Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak was my November library book from the Kindle lending library. This is a 2013 release.
Rachel's life has been hard. She lost a brother in the coal mine and then her father dies of a lung disease as a result of working in the mines. But, rumors have been swirling over the past two years that her father may have somehow been involved in a fire that killed the wife of the Earl of Druridge and her unborn child. The Earl himself was burned in an attempt to save her.
He also happened to notice a few priceless paintings had been stolen before the fire had started.
In order to remove the suspicion that he was responsible for setting the fire, since he may have had a good reason to be angry with his wife, he needs to find those paintings. That leads him to Rachel. She must know if her father was involved or not.
Rachel's mother is sick. With her young brother to look after, Rachel makes a deal with the devil and agrees to tell the Earl what he wants to hear if he will send a doctor to help her mother. Sadly, they are too late to save her.
Now things really are bleak for Rachel. The Earl's cousin, Wythe decides to make her life even harder. Soon Rachel's virtue and reputation are ruined and she finds her bookstore and her previous life over as the secrets both of her parents harbored come back to haunt her.
The miners really dislike the Earl due to the work conditions in the mine. They are plotting the formation of a union among other things that are also linked to Rachel and her father and the suspicion he was paid to start the fire.
Will the paintings be found in time to keep the earl from the gallows? Will Rachel and her brother be forced to stay in service or will the murderer be revealed?
I love Gothic romances and mysteries. I am so glad to see this genre coming back into view again. This book stuck to the "rules" of Gothic romance.
There was the imposing Blackmoor Hall, the innocent girl that finds herself in great peril, and the dark brooding hero that we don't know if we can fully trust in the beginning. The mystery of who started the fire and the motive behind it, the romance between Rachel and the Earl, all combined to make this a real page turner.
The author was true to the genre and also gave it a little facelift without compromise.
This book will appeal to those that enjoy historical romances, Gothic mysteries or historical fiction.
Over all a good solid A.