Brighid Darrow, Countess of Carstairs, has endured years of a loveless marriage in order to aid her friends and the people of Northridge. Yet once she is widowed, the village shuns her with accusations of witchcraft—vilifying her unique gift of reading auras. Released from past restraints, Bridey rebelliously embraces her dream of establishing a forbidden school for midwives.
Having spent his life being all that is proper in hopes of earning a title in return for services to the crown, Aaron Pascoe-Ives, illegitimate son of a marquess, is ordered to Northridge to save the royal mines from rioters. Any hope of aid from the beautiful but aloof countess is dashed when his incorrigible twins endanger their young lives by following him, mystifyingly insisting that the Countess of Carstairs is their new mother.
Bridey and Pascoe face ghosts, assassins, and riots—but nothing as perilous as the irresistible attraction between them. With hard-fought goals at risk, they must make the ultimate choice between achieving dreams—or losing each other.
Received from Librarything, in one of their Early Reviewer Batches. I’ve dipped into this series before, and I think the last attempt was a Did Not Finish (Whisper of Magic). However, even though this is now book 4 in the series, this was easier to read, in part because I’m now getting comfortable with the Malcolms, and all their illegitimate cousins, uncles etc.
Before this book starts, Brighid Darrow has endured years of a loveless marriage in order to the older Carstairs in order to aid her friends and the people of Northridge. When she is widowed (again, before this book has started), the village shuns her with accusations of witchcraft – misunderstanding both her education provided by her Grandfather, as well as her gift of reading auras. The new Carstairs, a weak and cowardly man that is manipulated by his brother Oliver, incites the hatred even more by claiming that all that has gone wrong on the estate is as a result to Bridey’s talents. With only her brother Fin still living in the area, Bridey looks to embrace her dream of establishing a forbidden school for midwives.
Meanwhile, two of the Malcolm women are due to give birth any day now, and Bridey is staying at Wystan in order to provide midwifery support. It is here that she meets Pascoe, the King’s problem solver, when the latter is sent to deal with a mining and steel production issue in Northridge. Pascoe needs information but is saddled with two four year olds that keep disappearing and who seem to be in conversation with the spirit of their dead mother. He is hoping that he can offload the twins in the house and under the auspices of the extended family whilst he sorts out the issues with the Carstairs mine and furnace.
Wystan is traditionally used for confinement for the Malcolm women, and has its own secrets and traditions – one of which being that unmarried men are not allowed to be residing there when a child is born, as they have a tendency to get a girl pregnant and fall in love (in no particular order). This allows for Rice to allow for her main characters to have Sexy Time in many of her books and this book is no exception.
Back to the story: the miners and foundry workers are on the verge of rioting; Carstairs is blaming Bridey for witchcraft, especially when an axe falls on his head, almost killing him; Carstairs’ younger brother Oliver seems to have a deeper influence in the situation than anyone realises, and there’s a banshee in the chimneys that is a little more real than anyone gives credit for. Ultimately, despite all the supernatural talents of the Ives and the Malcolm families, it is a far more “normal” answer to the problems, and one that everyone has to work together to securing a decent resolution.
Pascoe also finds a way of getting what he realises he wants from life – the girl he loves, a new mother to his children, and making her happy (even if it’s technically illegal).
An easier read than the previous book, and I was much happier in completing!