For the past seven years, since she was but sixteen, Alyssa has served Lord Dillon, the Earl of Westcott, as his wisewoman and healer without the man being aware that 'tis not the wisewoman that had served his father and his father before him that hides under the umbral robes...Then, acting out of love for the man, Alyssa makes the ultimate sacrifice, healing his mortal wounds, ending at Death's door herself. In order for him to save her, Dillon removes her robes and discovers her deception...
But instead of taking offense, he gains much, much more.
Ms Duvall was a new-to-me author, and I must say my first foray into her "world" didn't disappoint. That's not to say the story was perfect—far from it, but the flaws didn't completely overshadow the strengths. The premise, despite this particular plot device being rehashed over and over throughout the history of literature, was solid, and the initial few chapters (before the big reveal) offered some great character development, and good, steady pacing.
Unfortunately the pacing slowed down drastically after Alyssa's robes came off, and the story started suffering from "overstuffing". A redundant scene here and there, a dialogue or inner monologue (mostly about how to overcome the many obstacles on the road to happiness) too many and you quickly end up with a bogged down story that reads like you're trying to waddle through thick mud...
And there was definitely too much angst in the second half of the book. Legitimate angst (to a degree) about a problem that ended up being solved too easily. I felt a little cheated when everything ended up nicely tied in a bow. After all the angst and drama, it felt too sweet and rather sugary the way it ended.
But still, the story was solid, the writing and narrative style was good, the use of "Old English" wasn't much of an issue once I passed chapter one, and the characters were well-developed, incorporated nicely into the story and working very well together as an ensemble.
It could've done with a little more editing to weed out the unnecessary stuff, but overall, it was a very enjoyable read.