The Spurned Viscountess

The Spurned ViscountessBy Shelley Munro

Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: September 20, 2010
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Netgalley

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind’s only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn’t expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.

Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry–not when he’s plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.

Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close–and tempted into passionate kisses–Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife…

Goodreads Summary

(Munro has revived and done a bit of a refresher on her 2005 novel, Second Seduction, presented here as The Spurned Viscountess)

Lucien, Viscount Hastings, is about to enter into an arranged marriage with Rosalind; to say that he’s less than pleased would be an understatement.  He’s still mourning his beloved wife Francesca, he’s hell-bent on fulfilling his promise to her to hunt down her killer and even if he was interested in re-marrying, it wouldn’t be to this bland little English mouse.  Rosalind, on the other hand, can’t afford not to go through with this marriage.  In her village, she’s gained the reputation as a witch due to her psychic abilities; all she wants is a safe place to live and a marriage that will produce children, if not love.

From the beginning, things don’t go well.  Rosalind touches Lucien and sees images of Francesca; not knowing if they’re from the past or present and unsure of how to approach her new husband, he solves that problem by alternating between completely ignoring her or insulting her.  If that weren’t bad enough, Rosalind is being stalked by danger at Castle Clare; she fears she’s being watched in her bed chamber and someone is playing increasingly treacherous tricks on her.  Her faithful maid and friend even disappeared, but no one is taking her suspicions seriously, not even Lucien.

Of course there are many other gothic murder mysteries out there and I think I may have read a hundred of them when I was a teenager.  One of the things I enjoyed about Munro was that she didn’t give in and make Lucien tortured but polite to Rosalind.  There was no hot and cold, he was simply cold; he honestly didn’t want to be married to her and didn’t really care what she thought.  She also didn’t turn several other characters into what could have been easy stereotypes and mostly resisted using them anywhere in her plot, which made reading the story so much more interesting.

The thawing of Lucien’s feelings towards Rosalind had been taking place gradually and not at all smoothly; I lost count of how many times he’d threatened to lock her in her room.  Considering how awful he’d been, by the point that Lucien finally discovered that he’d married well, I wanted a good grovel scene, but Munro wrote me out of it by delivering the shiveringly tender, sweet and romantic wedding night Rosalind had been waiting for.  After that, it was admirable that Lucien didn’t turn into a sap; he still had his cranky moments mixed in with more of those shivery ones.

All of the elements of a good gothic mystery/romance are here and Munro makes good use of them to turn the story into something special.  While the mystery’s ending might have been dramatic and exciting, it’s also fairly familiar; Lucien and Rosalind’s love story is where this book shined.

My Rating: B



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