The fairest flower in Mawbry is Erienne Fleming, the enchanting, raven-haired daughter of the village mayor. Charming, spirited and exquisitely lovely, she is beset on all sides by suitors, any one of whom would pay a king's fortune for a place in her heart. But Erienne has eyes for only one: the dashing and witty young Yankee, Christopher Seton.
But marriage for love is not to be, for her irresponsible and unscrupulous father, crippled by gambling debts, is intent on auctioning off his beautiful daughter to the highest bidder. And in the end, Erienne is devastated to find it is the strange and secretive Lord Saxton who has purchased her a mysterious, tragic figure who wears a mask and a cloak at all times to hide disfiguring scars gained in a terrible fire some years back.
But in the passing days, Saxton's true nature is revealed to her. A gentle and adoring soul, he treats his new bride with warmth and abiding tenderness, yet appears to her only by daylight. She, in turn, vows to be a good and loyal wife to him. And then Christopher Seton reenters Erienne's world Conflicted by emotions she cannot suppress, Erienne valiantly attempts to remain honorable to her elusive, enigmatic husband but feels herself irresistibly drawn to Seton's passion, his fire, and his secrets. Entangled in intrigues she doesn't yet understand, Erienne Fleming will soon have to make a devastating choice: between love and honor . . . between her duty and her heart.
About the Author
With more than thirty-six million copies of her bestselling novels already in print, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss remains one of America's most successful and beloved storytellers. She is the author of twelve enormously successful masterworks of romantic fiction, including The Flame and the Flower, Shanna, Ashes in the Wind, Petals on the River, and The Elusive Flame.
The spunky but uncommonly pea-brained heroine of Woodiwiss' new, endless, 640pp. bodice-ripper is raven-tressed Erienne Fleming - who, in 1792 Northern England, is about to be married off by her foul, gambling, boozing father. And when Erienne turns down suitor after suitor, then tries to run away, Papa Fleming decides to auction her off! So: will the buyer/husband be newly-arrived Yankee shipbuilder Christopher Seton, a gorgeous hunk who both enflames and infuriates Erienne? (He wounded her feckless brother in a duel.) No, it won't - because the highest bidder is mysterious, masked, lame Lord Saxton . . . who has just suddenly re-surfaced at the Saxton estate after supposedly surviving a nasty fire. Poor Erienne, then, winds up at the cold, drafty estate - still in nostalgic heat for Christopher, too repelled by Lord Leather-Mask to allow the marriage to be consummated. (While breathing heavily, Lord S. agrees to separate bedrooms - for a while, anyway.) And Erienne remains faithfully virginal - resisting advances from slimy Lord Talbot and from lascivious Christopher (who keeps showing up only - hint, hint - whenever Lord S. is not around). Finally, however, after a particularly on-the-verge wrestling session with persistent Christopher, Erienne decides to submit to kindly Lord S. at last - with spectacular soft-core-porn results . . . though it will then take another 100 pages or so before she starts figuring out that Christopher and Lord S. seem to have an odd interchangeability about them. (A dum-dum to the core, Erienne doesn't even get the right idea when she spots the same scar on both men's backs.) And in the last, anti-climactic section Erienne is abducted by - and rescued from - some Saxton-family enemies, who have forced Lord S. to become the vengeful, anonymous "Night Rider." In short (which is definitely not Woodiwiss' style): a dull, jaw-droppingly inane cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Adventures of Zorro - but a virtually pre-sold trade-paperback commodity nonetheless, considering the success of Ashes in the Wind, Shanna, etc. (Kirkus Reviews)