Excruciating is not a word I assign to a book without great thought. Yet to say that reading The Love Knot by Rebecca Brandewyne was excruciating is perhaps being kind. The detail given to every piece of furniture bogs down the story. The tale is told entirely from the view of the heroine, leaving no way to get interested in the hero. The plotline of an earl suddenly being interested in the new governess is hard to believe and the “suspense” part of the story is never fully developed, only related in verbal retelling.
Verity Collier is an orphan who is now a teacher at the orphanage where she grew up. She applied and was accepted for a position as the governess to the twins of the Earl of St. Aubyn in Cornwall. On her way to her position, the Earl’s carriage is robbed by a nefarious highwayman, Black Jack Raven. Despite her terror, she refuses to allow him to steal her locket, the only thing she has of her mother’s, and instead he steals a lock of her hair off her head.
Upon her arrival at St. Aubyn Manor, she easily settles into her duties and grows to love the children. We are also led to believe she grows to love the Earl, who treats her kindly and even includes her in events while he is hosting a house party.
The Earl of St. Aubyn is a mystery, even now that I have read the entire book. He is an Earl who runs his estate. He also works for the Foreign Office and is currently involved in 1802 politics of seeking out a French spy in Cornwall, all in secret, of course. He loves his children. He is a widower whose wife, Tasmyn, died from a fall off the cliffs near their manor. Servant gossip questions the hows and whys of what happened.
About three quarters of the way through the book, the Earl proposes. There is no indication that he loves Verity, hence we are as surprised as she is. Yet, he claims he has loved her from the beginning.
There are two suspense plotlines running through the story: one about the French spy and Black Jack and the other about the apparent haunting of the estate. Verity continually is confronted by “something white and ethereal seeming to float and flutter like a wraith amid the dark…”. This thing also keeps whispering things like “Tamsyn…Tamsyn…your life is in grave danger. You must leave this place of death at once!”
Neither of these plot lines makes much sense or is developed, primarily because the entire story is told from Verity’s point of view. What she doesn’t see or hear or feel, we learn from conversations. Unfortunately, these conversations consist of someone, generally the Earl, narrating a story. Hence, there is really no action until the final chapter. Everything that happens is either told to us by Verity or told to her by someone else.
The biggest problem with this tale, however, is the writing. Tedious detail is given about every aspect of everything. The author spends paragraphs describing every nuance of a room, down to the books on bookshelves and the fact that there are three lamps in the bedroom. Cornwall is described as being a “strange, wild, desolate place - where brutal storms battered the land, brigands rode the hightoby and inns and manors were grey, grim and forbidding in nature…” This description works once, but it is continued every time the countryside is mentioned.
A major distraction for me was the use of poetry and passages at the beginning of each chapter. Many authors use a short poem or phrase to enhance the tale. Brandewyne has at least one and sometimes two pages of excerpts.
One indication of the strength of a book for me is whether the book holds my interest when I put it down. I had to force myself to pick this book up. In fact, I read three other books while I was reading this one.
There was one point about 250 pages in that held my interest for a while. This was during a few scenes when the Earl and Verity actually interacted and held conversations, allowing us to finally get a glimpse of the Earl’s personality. But it was short-lived and over before I could decide if I liked him.
If you are a fan of Rebecca Brandewyne and like her style of writing, you may like this. However, the fact that we learn little of our hero, are inundated with worthless detail, are presented with a predictable mystery and with no real romance, The Love Knot is one of those books to leave on the shelf at the book store.