SURRENDER TO THE EARL – Gayle Callen
The Brides of Redemption Trilogy, Book 2
Rural England, 1843
Robert Henslaw, Earl of Knightsbridge recently returned to England after serving in Her Majesty's Army in India. While there, he and two friends made a well-meaning decision that resulted in tragedy. He and the others have vowed to atone for their error by doing all they can for the women left behind. Robert travels to Oxfordshire to see what he can do for the widow of a fellow soldier whose death he feels responsible for. What he finds surprises him.
A victim of scarlet fever, Mrs. Audrey Blake lost all vision when she was seven. Though blind, her life was as normal as possible for the daughter of a baron as long as her mother was alive, but then things changed. She's an embarrassment to her father and her siblings. She's not allowed off the grounds or to see visitors; she's only allowed to run the household! Her sole friend is her maid Molly, who reads to her and acts as her guide and secretary. Audrey does all she can to remember what things look like and all else her mother taught her in order to be as independent as possible. She even married in the face of her family's dire warnings, but they were right. After one day and night, her new husband spent her dowry to buy himself a commission in the army…and left.
Upon his arrival at the baron's manor, Lord Knightsbridge gets a shock. He discovers the attractive lady at the piano is both Blake's widow and she's blind! Once he explains that he owes her late husband a debt and offers his services, the desperate lady accepts. Her husband left her an estate, but her father will not let her go there; she wants Robert to help her leave. The solution he comes up with—his guilt weighs heavily on him—is to propose marriage. Audrey insists the betrothal be a pretense until she and Molly get settled in her new home...which will take some doing.
Robert's own home is not far from the Blake place, and he visits often. It isn't long before he comes to admire Audrey for her many sterling qualities. Though she begins to trust in him, she's adamant that she will never marry and put herself under another man's thumb. Their pasts have shaped Audrey and Robert in very different ways, but they have survived to become good people. Robert was on his way to becoming the self-centered, manipulative man his father was. Audrey could have given in and become the pitiful invalid her father would make of her.
For an uplifting story of two complex and likable characters triumphing over obstacles, some of their own making, don't miss SURRENDER TO THE EARL.