This is a highly enjoyable, well written work of historical fiction laced with romantic suspense, written by Norah Lofts under the pen name of Juliet Astley. As with all of the author's work, it is redolent with period detail and well written. Copsi Castle, handed down from father to son since the time of William the Conqueror, is now in the hands of Sir Harald Copsey, a gently and kindly nineteenth century gentleman who adores his home. Magnus, his only son and heir, is cut from a different bolt of cloth.
Sir Harald Copsey has indulged Magnus over the years, overlooking his son's apparent extremes of behavior. When Magnus obsessively sets his mind upon marrying a local tenant farmer's daughter, sixteen year old Hannah Reeve, his father, initially appalled at his son's choice, overcomes his misgivings over the match. After all, beggars can't be choosy, and who would otherwise be induced to marry a madman? Sir Harald Copsey's desire for an heir in order to ensure that the line of inheritance is not broken and his estate does not escheat to the Crown, overcomes his better judgment, and he once again, indulges his son. Realizing, however, that his son's erratic behavior is problematic, Sir Harald hires Bolsover, a former pugilist, as a sort of keeper for his son.
In addition to Sir Harald's story, the book recounts the story of Hannah Reeve, the young woman who finds herself at a crossroad, when tragedy strikes her family. Their tragedy is such that, even though she has fallen in love with someone else, it acts as an inducement to her agreeing to marry Magnus Copsey, who has become obsessive about her, stalking her at every opportunity. Despite her misgivings and fear about marrying Magnus, she does so for the sake of her family. Her sudden elevation to the gentry, however, cannot recompense her adequately for what she is forced to endure.
The author has created a spellbinding story, laced with historical detail and peppered with interesting, three dimensional characters. It is a story that will keep its readers turning the pages until the very last. Those who like well-written novels of historical fiction, as well as romantic suspense, will most definitely enjoy this book.