Jane and Salt—four years of Happily Ever After
Sir Antony Templestowe—four years of Exile
Lady Caroline—four years of Heartache
Diana St. John—four years plotting Revenge
The time has come . . .
How does a brother cope with life knowing his sister is a murderess? How can a nobleman have the life he has always wanted when a lurking evil consumes his thoughts and haunts his dreams? What will it take for good to triumph over evil? For readers who enjoyed Salt Bride, the story continues . . . .
Publisher and Release Date: Sprigleaf PTY Ltd, August 2014
Time and Setting: London, England, 1767
Genre: Georgian Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
A few months ago, I noticed that some of my Goodreads friends were reading and loving this book (and its predecessor Salt Bride), which combines my two favorite fiction genres – historical romance and mystery. So when the chance came to review this audiobook, I eagerly jumped in, and I have now become a huge Lucinda Brant fan.
Salt Bride featured the Magnus Sinclair, fifth Earl of Salt Hendon, and his reluctant bride, Jane Despard. They were plagued by the evil machinations of Salt’s cousin Diana, Lady St. John, a widow whose son is Salt’s heir, and a more diabolical villainess would be hard to imagine. Her interference kept Salt and Jane apart for four years, and she was determined to ruin their marriage. In the end, she was carried away, kicking and screaming in the hands of burly footmen, to private imprisonment in a far away Welsh castle.
Lord Salt’s closest friend is Diana’s brother, Sir Antony Templestowe. After Diana’s disgrace, Tony took himself off to St. Petersburg, where he has overcome his fondness for the bottle and become a successful diplomat. Four years later, however, Diana has escaped and Tony rushes back to London to find her. She’s hiding in plain sight at Antony’s townhouse, telling everyone that she has been touring the Continent and running up bills on Tony’s credit. She has engaged a “companion” and planted a spy in Salt’s home, both of whom rather credulously believe that Diana is the true Countess of Salt Hendon and Jane is a brazen usurper. With their help, she plans to pull off an intricate plan to make herself personally and politically indispensible to Salt.
The romance here, which is really secondary to the intrigue, involves Tony and Salt’s younger sister, Lady Caroline Aldershot. They were in love before Tony went away, but his drink-fueled outrageous behavior and Caroline’s immaturity kept them apart. Caroline is widowed after being unhappily married to another man. Tony wastes no time in proposing marriage and she turns him down in the classic “I’m not worthy” style of a romance heroine, but you know that won’t last. Tony makes for an incredibly appealing hero, but I found Caro just a tad annoying. Nevertheless, their love story is engaging.
The book largely revolves around Diana’s plans for revenge, as Tony and Salt try to get her out of the way without causing a scandal that would expose Diana’s heinous crimes and forever taint both of their families. Ending her life would be the easiest way, and well deserved, but neither one has the stomach for that. It would be spoilerish to go further into the details of the plot, and I’m not sure that I have enough space in this review to sum it all up anyway. It’s a complex story.
Lucinda Brant is a very good storyteller, and this the tale is multi-layered with threads from the past brought seamlessly into the present. The writing is excellent, albeit occasionally interspersed with modernisms. Her impressive knowledge of the Georgian era and her attention to detail make the people and places come vividly into focus. The characters’ clothing, their houses, and their surroundings are lushly described. Her description of the gifts Tony brings back from Russia is so exquisite that the reader longs to see these treasures. Well – just visit the author’s Pinterest page and there they are! Many authors are supplementing their books with Pinterest images these days, but Ms Brant’s page is the best that I’ve encountered.
Marian Hussey, a new-to-me narrator, does an excellent job. Her narrative voice is low and quite cultured, but she very ably portrays men and women of all ages and classes. She especially excels in voicing the vile Diana, veering between her persona as a respectable society widow and the privately expressed hatred that reveals her to be a true sociopath. When the action gets almost unbearably suspenseful, she maintains an even pace and does not use her voice to add unnecessarily to the drama.
There are so many things that I loved about this book that I’ll just have to give a short list. There is Tony’s obsession with tea and his insistence upon following his own elaborate brewing ritual, along with his platoon of Russian-speaking servants whose job is not only to serve but to keep him from succumbing to the siren call of wine. Caroline tries to fill the empty spot in her heart with devotion to her young step-daughter as well as her varied menagerie of pets. Salt and Jane and their children do not just make cameo appearances, as happens in many sequels, but are present throughout and integral to the story. Tony and Salt are men of their time, but their sincere, often halting, efforts to rebuilt their life-long friendship and protect their families are touching. But really, Diana St. John somewhat steals the show. Her mixture of madness, intelligence, charm, and determination make her a walking time bomb ready to ruin the lives of anyone – man, woman, or child – who stands in her way.
I listened to this book before reading Salt Bride, but to fully appreciate the story I recommend that both be read in order. I don’t know what to call the audiobook equivalent of a “page turner,” but Salt Redux is exactly that.