Here is a rare gem indeed – I’m going to rant about a historical romance done right.
The characters are multi-dimensional, humanistic rather than characteristic, and there’s a level of genuine drama, not melodrama lingering between them. Connie Brockway has been on my radar since last year, but I hadn’t touched her McClairen family series until now.
The trilogy is formulated around the three Merrick silbings, whose tragic family history haunts them and their truly villainous father Lord Carr is at the heart of it. This hearkens back to my theory that a hero is only as good as his/her villain, and Lord Carr is the exact scheming, mad and cunning evil genius that keeps the heroes on their toes. He isn’t the usual caricature Jafar villain of historical romances, he’s actually got his hands all over the pot and proves difficult for his children and their respective spouses to combat. His greedy motivations and deft ability to play the role of wolf in sheep’s clothing puts him in a league above 98% of the other historical villains I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot of those).
The stories unfold like a chess match. It is a true battle of wits in order to survive, and the Merrick children pull it off in such a smart and heart-felt way. Though they love, Brockway makes it natural and subtle rather than large pronouncements and obnoxious repeats of how in love they are. No crying around virginity being the exaltation of being, though there are female virgins. And Brockway knows how to conduct romantic tension like it’s the New York Philharmonic. She takes time to develop the plot and the romance together, rather than tacking on a plot to the romantic plot.
Elements of foreshadowing and Gothic flair add to this series. The conclusion is befitting, though rushed it works. While there are some weak points, I find that this has to be one of the best romances I’ve come across and it deserves way more credit than it has.