Return of the Viscount
by Gayle Callen
It's been a long time since I've read anything by Gayle Callen and I remember liking her. I don't know why I stopped reading her, I guess I just moved on to different genres and found new favorite authors but, I'm very glad I picked up Return of the Viscount as it was like discovering the author all over again.
Return of the Viscount is a story about two people who have suffered a lot of tragedy during the war in India (yes, this is Victorian era). Lady Cecilia is the daughter of an earl, who chose to take his family with him while he fought on the front lines in India. During their years following the earl's regiment Cecelia lost one of her younger brothers and eventually both her parents. Cecilia has buried herself in the country running the estates for her brother Oliver, who is just twenty.
Cecilia has a guardian but needs access to her dowry quickly and the only way to achieve that is to marry. Having spent the last two years since her father's death corresponding with Sgt. Michael Blackthorne, one of her father's soldiers, she has come to know him well enough to ask him to marry her by proxy.
Michael feels responsible for the earl's death and a need to see that his family is taken care of so readily agrees to the marriage intending to spend the rest of his life in India and never meeting his wife. Fate has a way of intervening and Michael is injured and is returned to England to recuperate. When he arrives at Cecilia's home she is less than thrilled to find out the “older” husband she thought she had married is a handsome man in his prime.
Cecilia is running the estates for her petulant younger brother while he falls into an ever increasing spiral of depression. Shortly after her husband arrives Cecilia starts having “accidents,” and she doesn't know who is out to kill her - the man she married by proxy but won't commit to, or her beloved brother who is becoming more and more distant.
Cecilia was an enabler and she wasn't helping her brother by ignoring his behavior, even after she was nearly raped by one of his drunken friends. She continually made excuses for him because ten years earlier he had lost his twin brother in India, and she continued to let Oliver wallow in his grief. When Michael arrived and offered to help Oliver find his way to manhood, she fought him every step of the way, always making the excuse that Oliver was still grieving the loss of his twin. I was very glad that Ms. Callen had Cecilia give up control and let her brother finally grow up. Oliver's problem was far worse than the loss of his twin brother, and along with the attempts on Cecilia's life, it made for a riveting story.
Michael and Cecilia were a great couple and Michael was exactly what Cecilia needed to give up her own control issues formed from her mother's own insecurities. I loved watching how she came to believe in Michael and trusted him to keep her safe when she wasn't sure who to trust in her household. Michael had responsibilities of his own to face as his brother was starting out on a life of his own rather than wanting to continue to run the Blackthorne estates. I loved how strong and true Michael was, he was my favorite part of the story.
I'm really glad I read Return of the Viscount and I can't wait to pick up Gayle Callen's next book. Don't miss this one.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero
“Can the soldier and the lady turn their proxy marriage into a lasting love?”
August 2012, 384 pages
Desperation drove Cecilia Mallory to seek a union with a stranger—one who would wed her sight unseen and grant her full access to her inheritance with no expectations whatsoever. She anticipated, perhaps, an older, undesirable, equally desperate husband—never the young, vibrant, and devastatingly attractive man who answered her call. What could such a man really be after?
Unknown to Cecilia, Viscount Michael Blackthorne, a soldier and gentleman, owes a debt of honor to Lady Cecilia's father, and granting her unusual request to wed seemed a worthy way to repay it. But an unseen threat perilously close at hand is convincing Michael that his true responsibility is to protect the beautiful, warm-hearted lady he has married . . . the woman he is unexpectedly coming to love.