UNMASKED - Virginia Henley
Saint-Germain, France; Scotland; London, England - 1644 and 1657
The domineering Oliver Cromwell rules England and no one is happy, especially those of the royal Stuart court. Forced to bend to his will and adopt the less-than-luxurious lifestyle the Protectorate enforces - attending church three times a week, wearing dull garments, and having absolutely no fun whatsoever - London citizens are more than ready for their rightful monarch to be returned to his throne. Change is in the air, and Charles II lies in wait, forced into exile after the murder of his father, Charles I.
No one knows the hardship of exile in France better than Elizabeth "Velvet" Cavendish. Raised by doting parents, Velvet now wears ratty clothes that barely fit, and is able to eat only enough to stay alive, yet she lives in anticipation of her beloved monarch returning to the throne of England. Childhood friends, Velvet fondly recalls many good memories of the handsome Charles. She fell in love with the then prince and prayed that he would marry her; and even as she nurses her ailing mother, Velvet holds on to that one great wish - to marry the man of her dreams, Charles. Instead, she is betrothed to Robert Greysteel Montgomery, yet another friend to the Stuart prince.
With a stroke of luck, Velvet is able to return to her beloved England under the tutelage of a distant relation, Christian Cavendish, the Dowager Countess of Devonshire. Now Velvet may take up her rightful life as the daughter of an earl, and live accordingly. Velvet is quite beautiful and is sure to ensnare some rich gent into marriage, but one man stands in her way - Greysteel Montgomery, who has returned to England as well. Now a double agent, his greatest goal is to see Charles II back on the throne. Greysteel cannot believe his eyes when he sees Velvet again. He remembers the little hellion quite well, and is startled to see the girl has transformed into a stunningly sensuous woman. By God, he'll have her or die trying...
Oh what a tangled web we weave... Greysteel wants Velvet and will stop at nothing to make her his. Velvet cannot deny her passion for Greysteel, and that's when she becomes confused. Her head tells her she wants Charles, but her body cries out for Greysteel.
Virginia Henley's love for history shines in UNMASKED. Velvet is more than a match for Greysteel, and Greysteel is just the man to tame Velvet and show her that her passionate nature can be better used than in battles of will. Her time back on British soil is well spent, and Velvet becomes quite adept in attracting and seducing a man, particularly Greysteel. Although an innocent, Velvet is a quick learner and it's not long before she's matching his barbs word for word and enchanting him even more. Greysteel can see the softer side of Velvet and knows that her precociousness hides a gentler nature that many don't see. Greysteel will never forget that he wasn't Velvet's first choice, but can he make her his own before it's too late?
Fans will be interested to know that Velvet Cavendish is a descendent of the heroine of Ms. Henley's A WOMAN OF PASSION, Bess Hardwick; UNMASKED, however, stands alone very well. The Restoration period is brought to life by the talented pen of Virginia Henley. Many true-to-life historical characters make appearances, from Charles II himself, to Barbara Villiers, the woman who was arguably Charles's favorite mistress. Set against the backdrop of Charles appointment to the throne, Velvet and Greysteel's romance remains the main focus in UNMASKED. If not treated by a deft hand, they might have gotten lost in the muddle of historical facts and events that were added for a more vivid texture to this very colorful history. Some may call Virginia Henley's writing historical fiction, but the proof that this woman still loves the romance fiction genre is between the pages in UNMASKED.
Add UNMASKED to your fall reading list and prepare to be enthralled!
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