Monday, June 1, 2009

Face of the Maiden by Emma Wildes

TITLE: Face of the Maiden
AUTHOR: Emma Wildes
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 98k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $5.50

The daughter of a country vicar, Celia Fairmont finds a new home with very distant, titled cousins after her father passes away. There, she discovers not just a new family, but dark secrets haunting the family’s history, not the least of which revolve around the woman Celia is the spitting image of – Caroline Leighton. Every night, she dreams of Caroline’s torrid love affair, but what shakes her even more than the force of the emotions is the fact that Caroline’s lover looks exactly like the current eldest Leighton son…

This gorgeous cover, as well as the fact that the story was written by an author I’ve enjoyed in the past, compelled me to buy this book, but I have to admit that the fact that it’s a historical has meant it has languished on my TBR pile far too long. It’s a shame, because it was an incredibly romantic tale, with quietly built suspense and clean, efficient writing that kept me coming back to it every time I had to set it down.

Celia is a lovely heroine, innocent and intelligent with a strong, moral core that’s not too puritanical to aggravate me. She has no desire to have anything to do with London society or interest in marrying into it. The fact that she is dreaming nightly of a man who looks just like the very staid Philip puts her into an incredibly awkward position, especially since his rakish brother Jason keeps showing her attention. Philip, for his part, is trying to talk himself into proposing to socialite widow, Joanna, but he keeps dreaming about Celia, who is the antithesis of everything he thinks he needs. The conflict with both of them makes for some wonderful UST as the story progresses.

Accidents start to happen around the manor, and Celia becomes increasingly fearful of unexpected dangers. The suspense swirling around her becomes taut, and is skillfully written. I’m never completely sold on why Philip thinks something foreboding is on the horizon, though. There are a few incidents scattered throughout the story, but when he expresses his concerns at the climax, they seem to come almost out of the blue. His obsession has centered on Celia, not the danger or mystery. The latter seems convenient, to make their mutual understanding more palatable or fated at that point.

Overall, however, this is a sweeping romantic historical, with a well-rounded cast of memorable characters. I find myself trusting this author more and more. Her next historical won’t languish nearly as long.


9/10 – Quietly built suspense, with clean, efficient writing


8/10 – Calm, solid demeanor a nice contrast to his discomfort about his erotic dreams


8/10 – Innocence wrapped a core of steel

Entertainment value

8/10 – Romantic and fulfilling

World building

8/10 – I wanted more of the older storyline, but the current historical setting seemed very real.



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