The Plot - Nora Thornegoode's mother always told her that her painting would get her in trouble. When Nora arrives at her first showing she is horrified to find that her "teacher" has painted a picture of her naked and informed the crowd that he is having an affair with her. Of course none of this is true but to society it doesn't matter Nora is damaged goods and her reputation is in tatters. Grayson Lowell is haunted literally by his brother Tom and his brothers wife Charlotte. After Tom had confessed to Gray that he had gambled away the entire Lowell fortune they had a terrible row - after which Tom's body turned up battered at the base of a cliff. Although Gray was determined innocent it is believed by most everyone that it did in fact kill his own brother and is little more than a cold blooded killer. Nora needs to marry to save her reputation and Gray needs to marry for money to make sure there is an earldom for his nephew Jonny to inherit. Nora's father quickly arranges for the two to be married. Although there is mutual distaste for the hasty reasons for their marriage both Nora and Gray accept there circumstances and find themselves quite fond of one another. This all changes when they leave for the Lowell estate in Cornwall. Grayson continually becomes more withdrawn and distant as he deals with the guilt over his brothers desk and the ghostly sightings become more frequent. Nora is confused unable to decide which Grayson is the real Grayson the one she spent her wedding night with or the cold, angry Grayson she is currently residing with. The two must unravel the mystery of Tom's death if they ever wish to have there happily ever after.
The Hero - Grayson is definitely tortured, he is wracked with guilt over his brothers death. He also feels guilty for the way he always treated Tom when they were growing up and the way he blew up at his brother when he came to him for help. However, you never get the feeling throughout the book that he actually murdered his brother. He is still a good man even with his quick temper. The only problem I had with Gray was his self-loathing got to be a bit much. The whole I'm a tainted horrible person and Nora deserves so much better argument got old after awhile - especially because really now that they were married what was she supposed to do? It's not like they could have gotten a divorce and she could have gone off and met someone else. If you really think she deserves better shape up and treat her better! Gray was the same way with his nephew Jonny - he feels so responsible for his Jonny not having a father that he leaves him in Cornwall to be raised alone by servants? Huh? The poor kid is so traumatized he hasn't spoken in a year and you think the best thing is to leave? Jeez, anyhoo other than that Grayson was your typical romance hero nothing about him really stood out but he fit with the story just fine.
The Heroine - Nora is a great heroine. She comes from "new money" and is not afraid to stand her ground and fight for what she wants. What she wants is the Grayson she made love to on her wedding night and she's determined to bring him back. Although, Grayson continuously tries to scare her away for her own good. Nora is able to think about what he's doing and trust her own instincts enough to know that he's not a cold blooded murder. There wasn't a lot of growth for Nora in this novel but she didn't really need to grow anyways. She came to Gray as a self assured and confident woman who didn't need a man to feel complete but who found a perfect partner in Gray.
What worked - The ghosts of Thomas and Charlotte were well drawn but not spooky. They were driven to save a Gray and Jonny and didn't do this by terrifying people but by appealing to them for help. I also really liked Jonny - your heart just bleeds for this poor little boy who has lost his mother and his father and has been left alone to be raised by servants. The mystery of what happened was also really well done. The author kept me guessing through the whole story. I would be so sure it was this person because of that reason and then three pages later it would be something else. I also didn't guess it before the end so that was a nice surprise.
What didn't - Gray's self sacrificing that did nothing but hurt other people. I was also a little disappointed it wasn't spookier. I thought this would be a good halloweeny type book and it wasn't really scary at all. Other wise I really enjoyed it.
Should you read it? This is really only the second gothic romance I've read and I've really enjoyed both of them but I'm not sure how this book stands up to the rest of the genre. The first book I read was far spookier than this one - even so I'd still recommend it as a very good historical romance.
One other note - I was quite excited after reading this book because right on the front it says "A Novel of Blackheath Moor" to a series whore like me this is gold a brand new fabulous series to read and considering this is the authors debut novel it's likely to only get better. Unfortunately, after visiting the authors website she has only published one other Blackheath Moor book and has moved on to a new series. It's unclear as to whether she will come back to this series but I find that very disappointing. I will check out the other series though.