Monday, April 02, 2012

Review: The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes

The Particulars: Historical Romance, Sourcebooks, available in print and as ebook
The Source: Purchased at Allromance 
The Grade: A

The blurb:

Ellen Markham tells herself she's happy raising flowers and living in near penury in the Oxfordshire countryside, but when Valentine Windham moves in just on the other side of the wood, Ellen's longing for things she can never have threatens to overcome her good sense. Valentine's artistic soul, tender loving, and ducal determination tempt Ellen to trust and confide in a man who can only be endangered, should he learn of her past. For Valentine, regaining his musical skill becomes far less urgent than winning Ellen's heart.

The review:

This is Grace Burrowes at her best. This might sound strange, but I am glad I read Lady Sophia's book first. Don't get me wrong, Lady Sophia's Christmas Wish is an decent book, but this one is so much better. ( Ironically, Lady Sophia's Christmas Wish got nominated to a RITA). So, what did I love with this book.
At the heart of the book is the rĂȘnovation of the Markham estate. It is a fitting metaphor for the healing that happen in the book. At the beginning of the book, both Val and Ellen is wounded. Val from the loss of his brothers, and the fact that he cannot play the piano. Ellen miss her husband. But Val gradually coax out Ellen into the living world, showing her that she is worthy of love. But he also coaxed out the secrets of Markham. Like why it was so run down.
But Ellen, and Val's friends, helped Val to break through the shell he had created around himself. Gradually, he started to see that even though Music would always be an important part, it wasn't the only thing in the world.

The romance is the focus of the novel, but there is also a blackmail subplot. I liked how that subplot was deftly woven into everything. From the source, to the reason, to the villain. And yes, it is an obstacle in Val's and Ellen's path to happily ever after.

One thing that was a welcome difference in this book, were the fact that for most of the book the Windham family was in the background. Instead, there is a number of Val's friends playing a big supporting role. I'll admit that I sometimes wondered if none of the Windham's didn't have any close friends.
They took a larger part to the end of the book, though, and it was heartening to see Val's relationship with his father shift.

No book is without a fault. Unfortunately. I didn't like the way the blackmail subplot was solved. I would much have prefered a confrontation, instead of the fact that it was solved behind the scenes. That is just me.

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