My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.
This review contains spoilers for THE LADY IN RED, book 2 in the Mad Passions series. You could try to read THE DARK AFFAIR as a stand-alone book, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
When I read THE LADY IN RED last fall, Maire Claremont was a new author for me, and I hadn’t known what to expect. Its whirlwind plot and profound emotions were almost too much for me to handle (but in a good way). I actually had to force myself to put it down more than a few times, because I was so worried about what would happen to not only its hero and heroine, but the hero’s friend Viscount Powers, whose help was essential in their plan to save the heroine from her villainous father.
Powers – a tortured and brooding man who refused to answer to any other name – shared the same brutal need for opiates that plagued the heroine of THE LADY IN RED. While her addiction had been induced during her forced captivity in a madhouse, his was entirely self-inflicted after the untimely death of his wife and child. By the end of the previous book, the heroine and hero are both safe and happy in marriage together, but meanwhile Powers has given himself over entirely to his addiction. Months later, when we first see him in THE DARK AFFAIR, he has himself been involuntarily committed to a madhouse.
Margaret Cassidy was a titled lady back in Ireland, but that couldn’t protect her from the harsh realities of famine and poverty, nor from the ongoing violence as those who starved fought back against the cruelty of their English overlords. Her gift for healing has brought her to England, where she is tasked by the Earl of Carlyle to bring his son Powers back from the brink of insanity. Back when Margaret was still in Ireland and her father was still alive, Powers had sent a letter and funds to assist those in dire need of help, asking for nothing in return. Rescuing him now from his addiction is her opportunity to repay that act of kindness, even as her attachment to him quickly moves in a more personal direction. It will take all of Margaret’s talents and indomitable will to bring Powers back not only to sanity, but to a life where he can grieve properly for what he’s lost without sacrificing himself again. But when the violence she left behind in Ireland comes to call at her front door, what ends up being at stake isn’t just their shared happiness, but their very lives.
Once again, Maire Claremont has written a story that transported me into a world more darkly intense than most historical romances, with characters I couldn’t help but root for as they were forced to trust in each other even as they should rightfully be mortal enemies. The depth of Powers’s sorrow had only been hinted at in the previous book, but here it is front and center with everything you might expect, and worse. He has abused his mind and body for so long in self-imposed guilt for the death of his wife and child that his recovery is never really certain, even as the story moves toward that conclusion. And when we find out just how they died…well, it’s definitely understandable why he has suffered so greatly, even though it’s just as obvious to us, if not to him, that their deaths should not be on his head.
It’s also clear that only someone like Margaret would even have a chance to break through the wall of anger and opiates that Powers has built all around him, and not just because of her beauty and determination. Only Margaret has the ability to focus his attention beyond his own pain and outside the bubble of privilege in which he has lived his whole life as a member of the English nobility. But it will take more than that for them to move forward with a life together, and their Happily Ever After will be won only after those who seek to defeat them are confronted one last time.
I’m sad to see the Mad Passions series come to an end but I’m looking forward to seeing what Maire Claremont comes up with next. THE LADY IN RED vaulted her into my list of favorite historical romance writers, and now THE DARK AFFAIR has firmly established her place near the very top.
Overall: 4.5 stars
Sensuality level: 3.5