I wrote a review of A Lady Never Tells and A Gentleman Always Remembers, and now after what seems like forever, I am back to give you the deets on the final book in the series: An Affair Without End.
For those that don’t feel like reading the other review, here is a synopsis of the series so far. In Book 1, we meet the Bascombe sisters: Mary, Rose, Lily, and Camelia. Their parents were members of the British Aristocracy, who created a scandal by eloping to Gretna Green in Scotland and moving to the fledgling United States (the girls are all in their late teens and early 20′s, and since this book takes place in 1824, their parents must have settled in the US sometime around 1800–perfect timing, what with the creation of the first Alien and Sedition Acts under President Jefferson not long after that.). They did this because the girls’ mother was of a higher social status than their father (I believe he was the second son of a lower aristocrat and she was a member of one of the oldest families in England–the Talbots can trace their lineage straight back to 1066!), and her father would not approve of the marriage. However, when the youngest sister was only 12, their father died and their mother remarried the horrible Cosmo Glass, who was both lazy, relying on the girls to work in the pub that their father owned to make money, and a criminal, involved in such shady dealings as selling Rose to a man. After their mom dies, Mary takes her sisters off to England, hoping that their grandfather would take them in, but when they get to Stewkesbury House, they learn that he is dead and that their cousin, Oliver Talbot, is the current Earl. Fortunately, he believes the girls and agrees to become their guardian. By the end of this book, both Mary and Rose are engaged–Mary becomes involved with Sir Royce Winslow, Oliver’s step brother, and Rose agrees to marry the boy she had a tendre for before leaving America–leaving just Lily and Cam under Oliver’s protection. Book 2 focuses on Fitz Talbot, Oliver’s half-brother, and Mrs. Eve Hawthorne, the widow Oliver hires to help guide Cam and Lily into English society, a job Eve has trouble with simply because she cannot control her feelings for Fitz. In the end, Fitz and Eve get engaged as does Lily and Fitz’s friend, Neville Carr.
An Affair Without End picks up where the second book leaves off. It is about two months since Fitz and Eve have married and Lily and Neville have gotten engaged, causing Cam to feel left out. As a result, she leans on her friend, Vivian Carlyle, more than she did in the previous books. Vivian has known the Talbots for as long as she can remember, and she has never really had a problem with any of them, even though Oliver can be somewhat of a stuffy prig, so she has no trouble hanging around Stewkesbury House. However, she has never been around Oliver as much as she has been over the last several months, and after stumbling on a jewel theft as they leave a ball, she ends up spending even more time with him in order to solve the puzzling mystery.
At first, Oliver doesn’t want anything to do with Vivian’s latest escapade, but he quickly found himself being drawn in as well as being drawn to Vivian, whom he always saw as being a “carrot haired hoyden”. Not long after joining her “investigations”, he is surprised by Vivian’s proposition: a no strings attached affair. She never planned to marry (and being 28, she was unlikely to catch a husband) and she knew that he planned to marry an “appropriate” woman, which she was not. Oliver balks at first, but eventually gives in for he cannot keep away from her.
Aside from Oliver and Vivian’s romance, there was a minor sub-plot involving Cam’s first season and her belief that she will never marry because she just does not fit in with the proper British society. However, once she meets Gregory Carlyle–Vivian’s brother and a future Duke–she is almost immediately in love, and luckily for her, so is he.
By the end of the book, all 4 (Oliver, Vivian, Gregory, and Cam) as well as Fitz and Eve are involved in uncovering the jewel thief and a murderer. Everything, of course, works out for the best, and both couples end up engaged.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book (it took me less than 36 hours to read), however, some of the questions that I had from the first book are still left unanswered. One of my biggest problems with A Lady Never Tells was that there was very little time spent in the mind of Sir Royce, making it hard to know what he was feeling. One thing that we did know was that there was something causing a strain in his relationship with Oliver. I hoped that because Oliver would have his own book that we would find out what was causing the tension between the step-siblings. Unfortunately, that never happens–probably because Sir Royce and Mary never appear in the book (neither does Rose–understandably since she sailed back to the US with her husband before the 2nd book began–, and Lily was only in a few scant scenes).
While I wish there was more time spent on Oliver’s relationship with his brothers, I still liked the book, and I felt that this was the hottest pairing of the series, probably because Vivian and Oliver were so different from each other and because the staid earl had to let his hair down (figuratively speaking). In the other books, he is depicted as being this very stern figure, who put a lot of stock in his familial duties. Even though this is still very much a part of his personality, we finally get to see him have some fun–he even gets into a fight while engaging in some subterfuge with Vivian!
My only other problem with this book was that very little time was spent on the development Cam and Gregory’s relationship. I found it hard to root for them as a couple because they did not even meet until more than half way through the book, and even once they met they spent almost no time together. I understood their reasons for liking each other, but it was hard for me to understand why Gregory was chomping at the bit to propose (or why Cam was anxious to say yes, for that matter). Compared to the time spent of Lily and Neville’s relationship in the second book, Cam and Gregory were short changed.
Overall, I would rate An Affair Without End as a solid B+/A-. Candace Camp novels will always be a guilty pleasure for me, and I have absolutely no regrets in saying that.