Celia Fussell's father is dead, and she is reduced to the status of a poor relation in the house of her brother, the new baron, and his shrewish wife. A life of misery looms ahead.
But, no. There is hope. Deep in the Black
Forest, in the Great Duchy of Baden, stands Celia's inheritance. Among
fir trees so dark they almost look black, The Castle of Wolfenbach
rises. It is a fortress of solitude, of secrets, of old wounds and older
mysteries. But it is hers. And only one thing stands in her way: its
former master, the hermit, the enigma . . . the man she is obliged to
Comment: Although the first book I've read by the author wasn't exactly what I imagined, I still wanted to read more by her and got this book as well. I liked the blurb and the possibility it might be entertaining. And I wasn't wrong.
This story presents us Celia Fussell, a young woman who leaves her home in England to travel to a castle her late father bought in Germany in order to avoid living with her brother and annoying sister -in-law. She is supposed to marry the previous owners son if he's still unmarried to gain full ownership of the castle, otherwise in 4 months it will go to another owner.
In Germany, Celia finds everything she didn't expect, and most of all, a surly future husband who wants nothing to do with life and light and happiness...but with time, will Celia prove him wrong?
First of all, I was quite happy with the fact this historical takes place in Germany. Usually most historical books are set in England (writer's preference probably) so it was quite refreshing to read about descriptions of German landscapes and culture, even if only to create atmosphere. I was still quite entertained by it.
Well, this book was very good, in my opinion. I still think there were times when it was a bit obvious how certain things had to go on the way they did to make the story work, like how the villains were depicted and their motivations and how the romance had to take some time to develop and be believable. I think the need to follow certain "rules" in romance development were just a bit too out there to make it something subtle enough not to be noticed, but apart from that, I managed to enjoy reading the story and knowing the characters quite well.
I really loved the tone of the book, especially in the first half of the story, because I found it so funny and full of wonderful scenes, like when Fenris, Celia's intended husband, wanted to get rid of Celia and her older friend who is with her for a while to support her, and how epically he fails when Celia's friend proves to be an unexpected woman and kills rats on her own! I really laughed at those funny scenes. And there's more, cute scenes where we see Celia's inner confidence and how she isn't just a scared young woman, she has a heart of gold and she isn't pushed away easily.
The romance is quite good because not only they fall in love and we see it in small things all the time, but they grew up to be both more confident and to accept love for who they are. I liked how balanced they were in that aspect.
Celia was afraid of being alone until she was old but she found out that Fenris was honorable and worthy of love and perfect for her.
Fenris has had a terrible experience and he lost a leg during the war against Napoleon so he's afraid of rejection and has to deal with the experience of seeing people disgusted by his looks. It takes him time and lots of reluctance to accept Celia's love but int he end their relationship becomes true and it's the best lesson to learn, everyone can be worthy of love and there's a special person for everyone.
I liked how the villains' were dealt with. It's still complicated to really judge or to understand easily how that happened like that, but who knows what's inside the people around us, and it was good to see how Celia wasn't easily distracted and got her intelligence to work and realized what was in front of her wasn't as perfect as that and how Fenris wasn't the terrible person everyone said he was.
In the end, this book reads like one of those gothic novels, but in a much lighter tone and development. I think the sensitive issues were dealt with a lighter dose than what I thought it might, but it worked so I can't really complain, although a bit more character development might have helped with that.
Still, a good story and I intend to read more by the author in the future.