The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight

Written by Christina Courtenay
Review by Sarah Johnson

Coincidentally, this title came up for review while I was planning a trip to Raglan Castle in South Wales, and it turned out to be a perfect introduction to the site. It’s a well-written dual-time romance partly set against a pivotal episode of English Civil War history: the 1646 siege of Raglan, which was among the last Royalist strongholds to fall to Parliamentary forces.  Today the castle is a picturesque ruin.

Tess, the young Countess of Merrick, is the likeable present-day heroine. A talented furniture artist, she gained her title by marrying her estranged late husband, Giles, a compulsive gambler who was killed in a drunk-driving accident. Because of his habit, she has little money to spare. The estate was entailed, so Tess expects to vacate Merrick Court once Giles’s closest heir is found and moves in. He turns out to be Josh Owens, a handsome Kiwi adventurer. Initially Josh wants to sell the place, but he comes to find rural Welsh farm life appealing.  He finds Tess appealing, too.

The time-shifts are smoothly handled. Tess and Josh begin seeing ghosts and tapping into the past through the eyes of a 1640s-era couple who seem to be warning them about something. Arabella Dauncey, the dispossessed heiress of Merrick Court, lives at nearby Raglan Castle as the Marquis of Worcester’s ward. Rhys Cadell, a Cavalier knight, cares for her but is unsure of her loyalties. Courtenay provides wonderful visual details of the castle interior in its elegant former state. Readers are carried along on a daring moonlight ride and experience the siege as living spaces become overcrowded and Fairfax’s large New Model Army gathers outside, its cannonballs destroying Raglan’s walls piece by piece.  Family squabbles, rumors of lost treasure, and a couple of nasty villains add to the entertaining plotline.