Raven’s Bride by Lynn Kerstan

ravbride

She tried to rob him. And then she stole his heart.

If a mysterious assassin gets his way, Ashton Cordell, the Earl of Ravensby, will die without leaving an heir. Five years ago, that assassin murdered the Earl’s wife and unborn child, and Ashton has dodged repeated attempts on his life since then. Now reclusive and wary, he takes no chances when two highwaymen attempt to rob him one dark night. Killing one of them, he takes the other prisoner, only to discover a beautiful and sharp-witted young woman beneath a robber’s hood.

Glenys Shea is at his mercy, and she knows it—even more so after her devoted young brother, an apprentice street thief, barges in to save her. Ashton quickly realizes that the pair are good-hearted and loyal despite following in the footsteps of their father—the robber Ashton killed. Glenys wins him over with her kindness, intelligence, and empathy for the tortured life he leads.

Together they concoct a scheme to lure the assassin to light, but as their plan progresses, danger lurks at every turn, and their growing love only serves to make the stakes even higher.

Rating: C+

This is a digital reissue of a book originally published in 1996.

Ashton Cordell, Earl of Ravensby has, for the past six years, been trying to find out who murdered his wife and unborn child – and who is out to deal him the same fate. As a matter of self-preservation, he has become a recluse, holed up in his ancestral home of Ravenrook, where he is constantly surrounded by a small army of bodyguards.

One night, his coach is held-up by highwaymen, and in the ensuing confusion, Ash shoots and kills one of them. The younger of the two men is taken for questioning – and discovered not to be a young man at all, but a young woman, and the dead man was her father. At first, Ash is convinced that the pair must have been hired to kill him, but when the girl’s brother arrives with more information, he realises his error.
This leaves Ash with rather a dilemma – what to do with the two young people? He comes to see that they’re decent and loyal, and finds he feels a degree of responsibility for them. He doesn’t want to hand them over to the magistrate – so he takes them in temporarily, with the idea of eventually sending them over to America to make a fresh start.

In the meantime, Glenys, who is independent, clever and shrewd, with a perennially sunny disposition – wants to know why Ash thought she and her father had been paid to kill him; in fact, wants to know why anyone would want to kill him. Ash is very reserved and doesn’t give much away, but it’s clear he’s rather a lost soul, and Glenys is doggedly determined to draw him out. More than anything, she wants to make him smile and bring him back from whatever dark place he’s been in for the past six years. Along the way, she falls head-over-heels for him, (of course) but doesn’t hold out any hopes that there can ever be anything between them. For one thing, he’s an earl, and she’s the daughter of an ex-soldier (although her mother was the daughter of a marquess), and for another, he’s drop-dead gorgeous and she’s plain and lacking in the most basic of feminine graces and accomplishments.

Raven’s Bride moves along at a good pace and is a well put-together story; and while the characterisation isn’t particularly deep, the two protagonists are likeable and attractive. Glenys is like a force of nature – she breezes into Ash’s life determined to help him (whether he wants it or not), which can admittedly be rather an annoying trait; but there’s something so good-natured and endearing about her that pulls her back from the brink of being annoying-as-hell. She is a natural optimist and is not easily cowed, and even when she faces setbacks, she puts them behind her and determines to move on. Ash is almost her complete opposite; he’s austere and reserved, and has been reactive rather than proactive over the last six years. Glenys shows him that, and convinces him that the only way he can be free of the threat hanging over him is to get out there and confront it, rather than waiting for it to find him. The identities of the villains are fairly obvious (well, one of them is), but that doesn’t detract from the story as a whole.

The romance is quite nicely done, although I wish we’d seen a little more of it from Ash’s point of view. Overall Raven’s Bride is a quick and entertaining romantic mystery that’s certainly worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time, although I’m not sure it’s something I’ll revisit.

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