by Mary Jo Putney

January 2000
ISBN: 0-449-00584-4
Reviewer Graphic Button Ballantine Books
Mass Market Paperback

I very much enjoyed this book. Mary Jo Putney has created a story that will move you to tears and make you want to cheer all at the same time. Her hero, Dominic Renbourne, is a man who is willing to look at the world and see the beauty that is there even when others cannot. And that is what makes him perfect for the heroine, Lady Meriel Grahame.

Meriel is a woman straddling two worlds. One is of her own creation, a world where she can feel safe and not have to face the harsh realities of life. The other is that harsh reality. Orphaned young, due to a tragedy that took her parents lives, Meriel has seen the atrocities that one man can do to another, and so from a very young age she lost herself in her gardens and her home, Warfield Park. Content to roam the grounds at will and never leave itís comforting lands, she is seen by one and all as the "Mad Lady of Warfield Park". Well, all but one.

Dominic Renbourne, twin to Lord Kyle Renbourne, Merielís betrothed, invades Merielís worlds. Due to a personal engagement Lord Kyle is unable to travel to Warfield and pay court to Lady Meriel as arranged by one of her guardians. Unable to postpone the courtship, he bribes his twin, Dominic, to take his place. What happens next is at once predictable and irresistible. Dominic is perfect for Meriel. Unlike the others of her limited acquaintance, Dominic takes the time to seek Meriel out and notices that which others donít, that her seeming random acts are the planned actions of a woman aware of the world around her. He alone begins to break into the safety of Merielís private world of gardens and animals, and as he does his love for her offers her another kind of safety.

Dominic of course has problems of his own. One, unlike his twin he has no riches to offer Meriel. Two, when Kyle returns he will, of course, be furious. And three, Merielís other guardian, her uncle Grahame, is adamantly opposed to Meriel marrying anyone and has advocated sending the woman so many think of as mad to an asylum.

I loved this story for the compassion the characters show for others, for the strength of character Putney imbued Meriel with, for the growth the characters experience, and for the happy ending you know Meriel and Dominic are destined to have. Itís obvious from the beginning that they deserve it. And I was thrilled to see them get it after they overcame the hurdles placed in their path and the betrayals they had to face.

Reviewed in December 2002 by JaToya.

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