Treason’s Gift is the fourth and last book in Belle’s series on the St. Barbe family of Wintercombe. Louise is heartbroken with grief and guilt after the premature birth and death of her first child and it takes a heavy toll on her once happy marriage. Shunned from the marriage bed, Alex hies it off to stay with his sister Phoebe in Bath and a chance meeting with an old lover available is too tempting for Alex to resist, although he soon comes to regret the affair. Will Charles’ mother Bab use her knowledge of the affair to destroy Louise’s love for Alex and permanently drive a wedge between the two?
Without Louise to share it with him, Alex has no desire to live at Wintercombe and leaves it to his cousin and heir Charles (the estate is entailed to the next male heir), sails for Holland and is soon embroiled in William of Orange’s plots to oust Catholic James II from England’s throne. Can Alex and Louise ever mend their emotional wounds and find happiness again? Can Charles contain his mad obsession with Louise and Wintercombe or will it lead to further treachery and murder?
While not up to the same standards as the first two in this series and might be a bit too much of a romance for some readers (Alex and Louise do smoke off the pages when they are together), I still enjoyed it a great deal. I never knew much about this period in England’s history, nor the events leading up to the “Bloodless Revolution” against James II and his Papist policies. Some of the retelling of the revolution was a bit dry – there was more telling than showing, but still interesting for history geeks like me. One very special treat was the way Belle managed to bring the Heron family and Goldhayes from her The Moon in the Water trilogy into this book – nicely done.
Belle is superb at peopling her novels with real characters and real settings appropriate for the time and place she puts them in, as well as the small details of day to day life and customs of the period. I’m very sorry this series has come to a close and I’ll have no more Pamela Belle novels to look forward to (she’s got a couple of fantasy novels but that’s not my genre). Sadly out of print but worth hunting down, I highly recommend this and the Moon in the Water trilogy for anyone interested in 17C England. The series in order,