THE BRIDE WORE SCARLET – Liz Carlyle
London, circa 1848
From the beginning there have been humans born with unusual talents or gifts. Sometimes they have been honored, even venerated. Other times they were feared and persecuted, to be hunted near extinction. Long ago, others, who may or may not have been gifted, banded together to protect them. Today the ancient Fraternitas Aureae Crusis exists in varying strengths. In England, they masquerade as an exclusive London club for gentlemen, the St. James Society. They are the Guardians of the Gifts.
Geoffrey Archard, Lord Bessett, one of the founders of the St. James Society, meets with a Fraternitas member from France who asks for help from the stronger English group. It seems a Gift, a child, is in imminent danger and in need of rescue. Little Giselle Moreau and her English mother are in Brussels at the mercy of the uncle of the widow’s late husband. Viconte de Lezennes, is a thoroughgoing villain; who knows what he plans for the child and her mother?
While Lord Bessett and friends contemplate the rescue, they attend a rare ceremony beneath the St. James Society to induct a new Guardian into the secret brotherhood. By custom, the acolyte enters the temple naked, but this one wears a hooded robe. It soon dawns on the shocked gathering that the robed figure is female!
Though the daughter of a power at the British Home Office, Anaïs de Rohan was largely influenced by her Tuscan great, great grandmother Sofia Josefina Castelli and her Vittorio cousins. For the last ten years, Anaïs spent the summer months in Tuscany being mentored by Geovanni Vittorio. You see, Gifts run in their blood, and Sophia long ago read Anaïs’s fate in the cards. Anaïs is now ready to take her place as a Guardian.
When the shock produced by Anaïs abates somewhat, some consider she might aid in the rescue of little Giselle, and her mother if possible. This is how Anaïs and Lord Bessett come to board ship for Brussels…posing as man and wife.
The above is just a small sample of the exciting and complex plot of THE BRIDE WORE SCARLET. Danger, intrigue, and tension of more than one sort keep the action going at a fast clip. But character development is not neglected. Lord Bessett’s many layers are revealed as the story progresses. We come to know Anaïs more quickly, first as a child in the prologue, then as a woman trained in self-defense—among other arts—in the first chapters. One can only wonder if defense of her heart is as well developed.
The St. James Society was introduced in Ms. Carlyle’s previous novel, ONE TOUCH OF SCANDAL, as were several of the supporting cast. Of note are other members of the Fraternitas, including that earlier book’s hero, the Marquess of Ruthveyn, and heroine, Grace Gauthier; Ruthveyn’s sister, Lady Anisha; and the third founder of the St. James Society, Lord Lazonby. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend both of these fine works to you, then join me in anticipating the next installment, THE BRIDE WORE PEARLS, expected next year.