The Bride Wore Scarlet, by Liz Carlyle

>> Saturday, September 07, 2013

TITLE: The Bride Wore Scarlet
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle

PAGES: 384

SETTING: 19th century England and Belgium
TYPE: Romance / Paranormal romance?
SERIES: Fraternitas Aureae Crucis #2

Passion and secrets simmer behind the elegant façade of Victorian London in another deliciously intriguing novel featuring the mysterious men of the St. James Society.

Anaïs de Rohan has faced danger in her past, but never anything so great as posing as the new bride to one of the St. James Society's most magnetic—and ruthless—leaders. But Lord Bessett's bold challenge to prove herself worthy of joining his secret all-male society is impossible to resist. So she daringly agrees to travel with the enigmatic nobleman on a dangerous mission to save one of their own—a little girl with a frightening gift.

Soon intrigue swirls about them, drawing them ever closer. And Anaïs quickly realizes that the intimacy of sharing Lord Bessett's bedroom is proving a temptation impossible to resist. As for Bessett himself—well, he might be a soldier sworn to the Society, but he certainly isn't anyone's saint...
I was disappointed with the first book in this series, One Touch of Scandal, but this is Liz Carlyle we're talking about. Even though her latest haven't been great, she's written some of my favourite books, so I was willing to give the series another shot. As book 1, The Bride Wore Scarlet is centred around The St. James Society, the name of the recently reformed Fraternitas Aureae Crucis in England. The men who are part of it are Guardians, their mission being to protect the Vateis, mainly women and children who have got the Sight.

Geoff, Lord Bessett (son of the couple in Three Little Secrets) is a Guardian, and his latest mission is to go to Brussels to rescue one such child. Anaïs de Rohan (whose parents were in No True Gentleman) had a great-grandmother who had the Sight herself, and determined Anaïs would be a Guardian, in spite of being a female. She's devoted all her life to training for it, but the Fraternitas prove themselves stubborn about their arbitrary traditions. She is, however, offered the chance to help out Lord Bessett in his mission in Brussels, as a woman would be helpful in approaching the endangered child and her mother.

I read over a third of the book before I gave up. It just wasn't working for me at all. The whole deal with the fraternity felt off. It felt half-baked, but at the same time, ponderous and self-important, without really justifying to the reader just how it's so crucial to the whole world. I found it impossible to care about their missions and their traditions. It might be that the danger the little girl is in becomes more clear and present later in the book, but I was yawning.

Neither was I engaged with the characters. Geoff and Anaïs seem to be interesting enough, on description. He's taken on his responsibilities to the fraternity somewhat reluctantly, and there are intimations that he's got a bit of a Gift himself, and Anaïs is very non-traditional and kickass. They just never felt like real people, and I could feel no chemistry between them. Again, I wasn't interested in them.

Also, it made me uncomfortable that Carlyle chose to use as her main characters the children of couples from previous books that weren't paranormal (all right, there was a touch of it in No True Gentleman, but it was just that, the merest touch). It feels like rewriting history in a way, so when I now reread Three Little Secrets and No True Gentleman it will be in my mind that these people live in this world with secret societies and all sorts of paranormal powers, but they just don't know it.



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