"Engaging Tale of Power and Prejudice"
Nathaniel Warrington, the young and handsome new Baron
Ravenall has agreed to a self-imposed exile. He is headed
to his new country holdings, at the suggestion of his
family, following the scandalous outcome of his liaison
with a troubled young woman of the lower class.
Though she'd been the instigator of their torrid affair,
the young woman had entertained unrealistic expectations of
marriage. When Nathaniel disabused her of the notion, she
became despondent. Her tragic death weighs heavily on his
conscience. His traveling companion and friend, Paul
Carlisle has a scandal of his own that needs to die down
before he returns to London.
Upon reaching Greyfriars they are met by one of the area's
more notorious inhabitants, a talking Raven named Oscar.
Paul jokes that this is an omen that Nathaniel will never
see London again.The bird belongs to the village healer, a
young woman named Valerian Bright.
Orphaned as a child, Valerian had been spirited away to
the country by her aunt, who had fostered her unusual gift.
Both respected and feared for her unnatural abilities.
Valerian walks the edge, for though witch trials had been
banned by royal decree in England, the country folk are a
superstitious lot and very likely to take matters into
their own hands. Because of this fear, Valerian has long
since given up the desire to have a suitor of her very own.
Deep in her heart she believes that no one can love her
because she is unlovable. Valerian is resigned to her fate
and has adopted a rather intimidating front to keep men at
a distance - an act which proves to be very effective on
Paul, but only serves to intrigue the passionate baron.
It isn't long before the baron proposes a mutually
satisfying relationship with the beautiful young healer, a
relationship which her aunt encourages, believing that
Valerian will probably never wed. Paul is frightened of
and fears that the baron has a penchant for engaging
inappropriate young women in affairs. Nathaniel doesn't see
it that way at all. After all it was he who had made the
proposition to Valerian. He had made it clear to her
that nothing permanent could come of the liaison, and
he genuinely likes her. She is earthy, wise, kind,
and caring, as well as lovely, so different from
the women of his own class whose only thoughts are for
wealth, titles, and possessions. The more he is with her
the more he feels he needs her. He is truly content and
soon he cannot imagine his life without her. Still he
never contemplates marriage until the fateful day
when the tide of public sentiment turns against Valerian.
Is he truly in love with her, or has guilt over his last
lover's death influenced his decision? Can he convince
Valerian that she is worthy of his love?
I liked this book immensely. It is very dark in some places
but the characters are engaging and though they are an
unlikely pair, the story is well written and believable.
Copyright © 2001
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted August 23, 2001