15/07/2013

SALT REDUX BY LUCINDA BRANT - BOOK REVIEW + DOUBLE GIVEAWAY

Book Blurb 

Jane and Salt—four years of Happily Ever After
Sir Antony Templestowe—four years of Exile
Lady Caroline—four years of Heartache
Diana St. John—four years plotting Revenge
The time has come...


How does a brother cope with life knowing his sister is a murderess? How can a nobleman have the life he has always wanted when a lurking evil consumes his thoughts and haunts his dreams? What will it take for good to triumph over evil?
My review

Salt Redux is the sequel to a previous book by Australian author, Lucinda Brant, which I really loved and reviewed a couple of years ago. This means that for readers who like me enjoyed Salt Bride, the story continues…

Magnus and Jane, the Earl of Salt Hendon and his beautiful wife,  have been married for four years now and been blessed with the birth of beautiful children. Just when they feel safe and happy, Diana, Lady St John, reappears in their life. Four years ago Diana attempted to take Jane's place in Salt's life at any cost and by any means (see Salt Bride), and for her villainy was locked up and kept prisoner in a Welsh castle. However,  the real reason  of her absence from Polite Society has been kept secret as a mark of respect for her position, for the sake of her two young children and for  the bonds between families.

Diana St John is in fact Sir Antony Templestowe's sister and widow of Aubrey Edward St John, both the Earl of Salt Hendon's best friends. This fact, and because her two young children are now in the Earl’s care, are reasons enough for Jane and Salt to agree to protect her reputation.
   
Sir Antony Templestowe  has been living in exile in St Petersburg,  helped by his new loving friends,  Prince Michael Ivan Knyazhevy-Yusupovo and his sister the Princess Ekaterina Naryshkina Knyazhevy-Yusupova. A diplomat, Sir Antony is also a recovering alcoholic who hopes his new life in St Petersburg will allow him to forget the great love of his life, Lady Caroline, Salt's younger sister. Sir Antony believes Caroline is lost to him forever because she is now married to the Right Honourable Stephen Aldershot.

Sir Antony is resigned to remaining in St Petersburg, never to return to England again. However, when his scheming, delusional sister escapes her Welsh castle prison—knowing Diana will go to extreme lengths, even murder, to get the Earl’s attention back— he is forced to return to London to contain her sinister, lethal vindictiveness and thwart her murderous intent. 

"He knew that just below the surface of her beautiful facade there lurked a monster capable of great cunning ... and great evil" ( chapt. 4 p. 31)

It will take all Sir Antony's efforts and bravery for good to win over evil and you'll find yourself deeply involved in the suspense of this adventurous fight between brother and sister. 
But you'll also cherish several highly romantic moments, because love can always surprise you when it has second chances.

The Georgian era with its fascination and sophistication, the glamorous fashion and clothing, the luxurious noble homes, the gorgeous heroes and heroines are all skilfully brought to life by the author's elegant turn of phrase and detailed descriptions, which are an integral part to the gripping plot. Intespersed in the narration, you'll find interesting references to the politics, social habits and manners of the time.  

If you loved Salt Bride you can't miss the second instalment, Salt Redux . If you haven't read Salt Bride,  my suggestion is take them both and read them back to back.  They are just the perfect blend of suspense and romance for a delightful summer reading. 



Read The Prologue
Salt Redux



 
This is how Lucinda Brant imagines Salt House
 
Every month the guardian of the unnamed person of interest detained at Castle Harlech in the remote mountains of north Wales sent a report to the Earl of Salt Hendon. A messenger delivered the report, always at night, into the hands of Mr. Rufus Willis, steward of the Earl’s estate in Wiltshire. Mr. Willis then gave the report to his lordship when his employer was alone in the vastness of his library, and when there was no expectation of the Countess being present. 
    Mr. Willis caught the anguish on his lordship’s face every time he handed over these reports. Upon one occasion, Mr. Willis offered to read the report to spare the Earl, but his noble employer declined saying it was his duty, however distasteful and difficult the task. Mr. Willis knew the Earl was punishing himself. The Earl believed the punishment justified. The monthly reports were a painful reminder that the unnamed person of interest had brought untold suffering on her own children and was a murderer of innocents. She had also caused the death of the Earl and Countess of Salt Hendon’s first child while still in the womb. However, some comfort came from the reports. While his prisoner remained locked up, her children were safe, and so, too, were his. Although he did not need reminding of his good fortune, the Earl knew he was the luckiest of men and that nothing and no one was more important to him than his wife and family. 

    The guardian of the unnamed person of interest wrote much the same report every month. His “guest” was the model prisoner, afforded every comfort such a remote location could provide. The prisoner had maids to help her into velvet and satin petticoats and bodices, who dressed her waist-length auburn hair in the latest styles as remembered from her life in London, and who helped her choose what pieces of her jewelry went best with each outfit. As befitting her exulted rank, she insisted on changing her gown three times a day. Servants waited on her at table as if she were queen of her own dominion and came swiftly in answer to the constant tinkling of her little hand bell. Her guardian accompanied her on walks about the parapets and courtyards of the castle, dined with her when invited, and over coffee and cake listened to her witty recollections about politicians and the esteemed persons of Polite Society, all known to her personally. 

18th century sedan chair
    The unnamed person of interest spent most days reading the latest issues of The Gentleman’s Magazine, particularly the reports of Parliamentary sittings, and wrote at her escritoire in her prettily furnished drawing room, with its view of the craggy mountains that stretched to the sea. Her letters were sent but never delivered and thus she never received a reply. These letters were sometimes ten pages in length and most were addressed to the Earl of Salt Hendon. Her guardian read these letters as part of his duties and found them full of advice for his lordship on all manner of topics political and domestic. The letters were then burned. While the guardian informed the Earl in general terms about these letters, he did not report what was most vital, though such information surely confirmed that the woman was indeed insane. Every letter was signed Diana, Countess of Salt Hendon. 

    She had one correspondent who wrote regularly and who did receive her letters of reply. There was a brother, a diplomat, who lived abroad. He wrote from St. Petersburg, long, detailed letters about the growing Russian capital and its environs, its people, and how he occupied his days as an assistant to the Ambassador. He often enclosed small gifts; a fan, a lace-bordered handkerchief, a pair of silk stockings, and for one of her birthdays he sent an embroidered silk shawl. His letters were also full of the latest Court gossip and palace intrigues, and sometimes he included clippings from months old English newssheets dispatched to him in Russia. The guardian knew this because his prisoner took great delight in reading these letters aloud. He soon realized that this brother was an astute gentleman because he never mentioned the Earl of Salt Hendon or any member of his family. What the brother knew from his sister’s correspondence that the Earl and his family did not, and he, too, kept to himself, was that his sister signed her letters to him as if she was indeed the wife of the Earl of Salt Hendon. 

    After three years of incarceration, the unnamed person of interest no longer answered to her own name. Nor did she recognize the person she had once been when this person was described to her. She was the Countess of Salt Hendon and Magnus Sinclair, the Earl of Salt Hendon was her dear husband. There was no persuading her otherwise. The guardian saw no harm in humoring her. After all, she was never to be released. 
    And so by the beginning of her fourth year of imprisonment the unnamed person of interest was in every way treated as if she was indeed the Countess of Salt Hendon. Her guardian, her apothecary, her personal maid, and her servants all addressed her by that title. So, too, did the local town's people. 

    For her good behavior, and under strict supervision, she was eventually permitted visitors. Prominent members of the local town came to pay their respects and to see with their own eyes the beautiful noblewoman rumor said had been locked up by a brutish husband. The unnamed person of interest proved to be a gracious hostess, full of charm and grace, and possessing a noble bearing. It was an easy thing for the outsiders to believe they were indeed in the presence of English nobility. She was majestic in velvet and silks, with rubies about her throat and wrists. Her witty conversation was peppered with anecdotes of prominent politicians, exulted noblemen and their relatives, far away marble palaces, and sleepless cities the local townspeople could only dream about. Soon, her ladyship was holding court once a week to a room full of eager listeners. 

    This, too, the guardian withheld from his reports to his noble employer, reasoning again that there was little harm in his prisoner receiving a bunch of ignorant yokels to afternoon tea, who knew no one and were going nowhere. It kept her ladyship pacified, entertained and occupied, her thoughts on trivialities, a far cry from her disposition when first brought to the castle; a venomous abhorrent monster whose every hate-filled word dripped vengeance and who vowed escape. 
    What the guardian failed to appreciate, what he could not know and never discovered, was that he was in the presence of a far superior and utterly malevolent intellect. In his confident conceit, that in three years he had tamed a monster and beaten down a beast, he remained ignorant, almost until the last breath left his body. He failed to grasp that just under the surface of her beautiful façade, the perfumed silks, the witty conversation, and the charming manners, the monster still lurked, biding its time, awaiting the perfect opportunity to escape and unleash its vengeance. 

    The horror of realization came the day the guardian was racked with stomach cramp and fell into a fever. The local apothecary thought it food poisoning and prescribed an emetic. A great favorite with her ladyship, who he had treated for megrim for some months, the apothecary left the guardian in her capable hands. He advised he would return the following day. By nightfall, the guardian was dead. In his last conscious moments, he was blind and incapable of speech but he could still hear. Her ladyship whispered at his ear as she gently tucked up his coverlet. The servants thought it a touching scene, an indication of her ladyship’s high regard for her guardian. 
    In truth, she gleefully whispered she had poisoned him. Every speck of megrim powder the apothecary had prescribed she had carefully stored up until she had harvested enough to administer a lethal dose. She loathed him and she hoped he was in agony. Her greatest hatred she kept stored for the woman she believed falsely paraded about society as the wife and Countess of the Earl of Salt Hendon. She had spent three years devising her scheme for retribution and now, with freedom, she would put her plan into effect. 

    Upon the guardian’s death, the unknown person of interest did not immediately flee. She mourned his passing, wearing dove grey petticoats and inviting the local townspeople to a dinner in his honor. Then, after the guardian’s burial, a courier arrived in the dead of night. It was so late the horse’s hooves on the cobblestones did not wake the servants. However, a restless maid heard voices echoing in the courtyard and was up, pressing her nose to the windowpane in time to see her ladyship in her nightgown and slippers, taper in hand, scurry under the arch and enter by the big oak door. She held a sealed packet. 
    The late-night letter was from the Earl begging her to return to him. He had been bewitched by a whore of a mistress and with her death so died her influence over him. To his shame, he now recognized his great wrongdoing in sending his devoted wife into exile. Could she forgive him? Would she come back to him? He could not wait to be reconciled and would ride to meet her at the Welsh border. She was to hurry with all speed. 

    The servants, the apothecary and, indeed, those prominent townspeople who counted themselves friends of the Countess of Salt Hendon, all knew word for word the contents of the Earl’s letter, for she joyfully announced the news to them and showed them the letter. The apothecary did not doubt the seal and fist belonged to the illustrious Earl of Salt Hendon. There was much rejoicing and the townspeople held a celebratory dinner to honor Lady Salt and wish her well, to which she wore her most magnificent gown and jewelry. 
    Holland covers draped furniture, and trunks and portmanteaux were packed to bursting. A splendid carriage pulled by four high-spirited grey horses took up Lady Salt and her personal maid, and her ladyship was farewelled with much fanfare. She was never seen again. 
    Two days following her departure a letter arrived. It was from Sir Antony Templestowe, and it had traveled all the way from St. Petersburg. 
    The apothecary, who had stayed on at the castle to settle her ladyship’s small pile of accounts with money the dead guardian had for that purpose, did not know what was to be done with the letter. It was addressed to a Diana, Lady St. John, a person unknown to the apothecary and yet the direction was correct. 

 
Harlech Castle
  Perhaps the correspondent did not personally know Lady Salt. 
    He had correctly identified her Christian name but then become confused when writing her title. It was a mystery to the apothecary. Still, he would do his duty by her ladyship, and so he redirected the unopened letter to the Earl of Salt Hendon’s estate, Salt Hall in Wiltshire, which he had heard Lady Salt talk of so many times he felt he had visited the grand Jacobean mansion and its spacious parkland. 
    As Sir Antony had provided his direction in St. Petersburg, the apothecary wrote him a civil letter. He explained what he had done with his letter and, presuming he knew Lady Salt because he had used her Christian name, he took the liberty of giving Sir Antony the good news: Her ladyship had departed Harlech Castle and was on her way to be reunited with her noble lord the Earl of Salt Hendon. 
    A month later Sir Antony received the apothecary’s letter. Upon reading it, he promptly threw up.



GIVEAWAY 

 WIN SALT BRIDE + SALT REDUX! 
Take your chances in the rafflecopter form below. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends on August 5th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Lucinda Brant 
Salt Redux is a 2013 Readers' Favorite Book Award finalist

4 comments:

Ao Bibliophile said...

another new author for me! :)

thank you Maria for hosting and thank you very much as well to author Lucinda Brant for being gracious!

dstoutholcomb said...

reading Autumn Duchess at the moment--loving Lucinda!

Lucinda Brant said...

Congratulation, Jennifer!
Thanks again for hosting this wonderful giveaway, Maria. So very much appreciated! :)
And thank you to all who entered! :)

Elizabeth said...

First of all...GREAT BLOG.

I have never heard of this author, but this book and author sound good.

THANKS for sharing.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #36. My book entry is below.

Elizabeth
Silver's Reviews
My Book Entry