Book of the Week: The Lord’s Inconvenient Vow by Lara Temple

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One of the most beloved speeches in romance novels is in As You Desire by Connie Brockway. The hero says to the heroine with anguish and passion: “You are my country. My Egypt. My hot, harrowing desert and my cool, verdant Nile, infinitely lovely and unfathomable and sustaining.”

This is the same heart-wrenching emotion I kept feeling from the protagonists as I read The Lord’s Inconvenient Vow. Their love for Egypt and each other is immeasurable and without beginning or end. They exist because they are each other’s home.

Lady Samantha “Sam” Carruthers (née Sinclair) is blessed with an impulsive, irrepressible nature, which Lord Edward thinks is irresponsible and childish. All throughout her childhood, Sam visited her mother’s cousin in Egypt often and was frequently found making sketches of the antiquities.

Captain Lord Edward Edgerton “Edge” is the younger son of the Duke of Greybourne. Edge’s nature is serious and contemplative, which Sam thinks is stiff-necked, stuffy and stodgy. At the age of six, Edge was banished by the duke to his uncle and aunt in Egypt, where he learned to love the people and the antiquities.

Ever since childhood, Sam and Edge have been in each other’s company, she plaguing and teasing him, he scolding and berating her. But under their levity, ran a current of serious intent, awareness and care. They trusted each other. They had each other’s back. They understood each other like no one else could. And eight years later, they realize that time has not banished their regard for each other, despite their marriages to other people. They meet again in Egypt, the place where all their good memories are etched on their hearts, and discover that they are — still — uncomprehendingly attracted to each other. Both are now widowed and searching for a place to put down roots, to build a family…to have that one person in their life who they trust completely, who makes their soul sing.  

Finding that all thoughts lead to Edge, Sam decides that nothing will change unless she takes destiny by the hand. “Do something,” she tells herself. And so she does…by proposing to Edge. He is astounded. But she is likewise astounded when he accepts with alacrity. And so they are married.

Edge has been secretly writing children’s books based on Egyptian stories for a number of years now, and that has saved his soul through his unfortunate first marriage and the death of his beloved son. His deepest wish is to be a great author, but he also wants to preserve his privacy at all costs, so he writes under a pseudonym. He is well aware that Sam is the illustrator of his books, but she doesn’t know that he is the author. He feels that he is under no obligation to break his vow of guarding his identity, but he is nagged by guilt that he is not divulging his secret to Sam, now, his wife. Despite that, longstanding reluctance makes him drag his feet.

Secrets always have a way of involuntarily revealing themselves for maximum negative impact. When Sam finds out, she feels intensely betrayed. Despite all their childhood bickering and their first marriages, one thing had been her lodestar: her trust in him. Now that that has been sundered, she is adrift in uncertainty. How Temple reconciles Edge and Sam and repairs their relationship is where the magic of her storytelling shines. 

While there has always been an unbreakable bond between them forged by an instinctive understanding of each other, their companionship has changed as they’ve grown and the years apart mean that they have to learn each other anew. Thus old memories are now interwoven with new discoveries of each other to build a scaffold of trust.  

I was charmed by the whimsical story of the old Egyptian gods that one of the sheikhs of the desert weaves for Edge and Sam, comparing them to the earth god and sky goddess. It becomes a unique part of their courtship, one they embody and subsume within themselves because it appeals to all that is Egyptian in them. The writing in these scenes is breathtaking — the imagery, the words, the word-painting…

The setting is superbly done. You get a good sense of the country and culture of Egypt at the time of British Imperialism in the Regency era. I liked that Temple showss her English characters to be respectful of and have great affinity for the people, culture, religion, language, lands and treasures. Egypt was home to them, where they were most themselves, and, yet, they trod there lightly, ever cognizant that they were guests. This is such a contrast to reality that it is notable how Temple handles it.

Harlequin Historicals has been putting out wonderful historical stories in recent months, and Lara Temple is a noteworthy author on their list. I have greatly enjoyed the books of hers that I have read, and this one is no different. She writes well-researched novels with passion and sensitivity, creating stories that touch your heart and make you tear up and sigh in satisfaction.

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