For me, another reminder of the wonderful historical romance novels I used to read tons of in my late teens and early twenties.
It is a bit hard for me to summarize the characters and players in this book. Justine is a girl whose parents have passed away. Her mother re-married after the death of her father, and she became part of the Graven family. Once her mother dies, she is left in the care of her step-father, who doesn't care for her, and is also left at the mercy of the cruelty of her step-brother, William.
Her step-father's brother, however, does love the girl and takes her under his wing. She is treated kindly and as family by her Uncle's family. Her step-cousin, Brandon, is a bit of a "rake" and though he means no harm, is not progressing as an adult as his father thinks he should be. So he is sent to their sugar farm in Jamaica to learn about the family business and to grow up a bit.
On his return to his home of Wolfsgate, there is a shipwreck and he is presumed dead. His father passes away before knowing for certain than he is actually alive. In order to gain control of their fortune, Justine's step-father and step-brother take her to the hospital where Brandon is being "treated." They are actually controlling his "care", and force Justine to marry Brandon while Brandon is under the influence. Justine promises Brandon that she will not forget about him.
Forward two years later, whereupon a house servant and Justine have Brandon discharged from the hospital, clean him up, and work to detox him off the opiates that his uncle and cousin have caused him to become addicted to. What follows is the story of Brandon and Justine settling into marriage and rebuilding Wolfsgate, which had deteriorated due to the uncle and cousin's taking of Brandon's money.
This, as I said, has all the elements of the classic historical romances that many of us probably read. You have the couple "forced" into a marriage. You have the bad guy. You have the other woman who interferes and does her best to come between the couple. You have the mystery of the heroine's past. You have plot twists and turns. Supporting characters that keep you interested, whether they be kind friends, misinformed, evil.
At one point I found myself upset with Brandon and a little plan he formulated without telling Justine which I found to be a bit on the cruel side. Also, toward the end, Justine's complete willingness to let Brandon go because she felt she "wasn't good enough" - a bit aggravating. When the man you love tells you he loves you, I'm sorry - you are excited and happy. I found her self-sacrifice a bit irritating. BUT not the the detriment of the story.
A great read that was hard to put down; highly recommended for those of you who loved Kathleen Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey.