The Briar and the Rose
The author was inspired to write this historical romance, set in 1827 Ireland, after hearing Dolly Parton’s rendition of the old ballad “Barbara Allen.” She combined that story with elements of an Irish folktale to tell of Devan, Marquess of Castlereagh, and the mysterious Raven, an Irish peasant who turns up on his estate with no memory of her past. She is the very image of Katherine, his lost love who died in a fire. The Marquess thinks that solving the mystery of Raven’s past will help him understand the strange dreams he’s been having, so he takes her into his household. Their romance, complete with steamy sex scenes, is complicated by a visiting Duke who is smitten by Raven, and the predatory Lady Priscilla, who is determined to win Devan.
Romance fans have praised the book highly elsewhere, so my reservations probably won’t weigh with them. I found some of the plot twists illogical, the villains unrelentingly base, and the ending improbable. But logical plots and rounded secondary characters aren’t high priorities on some romance fans’ lists – the romance is paramount. They will like this book. The appendix, with four different versions of the “Barbara Allen” ballad, was interesting.