The Rival, by Brenda Joyce

Cover ImageFinished 3-6-09, rating 3/5, historical romance, pub. 1998

“Lionel was fourteen when he died.  It is impossible to say how he might look now, at the age of twenty-eight,” Garrick said

“Did Lionel die?”  The earl whirled from where he stood at a window.  It was raining yet again outside, and the gardens were shrouded in a wet mist.  “He vanished.  Without a trace.  Into thin air.  Or so you claimed.”

Chapter 12

It is 1760, West Sussex and Garrick De Vere  is a man set to become heir to his father, the earl of Stanhope.  As a child his older brother vanished and was long presumed dead.  After ten long years of banishment to Barbados, Garrick is summoned home to take his rightful place in society.  But society, and his fiance, view him as a murderer.

Lady Olivia Gray is married to hateful man and lives in seclusion at their country estate with her blind daughter.  They both have the gift of sight, able to see the future, see ghosts.  Olivia knows Garrick is innocent and the minute the two meet sparks fly.

After ten years, Garrick’s older brother and rightful heir, Lionel, returns home to take what is his.  But is it really Lionel?  Garrick doesn’t trust him although both of his parents welcome the prodigal son with open arms.

This is a different kind of romance.  First, the heroine is a married woman and the husband, although abusive, is still in the picture.  The typical sexual tension and falling in love pretty much takes place in the first third of the book.  The rest is about Lionel and finding a way to be together.  There are many subplots and characters that keep the story moving forward and they somewhat overshadow the love affair.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but unexpected.

I love Brenda Joyce, but this book fell a little short of her standard.  For me, the love story ended too soon and Garrick was not the greatest hero.  Also, there are many characters to dislike in this book, and none of them really get their due in the end.  I was excited to see who this Lionel really was and I really wanted Olivia’s husband and sister-in-law to be exposed for the awful people that they were. 

Overall, it was an interesting story, but not one I’d recommend.  Brenda Joyce has written so many books, but this may have been my least favorite so far.  But, to be fair,  I hold her to a higher standard.

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