Darius Thorne is supposed to return to London to confer with the Jaded, but he hasn't yet made his appearance -- and his friends are expecting him and are wondering what is keeping Darius in Scotland.
On a snowy, winter's day, a horse jumps over Darius's hedge wall, and breaches Darius's sanctuary. And the horse brought along a young woman.
Darius doesn't recognize who she is but he knows two things: one, he needs to see to her and, two, she has a wedding band on her finger.
As Darius, his housekeeper, and the stable master all tend to their surprise guests, more pieces of the puzzle fall into place -- and Darius knows he must protect this woman at all cost.
Isabel wakes up and finds herself in a strange place -- stranger still because, for the first time in a very long time, Isabel feels safe. Knowing what her husband was capable of, Isabel refuses to involve her saviors in her problems and keeps her secrets to herself. She is content to be known as "Helen" and Darius invites her to consider his home her Troy.
It is an imperfect metaphor for an imperfect situation, for they both know what happens to Troy because of Helen -- but Darius is determined to change history for the sake of Helen.
Of the members of the Jaded, very little is known of Darius Thorne, who has been in Scotland since the start of the series. What we know of him come from the third-person accounts of his friends. This lends an air of mystery to Darius' character and, like Isabel/Helen, we are unsure of him and his temperament when we first meet him in Chapter 1.
But, like Isabel/Helen, we discover a quiet, gentle, incredibly intelligent man who is unaware of his appeal to the opposite sex. And, like Isabel/Helen, we fall in love with him as we spend more and more time with him.
But Darius isn't a man to mythologize or romanticize. He isn't a perfect being -- like the other members of the Jaded, he has lived with and continues to be haunted by the two years he spent in captivity in India. He prefers the solitude of his studies and loves the life he has found in Scotland.
He has ordered his life like a carefully set-up chess game -- until Isabel/Helen enters it and complicates his situation.
Like the game of chess, Darius doesn't see Isabel/Helen's move as a set-back but a challenge to be considered and he formulates new tactics for her sake. I love how Darius thinks -- he always thinks two (or three) steps ahead before he makes a move and I love how analytical he is.
Isabel/Helen has always seen herself as a pawn. As her father's only daughter, her duty was to make an advantageous marriage. As her husband's wife, she was expected to suffer in silence and follow her vows to be dutiful and obedient. Being with Darius taught her that she wasn't anyone's pawn -- that she was the Queen and the most powerful piece in the chess game of her life.
The course of true love never did run smooth* --
These are two characters that truly, truly deserve the love that they found. Unfortunately, it is a love that comes with so many strings attached to it. Isabel/Helen is married and she is married to a peer, who is also a powerful and well-connected man. And Darius knows he cannot aspire for someone like Isabel/Helen, who (like her mythological counterpart) is destined to be a queen, whereas Darius's backgrounds are painfully humble and poor -- and he bears the trauma of his time in India.
But love conquers all -- and Darius and his truly brilliant, tactical mind find their way to true love. And when they do, it is rapturous.
Renee Bernard has redefined what makes a hero and heroine heroic -- Darius and Isabel would have been content to live quietly -- but, when adversity came their way, they rose above themselves and faced the challenge bravely. Darius taught Isabel chess and taught her to find the power she has long kept suppressed. Isabel taught Darius the beauty and peace of a shared life.
Obsession Wears Opals is another winner from Renee Bernard. The final book in the series, Michael's story, Desire Wears Diamonds is coming soon! To find out more about Renee Bernard and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
*A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare