THE DARK AFFAIR Maire Claremont
A Novel of Mad Passions
Signet Eclipse
ISBN: 978-0-451-41801-2
March 2014
Historical Fiction

England 1866

Lord James Stanhope, Viscount Powers, does not want to face life anymore. Since the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter years before, James has spent his time and money running from the pain. His opium addiction has now, however, brought him to his lowest point; he's in an asylum and there is an Irish woman harping at him to face reality. It isn't going to happen if he can help it, but not having had opium for a few days is making him even more vulnerable.

Having grown up in Ireland in a titled family, Lady Margaret Cassidy shouldn't be in this dark asylum trying to reason with an addict. But her own past has forced her to make decisions in her life that no upper class woman would usually make. When her father gave up everything to help the starving people around his estate, and her mother chose kneeling in prayer to being strong, these made Margaret the woman she is today. Both of her parents are dead, and her younger brother has fallen in with a dangerous group of men who seek revenge against the English who abandoned the starving Irish. Training as a nurse, Margaret served in the Crimean War battlefields, and now she is trying to help addicts overcome their issues.

James's father, the Earl of Carlyle, is desperate for his son to recover. To Margaret's surprise, the earl makes her an offer that is both stunning, and frightening. Marry James, get him through to recovery, protect him from further trouble with opium, and give him an heir. For that, money will be sent to Ireland to help the unfortunate women and children who have no hope. At first Margaret scoffs at this, but when her brother shows up and reveals how much trouble he is in, she grudgingly accepts.

Sadly, addiction is still an incredibly topical issue today. THE DARK AFFAIR centers around James's struggle to deal with memories, and also Margaret's need to help her brother as well as her people. She has her own demons to overcome, but her outlook is to deal with them head on, rather than, like James, to run from them.

Beautifully written, THE DARK AFFAIR has some poignant, heartrending scenes as James fights the darkness. The characters are very authentic, and the scenes in London come to life with stark reality. I highly recommend this excellent book and the entire series.

Jani Brooks