I've previously read Heather Boyd's Wicked Mourning
and was impressed with the freshness of her vision and storytelling. It was short but made an impact.
This is my first full-length Heather Boyd novel.
Engaging the Enemy has an interesting premise:
Mercy is helping Leopold Randall, a man who is a threat to her son's heritage and title. Leopold doesn't want the position as heir but desperately needs Mercy's help to find his missing siblings.
Mercy isn't certain what to think of Leopold -- is she putting herself and her son at risk by allowing Leopold into their lives? Her sister, Blythe and her "friend" Anna seem to think so --
But there is something about Leopold that calls to Mercy.
Leopold was not prepared for the welcome he received from the Duchess. Having been banished years ago, he has come home for one purpose -- and that is to bring his family back together.
But it proves difficult as there are no letters or notes or clues to his siblings whereabouts. Then there are the other matters that Leopold has to attend to:
- the estate is in disarray, the tenants are dissatisfied, and Mercy is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of managing such a large estate.
- threatening letters and dead animals have been left around the estate for Mercy and she is frightened for herself and for her son
As Leopold and Mercy work together to uncover the truths of the past, they discover more than what they have bargained for.
There are a lot of good elements in Heather Boyd's novel: I was rooting for Leopold and kept on reading to find out how he would find his long-lost siblings.
The threats to Mercy was also nicely done but I wish Boyd made it more sinister -- and I kept wondering who was the true enemy of the Randalls and the House of Romsey.
Then there are the weak points:
Some of the characterizations felt a bit odd:
I especially did not like Mercy, who didn't seem to be a clearly-drawn heroine and her dialogue felt a bit flat. Her eyes always seemed to be wide -- and that seems to be the extent of her reactions.
(Read Chapter 3, when Mercy meets Leopold for the first time and he tells her who he is.)
Her reactions sometimes felt inappropriate.
Randall kept silent, lips pressed tight together. His expression unreadable. After a long moment, his jaw unclenched. "He claimed it was an accident."
"The old duke wrote a short note to the school so they might inform my brother and me of our orphaned state."
Mercy blinked. "Oh, that was kind of him." And utterly impersonal.
- Chapter 5, Location 862
Blythe's personality from Chapter 1 to the latter chapters changed abruptly with no impetus for such a change.
Blythe as doting aunt:
"Aunty Bly, Aunty Bly," Edwin called as he ran across the room, all arms and wildly swinging legs. "Did you not go home today?"
Blythe dropped her books and scooped Edwin up into her arms. "There you are my little duke. How could I leave you for long?"
- Chapter 2 (location 382 on the Kindle)
Blythe as venomous sister:
"No. You are forgetting yours. Is it necessary for you to behave like a bitch in heat because a man has visited your home? ..."
- Chapter 10, location 1580
"You shall bring scandal and shame down upon us all. Mark my words, young Edwin will be murdered in his bed late one night... He will take everything you own, make you a slave in his bed, and throw you out when he's had his fill of you."
- Chapter 10, location 1601
The relationship between Mercy and Leopold also developed a bit too suddenly -- with very little mention of attraction. One minute they are investigating a room, the next they are kissing --
I had hoped to see a story that was multi-layered, a story that I could peel back one by one and discover a bit more each time --
The best part of the story was the last third -- when the secrets of the former Dukes of Romsey were both discovered.
I look forward to reading the next installment -- I hope Leopold finds his brother and sister.
Disclosure: I won this copy in a giveaway.