This is classic Mills & Boon and classic Violet Winspear. The heroine, Faye, is an English girl living in Portugal. She stumbles across a fairytale castle, and lo! it’s owned by her schoolfriend’s devastatingly sexy uncle, and her schoolfriend is holed up there as a recluse because she had a riding accident which left her with a scar on her cheek. So Faye stays to try and restore her friend’s confidence, while her uncle does what older, devastatingly sexy uncles do in vintage romance novels. (Hint: it’s not fishing or playing golf).
“When a man finds himself alone with a girl he becomes aware of primitive instincts that have little to do with his upbringing, his position in life, the rules he obeys at other times. He possesses the strength to crush all resistance in a slim reed of a girl… he knows his power to ignite responses she has never dreamed of.”
Disappointingly, the Conde Vicente de Rebelo Falcao (I don’t know if this means “Rebel Falcon”, but there are endless references to his “falcon-gold eyes”) manages to control his primitive instincts very well. He doesn’t even kiss the “nut-brown” heroine (she gets this epithet even more frequently) until the penultimate page.
I enjoyed this book greatly, even if I found myself physically rolling my eyes at least once. There’s plenty of classic stereotyping of Latin lovers: “He had the Latin gift for verbal imagery” “a dangerous light burning in the eyes above the Latin prow of a nose” “a Latin eye for what was beautiful” “his enigmatic Latin moods” but the Conde himself won’t stop pontificating about how “Latin” men comport themselves in matters of love: “the mystery of woman fascinates the Latin” “the Latin knows that to enjoy the companionship of a woman a man must be like a duellist” “I do assure you that my fiery Latin impulses are completely under control at the moment”.
“Mercilous warnings” flicker in his eyes and his teeth glint and so on. All in all it’s marvellous stuff.
There is an Evil Other Woman, and we know she is the Evil Other Woman because at one point she is heard giving a “trill” of laughter. However, she doesn’t get much more than a token role.
Winspear fans and classic Mills & Boon/Harlequin fans will find plenty to enjoy.