VELVET IS THE NIGHT
Elizabeth Thornton

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Zebra, January 2003 (reissue)
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

As a spy for American interests, French expatriate Adam Dillon returns to the country of his birth on a mission. Adam is the bastard son to the late Comte de Blaise and half brother to Philippe Duhet, a sadistic tyrant newly appointed commissioner at Rouen. As a young man, Adam was exiled to America by his father because of a dispute with Philippe. Since Adam bears a striking resemblance to his brother, he has agreed to impersonate Philippe and aide French refugees while his brother is secretly held prisoner.

When Adam takes Philippe's place he meets Claire Michelet, a beautiful young innocent who has entered an illicit arrangement with Philippe. Responsible for her younger brother and sister, Claire has assumed the last name of Michelet and agreed to become the mistress to the commissioner in exchange for safe passage to England. Adam in his role as Philippe falls under the spell of this beautiful young woman. After an initial forced seduction, he alternates between being a jealous and obsessed man to a man in love. Until he is betrayed by a letter, seemingly signed by Claire, that threatens to exposes his charade. The letter brings an end to Adam's mission and separates the lovers.

This novel is divided into two books. One takes place in France during the French Revolution and the second takes place in New York City. When Adam Dillon and Claire Michelet meet again in America they are given another opportunity to straighten out the misunderstandings and heal the wounds from their disastrous beginning.

I hate to rant but this was a tough review to write. The book had a number of things I deplore in a romance novel. The big one being, the hero gets so overcome with passion he forgets he is impersonating his despicable brother and forces himself on an innocent young woman. Plus, the lovers are separated for a portion of the novel, so the story stalls. Not to mention this story is based on a few too many contrivances. Before Adam Dillon leaves on his mission to France, his American father figure and business partner, John Burke, asks him to try to find an illegitimate daughter he fathered in France by the name of Claire Deveraux. When Adam arrives in France the very same Claire is trembling and waiting to give herself to him in payment for safe conduct for her family. It's just too coincidental. To finish off the tale, Adam never realizes she is his business partners' daughter until he finds her in New York City at the home of John Burke.

VELVET IS THE NIGHT is a reissue originally published in 1992 and the second novel of a French Revolution trilogy which begins with TENDER THE STORM. It is followed by CHERISHED, which is scheduled to be reissued in April. Elizabeth Thornton is a good storyteller, in spite of these overly coincidental events, and the novel is rich in historical detail. I've heard wonderful things about Elizabeth Thornton's books but this was my first story by this author and I don't think this title can be equal to the quality of her latest novels.

 

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