Format: Physical Copy (Provided by author in exchange for an honest review)
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Lady Mary Darrel should be the envy of London. Instead, all society believes her dead. For Mary holds a secret so dangerous, her father chose to keep her locked away…and have a grave made for her near her mother’s. Driven to the edge of desperation, Mary manages to escape the asylum, only to find that her fate yet again rests in the hands of a man…
Edward Barrons, Duke of Fairleigh, longs for some way to escape the torment of his father’s crimes. In Mary’s warrior spirit and haunted gaze—which so mirrors his own—he finally sees his path to redemption. He will stop at nothing to keep her safe, even as she seeks revenge. But will the passion they discover in each other be enough to save them from their demons?
This is no fluffy, light romance. This is a mad, passionate tale that doesn't shy away from the darker, seedier side of life in Victorian England. Lady in Red shows just how powerless women were when it came to men and how they were little more than cattle to be treated however the man wished.
I have been dying to read Maire Claremont's Mad Passions series ever since the first book (The Dark Lady) came out last year and though I still haven't read it (bad wallet), I can say that Lady in Red can be read as a stand alone.
Not every one will appreciate the level of angst and conflict in the story but I certainly did! Mary has all but reached rock bottom, her mother is dead and her father locked her in an asylum while letting all of London believe she is dead as well. From the moment the story begins to the very last page, Mary is fighting just to find the will to survive and I was impressed at how much strength she had in her even though she had every reason to give up. The level of abuse and degradation that Mary endures was astonishing but even with how horrible it was, it made Mary a more interesting character.
At the same time, Edward had his own demons that tormented him to almost no end, yet doing the right thing came almost naturally to him. He was merely existing for such a long time and he was becoming used to the listlessness and tediousness of his life that when he saw Mary for the first time, he immediately knew that she was someone he hadn't encountered before. Maybe he didn't know why he was drawn to her at first but he was smart enough to keep her close.
With both main characters suffering from some form of trauma, it was definitely a struggle for them to find peace, let along love with each other. At times I doubted that their pasts would ever let them go and I did become emotionally invested in both Edward and Mary for very different reasons. I was literally cheering these two on because there were times it felt like they just wouldn't triumph over the villains, much less their own demons.
Aside from Edward and Mary I also enjoyed Powers, Edward's close friend. He seemed to be a man in a lot of emotional pain, yet like Edward, he has a deeply ingrained instinct and desire to help Mary. He was lewd, tortured and sarcastic which naturally meant I wouldn't be able to resist him. His friendship with both Edward and Mary cemented his place on my radar (And wouldn't you know it, he's the hero in the next book, yay!).
My only let down was the final confrontation and resolution of Mary's problems. After all the buildup and after all Mary had been through the conclusion was a bit of a let down. Though that didn't stop me from enjoying Mary's story because no matter what, Lady in Red is Mary's story. It's a story of a woman who endured hell, escaped and lived to find the beginnings of peace and happiness with a man who would never blame her for what happened and who, on some level, understood what she had been through.
Lady in Red flirted with that line between tragedy and triumph, with two main characters who were severely damaged by life that at times it seemed like they would never overcome their circumstances and a cast of characters that are either pure evil or decent people who have seen hell and may or may not live to tell about it. All in all, I can't wait to read the next book in the series as I do love the level of angst and passion in this series.