Reviewed by Sarah Brew
A MAN CONDEMNED . . .
Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown's soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he's quickly driven to distraction . . .
A DESPERATE WOMAN . . .
London's premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she's forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren't the only inhabitants-a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there's more to this man than meets the eye.
OUT OF ASH, DESIRE FLARES
Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he's forced to make a choice: his love for Lily . . . or the explosive truth that will set him free.
A mysterious setting – a burnt-out theatre and pleasure garden – immediately made me want to know ‘why?’. Right from the start, the reader is drawn into the story by the threads of mystery just waiting to be unravelled. The tension is maintained up to the end, with unexpected plot twists coming to light all along.
Lily is a feisty heroine with a chequered past – an actress, fallen on hard times and bringing up a son alone except for a faithful maidservant. She writes plays but, because of the period in which she lives, they are credited to her brother. He is a complex character and I couldn’t decide whether he was good or bad until close to the end of the book. The hero, Apollo, falsely imprisoned for murder, is a gentle giant of a man, in hiding until his name can be cleared. Mute as a result of ill-treatment in prison, this aspect of the story is well-handled and brings an interesting dimension to the book. An aristocrat, Apollo is alienated from his family and wants nothing more than to design great gardens. The chemistry between the two is immediately apparent and the ups and downs of their relationship are vividly depicted.
It’s a great storyline, unusual and with plenty of diverse characters and complex inter-relationships to enjoy. My disappointment is that I didn’t feel any sense of period. The setting of a pleasure garden – fascinating places that they are – could have been explored more fully to give the story more atmosphere. Nonetheless, a great read with unexpected touches of humour and I will be seeking out the earlier stories in the author’s Maiden Lane series – the tantalising hints that there are stories behind the other characters make this a must.
I'd like to thank Sarah for another excellent review and Clara at Little Brown for sending us the book to review.