A Lady By Midnight by Tessa Dare (2012)
This story contains some great elements. Kate and Thorne are from a similar background and, in fact, fairly early in the book we learn that they met in the past. Thorne realizes that Kate doesn't remember and tries to protect her from memories that, if dredged up, could be upsetting to her. Meanwhile, the Gramercy family arrives with information linking Kate to their family. Kate is instantly taken with this colorful crew and wants more than anything to finally have a family, but should she trust their story? Why did they wait so many years to find her?
Kate was orphaned at a young age and if that's not enough to undercut one's sense of self-confidence out in the world, she was also graced with a port wine birthmark on her temple. Although she's self-conscious about her appearance, she strives in her role as music teacher to instill feelings of confidence in her students. Perhaps because of her modest beginnings, she reserves judgment about others who she is sure just want to be accepted and loved as she does. In this way she is able to overlook many characteristics deemed unsavory by polite society.
This is good news for Corporal Thorne, a coarse man with a dubious background that includes prison time. Never does he think he deserves the attention of someone like Kate, yet he has protected her interests for much longer than she realizes. Only through a great deal of coaxing - and some help from a dog named Badger - is he willing to open up to the possibility of romance. Although they are very different people, their shared background gave them enough in common that I found their relationship believable. Of course the depth of their passion was just as over-the-top as I would expect from a romance novel, peppered liberally with wanton sex for good measure.
I really was actually liking this fairly well until near the end when there is a confrontation and a melodrama, and Kate is treated as a piece of disputed property before the whole thing peters out in a less-than-believable way. It was silly that the whole debacle even occurred, but I got really, really annoyed that she was fought over as though she had no opinion in the matter when, in fact, she has given her opinion quite clearly, loudly, and repeatedly.
Although it was sort of saved by the final scenes and satisfying conclusion, I was soured enough by the penultimate events that I ended up giving the book only 2.5 stars. This may not be fair, as I was rating it when those parts were fresh in my mind; had the parts I disliked occurred earlier they may not have factored so heavily in my rating. To rectify things a bit, let me recommend this review which gives the an book A-. A Lady By Midnight was the third in the Spindle Cove series (but the only one I've read), and despite my issues it showed enough promise in general that I might be willing to try other books in the series.