I ADORED A LORD – Katharine Ashe
The Prince Catchers , Book 2
Mostly France, 1818
Ravenna Caulfield would rather be in the barn with the horse whose hoof she's treating, and the litter of puppies, than be in the castle amid all the rich and privileged guests of the prince, even though she is a guest herself. Ravenna is the youngest of three little sisters who were sole survivors of the wreck of a ship bound for England. No one knew their identities, so they were put in a stern foundling home for four years. Fortunately, before they were moved to a workhouse, a widowed clergyman took them home and gave them his name. So how did Ravenna end up at a house party at Chateau Chevriot in the French mountains as a guest of Prince Sebastiao of Portugal?
The only thing the girls were able to hang on to from the time of the wreck was a man's gold and ruby ring. A fortuneteller was later to tell them that if one of them married a prince, they would learn who their father was. Now grown up, the scholarly eldest sister, Eleanor, is still with the Reverend; the next sister, Arabella, became a governess and made an attempt to marry a prince, but made a love match with a duke instead. Her new position as a duchess enabled her to get an invitation to the prince's party for Ravenna, an avid animal lover who now works for a pair of gentlemen taking care of their pets and livestock.
Lord Vitor Courtenay has two half-brothers and two fathers. By name, he is accepted as the second son of an English marquess; by blood he shares a father with Prince Sebastiao. Both fathers played a part in sending him to war as a spy for England and Portugal, allies against Napoleon. He recently returned home to England after two years in a monastery getting over the war when his natural father asked him to help his wild brother settle down and choose a wife from all the prospects at the party in France. After two years of celibacy, one would think it a feast for a starving man, but all his interest zeroes in on the poorly dressed odd little creature with an independent attitude he meets in the barn. It's a mix of attraction and repulsion for Ravenna. Lord Vitor (that's his name, not a typo) is more than handsome, but her mind is closed against him. To her, he's another spoiled rich man who thinks he can get anything he wants.
The duel of words between Ravenna and Vitor is captivating, and so are the revelations of their pasts and personalities. As is often the case of novels set at house parties, the cast of characters is large and varied. In I ADORED A LORD, Ms. Ashe does a good job in delineating them. And while the growing relationship between the two antagonists is prominent, there is also a difficult murder mystery they work to solve…one with many red herrings involving most of the persons one meets.
I ADORED A LORD is a grand read that I whole heartedly recommend. As it turns out, though, it looks as if it will be left to bookish Eleanor to catch a prince in the last book in the trilogy. Here's hoping we haven't long to wait.