, putting herself in danger. More than that, she doesn’t give an inch when called on the carpet, but says she’ll not obey blindly. She has been taught to use her own good judgment. She suggests they agree to treat each other fairly. He's astonished at her temerity.

Aware that she did not use good judgment when she let William coax her into the barn and ply her with wine while she was still at home, she's worried sick about what really happened. With no one else to turn to, she goes to Jonathan, sad and confused with fears of her ruin. Not shirking his duty as guardian, he finds who he thinks will suit well enough for her, only to have his plan blow up. My goodness, what a tangled mess things get in. Jonathan’s inability to break out of the cage of self-protection he built in order to survive threatens to destroy any chance he has for happiness. However, Juliette’s tenacity and love make her gamble her “all” and fight with every weapon she has to pull Jonathan into the NOW REALITY of his life.

The secondary characters play important roles in the plot, the intrigues, the meanness, and the emotional stress that grab the reader’s attention and keeps one turning pages. Jonathan’s mother, Shelby, Jonathan’s cousin and heir and his mother are part of a sub-plot that reveals back story, helps bring the main plot together, and gives foreshadowing of who the arsonist is that has plagued the estate for years. Juliette’s Aunt Olivia and Jonathan’s solicitor Elijah Moreland make an intriguing side story while Juliette’s father’s solicitor and his son bring a whole new element to the plot. Surprise upon surprise crops up with some breath-holding events involved. The climax of A Maiden's Mistake assails the senses and quickens emotions. It's both spine-tingling and heart-warming.

Elizabeth Ashtree’s delightful writing style makes smooth, enticing reading. She uses bits of humor, bits of history, suspense, lots of emotional stress and angst with a fair amount of greed and evil doings to create a captivating story that's hard to put down until Jonathan and Juliette find their happy-ever-after. Most enjoyable!