Lady In Red
by Maire Claremont
(Signet, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0451-41800-5
If you are in the mood for a dark tale, one with characters who have demons they must overcome and one in which the plot line is bleak much of the time, then Lady in Red may be the right book for you. If you are looking for fun and frivolous, steer clear.

The story opens with Lady Mary Darrel arriving on the doorstep of a brothel, seeking a friend of her dead mother. She is starving, poorly dressed and recently escaped from an asylum for the insane. She is hooked on laudanum and has been horribly mistreated. Her one wish is vengeance on the man who put her in the madhouse and who killed her mother – her father the Duke of Duncliff.

The Madame was a friend of Mary’s mother’s and agrees to help her. But she understands that the Duke will know of her and Mary cannot stay there. So she calls on a powerful friend, the Duke of Fairleigh. Edward Barron has his own demons. His father was a murderer and Edward testified at his trial. He also watched and actually helped him hang. He is tormented by guilt and vowed to never marry and pass on to any children the poor gene pool from which he came. He also thinks he cannot love anyone and has become a bit of recluse.

Mary needs to heal both in body and spirit. Her natural vitality gives her the strength to recuperate, put her narcotic addiction behind her and fall in love with Edward – he is a man she can see needs her and this is more attractive than her cravings for the drug. But with his history all he can offer is an arrangement.

This is the story of the two finding their way – their way to a better life than they had before. During the healing process, Edward and Mary travel to northern England, where the Viscount James Standhope, a friend of Edward’s, lives. Here they find they can laugh again, enjoy horse riding again and begin to recognize that they have passion. In the background is the need Mary has for revenge and Edward’s’ need to banish his demons too.

The story is dark with the terror of the asylum and with men hired by Mary’s father who is searching for her. The buildup to the climatic meeting with her father was slow at times, dragging in the melancholy of the two characters. When they get the HEA, it was with relief for the ending, rather than the joy of their new found love.

Lady in Red is a well written story for the most part, but it was not my cup of tea. It may depend on your mood as to whether it suites your taste buds.

--Shirley Lyons

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