True Love Through Life’s Thorns
Love triangles, love rectangles and what seem to be love parallelograms build The Briar and the Rose, a Regency era romance toward the Celtic Knot of Love that we anticipate.
An “Auld Gaelic” tale features Séamus and Mairéad in their heart break tragedy. A dramatic briar and rose lovers knot at their graves has similarities in the sad, long popular ballad, “Cruelty of Barbara Allen.” Séamus is betrothed to Áine, but loves Mairéad, a girl of the village and below him socially.
Devan, Marquess of Castlereagh and Raven, a homeless woman hired on as maid at Devan’s manor house, Dahlingham, seem to be star-crossed in their ‘thorny’ relationship, just as Seamus and Mairéad were the combination of Briar and Rose.
The story’s twists and turns move through Love Geometry building a Celtic Knot of adventure for a truly surprise ending.
Regency Era Romance for the Irish Lovers
Devan, haunted by the loss of his true love, Katherine, to merciless fire, intends to live a solitary life. His nightmares relive every night the disastrous fire which destroyed his home and killed his beloved Katherine. His title and riches are savagely pursued by a neighboring lord and his self-centered daughter, Priscilla. Priscilla arrogantly sees herself as Lady of Dahlingham regardless of Devan’s desires.
Raven has no memory of her life before being found as a broken beggar on the Castle property. She doesn’t know her name, but because of the raven black curls of her hair, she’s been given the name, Raven.
When Devan first sees Raven, in her baggy servant’s dress, cutting garden flowers for the house, her stunning black hair and face remind him of Katherine. He sends Mrs. Captain, his housekeeper, to bring the girl to him.
After the first meeting, the nightmares begin to change. Katherine’s cries for rescue no longer pursue him. A woman rides a huge, white horse through his nights. Sometimes she is a raven haired beauty, sometimes her tresses are flowing scarlet.
Devan issues orders for Raven to be moved from servant to guest in his house. His justification is that they do not know who Raven is as she cannot remember anything. Perhaps she is a member of the aristocracy and has people looking for her. He will have her treated well until her memory recovers and her true identity revealed.
As Devan is ordering new, stylish Empire-waisted frocks for Raven, she and Mrs. Captain are suspicious of his intentions. Raven suspects Devan and makes the first move to refuse to be his mistress. “I’ll not be earnin’ my livin’ on me back!” Mrs. Captain suspects Raven as a gold-digger and warns her off.
The stage is set for sparks to fly at every encounter as Devan and Raven move toward one another in magnetic attraction.
Entangled Lovers — Past and Present
Nightmares and sleep walking bring out their connection with Séamus and Mairéad. The two lovers from long ago recall their circumstances and act out their lives in the bodies of Devan and Raven.
Paranormal elements become most active in the story as history repeats itself. (Repetitive history is why we enjoy historical romance!)
Séamus and Mairéad were star crossed over one woman — Áine, who is comfortable in her entitled engagement to Séamus. Their families have long planned on this union. She seems to drop from their story when Séamus sickens to dying, begging for Mairéad to come to his bedside.
Devan and Raven have Devan’s longtime friend, Victor and the true gold-digger, Pricilla to deal with. Victor proves to be a better friend than expected. Priscilla is a caricature woman, truly obnoxious and offensive. Readers have NO problem cheering for her defeat!
Paranormal events during sleep time increases the tension between Devan and Raven. The woman on the white horse who haunts Devan’s nightmares becomes more clear — sometimes she is a red-haired stranger (Mairéad) and sometimes Raven. He also dreams of a young man writing in his journal about the woman he loves. The journal is placed in an old iron box, then buried under a rock…where?
Raven’s paranormal experiences are trans-like as if sleepwalking. She leaves the castle at night to walk to a nearby traveler encampment to encounter but always resist a man who resembles Séamus. She resists until he becomes Devan in reality on one dramatic, passionate night.
They are a pair of dreamers being led to find the buried journal. They are lead again to visit the graves of Séamus O’Lionaird and Mairéad with the entangled rose and briar vines which form a knot. Upon waking up, Devan and Raven realize that their dream characters have a message for them. But they do not see the depth of the ‘possession.’
There is an awakening when they recall that Devan’s mother’s maiden name was O’Lionaird. Further tracking reveals that Séamus was an ancestral uncle of Devan’s.
Regency Era and before — Nannies are Protective Caregivers
Úma, a ‘mincier’ from the travelers and caregiver in the times of Mairéad and Séamus, is the messenger to ‘real world’ of Devan and Raven. She appears to both Raven and Devan until no longer necessary. Her intention is to protect Mairéad’s wandering spirit to find peace. Úma sends Devan back to the journal over and over.
Mrs. Captain, housekeeper at Dahlingham, was first nursemaid to Devan when he was an infant. Her daughter, Collette, was Devan’s childhood playmate. Collette was the person who found Raven as a beggar. The two young women become close friends and protective of one another. Raven was permitted to choose her own personal maid, choosing Collette.
At first, Mrs. Captain is hostile toward Raven being protective of Devan. As the story moves forward, Mrs. Captain becomes an ally, caring for Raven just as she cares for the master.
Regency Romance Entanglements
Even when the pair realize that they are part of a love knot and know that they love one another, they don’t see themselves as the intended pair. Their interpretation keeps including Victor and Priscilla.
Devan is certain that Victor must be the representation of Séamus in a love triangle. Devan determines to suffer his life out, making way for Victor to be with Raven. Victor, who has always been a playboy, seems to be pretty clueless.
Raven is sure that her servant-level in society makes her undesirable compared to Priscilla, the daughter of Lord Coushite. She is as determined to get out of Devan’s way as he is bent on being sure she has freedom to choose Victor.
Both Raven and Devan will make moves to insure the future of the one they love.
The Grand Ball Changes Everything
Devan, dressed in his velvet trimmed tailcoat and smooth new trousers, stood greeting his guests. Everyone assumed this ball would be the stage to announce his engagement to bright Priscilla Coushite. He is nearly physically ill at the smothering, entitled way she clings to him.
Victor is equally well-dressed as he escorts Raven to the ball. She has asked him to grant her a massive favor by marrying her as soon as possible.
Raven, Priscilla and all of the other women have looked forward to this ball. Their new, diaphanous silken gowns shine like brilliant, but delicate jewels about the ballroom.
During the ball, Victor becomes the hero of this part of the story. He counsels his friends, Devan and Raven to come clean with one another. Victor isn’t clear on the part that the spirits of Séamus and Mairéad play in this, but tells his friends not to be foolish and lose the true loves of their lives.
Devan makes the significant decision to stop the connection to the two sad lovers from the past. When engagement announcement time comes, he introduces Raven as his bride-to-be, much to the shock of his guests.
The happy days at Dahlingham begin. Mairéad and Séamus are quiet, Úma is at peace and they are only memories for Devan and Raven.
As two children are added to the little family, Devan decides to spend a season in London. Will the ‘haut ton‘ accept Raven…a ‘jumped up’ servant turned Lady Castlereagh?
Creative Author Makes The Season Bright
That trip to London opens the door to the very biggest twist that you could ever imagine. You will have to read this book to learn more about the revealing trip to London!
Laura Mills-Alcott writes an elegant story of the Regency times of society. Extremely disciplined behavior and judgmental attitudes were a part of this era and generations before. There were the Served and the Servants and never the two should mix! The author explains in the beginning of the book how she was inspired by Dolly Parton’s rendition of the folksong, Cruelty of Barbara Allen — the video of that performance is linked below. The Barbara Allen story and various versions have been around for centuries. Barbara Allen Broadside image showing the lyrics was published in the late 1600s.
I liked an aspect of The Briar and The Rose that has little to do with the plot, writing about this earlier in Turnin’ Pages for December. Mills-Alcott wrote TWO versions. This review is written for the PG version. The other version is slightly more sensual where, as the author explains, the bedroom door is NOT closed. I found there to be no loss to the story with her excellent edits. Readers can learn more about Laura Mills-Alcott at her Amazon page.
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