David Frampton, heir to the family fortune and position, has guarded his heart for years. But then he spots beautiful Phaedra Chancellor. Could he actually find love at his own father’s funeral?
British novelist Montefiore (The Mermaid Garden, 2011, etc.) sets her latest romance in Hampshire, England. In their Jacobean mansion, Antoinette Frampton weeps over the sudden death (while extreme skiing in the Swiss Alps) of her beloved husband, George, the patriarch of the family. Her open display of grief arouses only contempt from her icily dignified mother-in-law, the Dowager Lady Frampton. Yet, the dignity of the day itself implodes with the stunning news that Phaedra has come all the way from Paris to deliver. With encouragement from the rather unctuous Julius Beecher, George’s lawyer, Phaedra announces that she is George’s illegitimate daughter from a liaison preceding his marriage to Antoinette. To the shock of avaricious daughter-in-law Roberta, Phaedra further reveals that George has rewritten his will not only to include her, but also to present her with the fabulous family sapphires. Bombs dropped, the fallout brings each character’s weakness into relief—from Antoinette’s insecurities about George’s love to Lady Margaret’s fear of emotion to youngest son Tom’s tightly locked grief. Roberta remains suspicious, however, and begins to investigate Phaedra’s past. Yet, Phaedra becomes the catalyst to heal deep family rifts. Even snooty Roberta eventually melts under her kindness. Uneasily, Antoinette notices David and Phaedra growing ever more attracted to each other, despite their bloodlines’ frustrating any hope for love. All is not as it appears, however, and love can never be counted out of the equation. The book is filled with glamorous characters discreetly hiding their emotions and motivations. The mystery of Phaedra Chancellor winds up tame rather than sensual, predictable rather than shocking.
Often clichéd and sometimes simply leaden prose smothers this tale.