The Virgin Who Vindicated Lord Darlington by Anna Bradley
In this gothic romance, Cecilia Gilchrist is sent by her mentor to look into the guilt (or innocence) of Lord Darlington, or as he’s known in Society, The Murderous Marquess. Shocking rumours are flying about what happened to his wife, and since the marquess has proposed to another innocent young lady, it’s Cecilia’s job to determine whether his prospective bride is in danger.
The locals are in absolute terror of Darlington Castle, with an apparition they call the White Lady being seen on multiple occasions. The marquess, however, isn’t what Cecilia expects. He’s a man in obvious grief, and one devoted to his little niece Isabella - who nobody mentioned before either.
Cecilia is posing as a housemaid, and Gideon sees through her pretence right from the beginning. He is, however, somewhat desperate for staff, so allows his housekeeper to keep her on. Soon enough Isabella has attached herself to Cecilia and the deal is sealed.
There’s a curious little subplot with a cat who apparently only Cecilia ever sees (and I’m not sure what actually happened to the cat at the end of the story, either) and secret passageways in the walls of the castle - well, it is a gothic romance! The truth, when Cecilia uncovers it, is actually genuinely heartbreaking; I truly felt for Gideon who has lost far too much at the hands of someone clearly deranged. Cecilia’s kind nature made her a perfect match for him and I was quite invested in their happy ending.
I do like a good gothic romance: it combines two of my favourite genres, historical romance and romantic suspense, and this is a fine example. This is the first book I’ve read from this series but I’ll definitely be looking for more of them. Five stars for an engaging, enthralling read.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.