Readers who pine for the old days of sweeping romances with larger than life characters who undergo tortures galore before the final happily ever after will love Veiled Promises, Tracy MacNish's debut. This is neo old-school romance done well.
Camille Bradburn is the only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of
Eton. She is beautiful, accomplished, and has everything she could
want. Her life seems perfect, but Camille is a tortured heroine -
literally. Her father is only interested in having sex with the
servants, her brother is only interested in his horse breeding
business, so that leaves Camille to her mother.
The duchess controlls her daughter's every breath and punishes her for
any slight infraction. Camille's back is a mass of scars from
whippings she has received from her mother. The duchess is determined
to break Camille's will and will not allow her even a moment of free
When Irish ship captain Patrick Mullen comes to visit Camille's
brother to see about buying some land, he meets Camille and an instant
attraction flares up between them. However, the duchess has plans for her daughter and they don't include Patrick. She succeeds in separating them, but this is only the beginning of their story. To say much more would be spoiling it - just read for yourself.
Veiled Promises is an intense romance that breaks many of the
conventions of romance novels. I'm sure some readers will hate it,
but others (including me) will enjoy it since it is not the usual
fare. Camille's mother, the Duchess of Eton is hands down the best
villain of the year. She is beautiful and outwardly gracious and
pious, but has the soul of a sadist. She manipulates the lives of
everyone including Bret, the man she has chosen to marry Camille. The
author gives a reason for the duchess's actions, but it is not one
that excuses her. She does not soften one bit, and I can't say I felt
sorry for her eventual fate. What a vicious woman she was.
Patrick and Camille spend a long time apart, and separately undergo
some heart wrenching events. I will warn the Gentle Reader that this
book is incredibly violent and at one point I had to close it for a
minute to compose myself. Since this is a romance novel, they get
their happy ending, and I have to say they deserve it - I have seldom
seen a pair who suffered so much because of their love for each other.
There are a couple of interesting secondary characters, especially
Jonah, a Jew who has been wrongly convicted of murder. He befriends
Camille and his story is left open. I would like to see him in a
The back blurb compares this book to The Flame and the Flower,
but it's much better than that book. Veiled Promises is lushly
written, but not purple and Patrick is not cruel or controlling like a
Woodiwiss hero. All the suffering that the characters go through is
because of the actions of Camille's mother. A lot of the suffering a
Woodiwiss heroine goes through is because of the actions of the hero.
Patrick is alpha, but tender and devoted to Camille - he's not an
overbearing jerk like Brandon from The Flame and the Flower.
Camille is supposed to be strong and willful, but I thought she was
pliable and a bit weak especially at the beginning of the book. She
toughened up some as the story progressed and showed spirit and fire
without being silly or feisty.
After a long string of ho-hum, formulaic romances, this book was a
treat to read. It was like drinking fine brandy after having had
nothing but weak tea. Veiled Promises was strong stuff, and
again I must warn the reader, there are several violent and
uncomfortable scenes in it. MacNish has a strong and distinctive
style and I plan to read her next book as soon as it hits the shelves.
LLB: I had a far different reaction to this book than Ellen did. The author wrote well, set the story's emotional tone right from the start, and created a sweet romance for the hero and heroine. Unfortunately, there were an absurd number of obstacles and hardships forced upon them by the heroine's evil-by-mythic-proportions mother that any good will I had toward the book was totally and utterly obliterated.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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