The Bride Wore Pearls
The St. James Society, a gentleman’s club in mid-19th-century London, is in reality a cover for the Fraternitas Aureae Crucis (FAC), a quasi-religious society whose members have inherited the Gift. In 1848, Lady Anisha Stafford, a widow of mixed-race heritage, arrives in England from Calcutta with her two young sons. The first person she meets is a member of FAC, Rance Welham, Earl of Lazonby, who was found guilty of murder several years before and saved from the hangman’s noose by the brotherhood. Although Anisha and Rance become friends, Rance refuses to publicly acknowledge the depth of their affection until he can prove his innocence.
Rance and Anisha, both misfits in traditional English society, are too honest with one another to deny their mutual attraction. Their lovemaking sizzles, but the plot does not.
Early in the novel Anisha admits, “Vague seemed to be the operative word when it came to the organization.” This vagueness about the nature of the Gift and the purpose of FAC permeates the novel and frustrates the momentum of the story. Despite this weakness, Carlyle is such a good writer that her many fans will enjoy spending time with Rance and Anisha.