After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.
Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell her. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows – until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.
Publisher and Release Date: Entangled: Scandalous, June 2014
Time and Setting: England, 1857
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Amnesia is a tricky device in fiction. At its best, it’s a clever way for a character to learn about herself and her life as the reader does. At its worst, it’s completely unbelievable and unrealistic. I was doubtful about it at first when I read Sherry Thomas’ wonderful Tempting the Bride a few years ago (which uses this trope) but, in a good writer’s hands, it can be done well. And Kathleen Bittner Roth does it well, too.
Sarah Marks – not her real name – wakes up at an inn, in bed with a handsome stranger and has no recollection whatsoever of how she got there. This auspicious opening reminded me of Jennifer McQuiston’s What Happens in Scotland but in that book, alcohol was the cause. In this novel, Sarah has been hit on the head and, when she comes to, the stranger introduces himself as Lord Eastleigh, a fellow traveller in the carriage they shared when they were set upon by thieves. Or so he claims.
Of course, she’s afraid, disoriented, and very wary of him, but she reluctantly agrees to his plan of accompanying him to his family’s country estate where she can rest and recuperate while they try to learn more about her origins. As their journey progresses, they discover a mutual attraction as Sarah’s memory slowly resurfaces in bits and pieces.
I found Eastleigh a little difficult to get to know, though the story is told from both protagonists’ points of view. The author does a very good job of witholding information in Eastleigh’s point of view by being vague but I have to say I was a little confused at the beginning. At times, I think I felt almost as disoriented as Sarah! Needless to say, his motives are as murky as Sarah’s sketchy memory, but he is likeable in his infinite patience and kindness; to me, this is the best kind of hero. He is a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, with excruciating megrims (headaches) that debilitate him for days and even cause him to doubt what is important in his life.
Sarah is a victim. As it is with most women in history, they are legally bound to men in some way or another. As she regains her memory, her life is revealed as one of manipulation. I cannot disclose more without giving too much of the plot away. When she learns the ultimate and shocking truth, she takes her destiny into her own hands. I like her and find her to be a strong and admirable heroine.
There are lots of humorous moments in this story, most of them provided by Eastleigh’s unorthodox and quirky family. Mum, his beloved grandmother, is a forward thinking woman, many years ahead of her time in terms of love and sexuality, and she happily imparts her experiences to a novice Sarah. In fact, the author based her character on Lady Hester Stanhope, an educated and adventurous British socialite. And Eastleigh’s colorful group of siblings are a fun and loving bunch, with the exception of the suspicious and vindictive Will, Eastleigh’s tomboyish sister. There is also the good Mr. Hemphill, the unconventional doctor overseeing both Eastleigh and Sarah’s care.
The romance between Sarah and Eastleigh is sweet and passionate. As they get to know each other, he falls in love with her kindness and beauty and she must learn to trust that it is possible that a man can be caring and protective. However, somehow, to me, he seems a lot older than Sarah. But then again, given her amnesiac condition, she is almost child-like in her lack of memory and innocence.
Overall, however, the story flows well at a nice pace, from their travel adventures to the loving family life that awaits them at Eastleigh’s home and that Sarah comes to love. There is also a hint of another story to come, with Eastleigh’s cousin, Rob, a rather complex but magnetic character whose shady past has cast a pall over his friendship with Eastleigh.