In Jamie Carie’s second novel (following her award-winning debut, SNOW ANGEL), a tormented man of English nobility and a faithful Quaker woman from “the colonies” wrangle deception, secrets and uncertainty during the regency period.
Drake Weston, Earl of Northumberland, has spent a lifetime in the midst of London society. On the surface, he is a strong and arrogant nobleman, catered to by servants, desired by women and envied by men. But he has been raised by a father he could never please, a father who used his dying breath to shatter Drake’s dream of becoming Duke and inheriting the riches and power associated with that title. When he attempts to regain his entitlement through deception, his plan goes awry, leaving him destitute and bound for America with a group of indentured slaves. As Drake fights for his life in the inhuman conditions of the ship’s hold, he also fights the demons that feast on the hatred he bears for his father and the evil secret that haunts his nightmares.
Serena Winter, eldest of a silversmith’s six daughters, deeply loves God and her family, but longs to add splashes of color to the browns and grays of her simple Quaker life. Unlike Drake, Serena’s life is rich in love, faith, compassion and the heartfelt understanding that she is a child of God. She expresses these emotions on canvas, using her artistic gift to release her innermost feelings. But she longs for something that eludes her, and finds it when she sets eyes on Drake, who, even in his half-alive state, unleashes a passion she has never known. In him she sees the excitement and adventure for which she has secretly longed, but in him also lies a darkness with the capacity to ruin lives and break hearts.
For the sake of the woman who calms his spirit and melts his heart, Drake tries to accept the Quaker way of life, even finding peace and moments with God amidst the turmoil still boiling within. A week into their marriage, Drake receives a letter from England. Without reading its contents, he and Serena flee to Pennsylvania’s wilderness. Tragedy awaits them there but also leads to a discovery of the letter’s contents. Once again Drake turns to his original deception to pursue his wealth and title, hoping to give Serena a better life. They sail to London, where Serena’s unpretentious ways are tossed into a sea of rich adornments and ostentatious social events.
The splashes of color she had desperately sought now rain down in torrents of extravagance as she gets caught in the hustle and bustle of high society, still struggling to understand her husband and the mysteries that surround him. Foggy answers unveil themselves in an unexpected conversation with Drake’s ex-lover and a long-hidden letter written by his mother before her untimely death. Armed with new information, Serena sets out on a journey to Bristol, where she hopes to bring more answers to light in an attempt to save her marriage.
Drake and Serena’s story goes far beyond romance to reflect two individual spiritual journeys. The age-old theme of good vs. evil is entrenched in Drake, who aches to break free of the darkness that often engulfs him. He vacillates between feeling God’s love and succumbing to the Devil’s lies, until an unexpected turn of events leads him to a soul-awakening conviction.
For Serena, the journey is less dramatic. Though her faith remains unshaken through the trials she faces with Drake, she often questions her choices. She wants to honor God and her husband, but finds herself in situations far outside her frame of reference. As uncertainty threatens to engulf her, she finds herself turning to God more than ever for guidance and the peace she left behind in her former life.
Rich in historical detail and colorful imagery, THE DUCHESS AND THE DRAGON keeps the reader intrigued as the multifaceted main characters move from setting to setting.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on April 1, 2008