Bear No Malice
Beaten and left for dead in the English countryside, clergyman and reformer Tom Cross is rescued and nursed back to health by Miranda and Simon Thorne, reclusive siblings who seem to have as many secrets as he does. Tom has spent years helping the downtrodden in London while lying to everyone he meets, but now he’s forced to slow down and confront his unexamined life.Miranda, a skilled artist, is haunted by her painful past and unable to imagine a future. Tom is a welcome distraction from her troubles, but she’s determined to relegate him to her fantasy world, sensing that any real relationship with him would be more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, she has sworn to remain devoted to someone she’s left behind.When Tom returns to London, his life begins to unravel as he faces the consequences of both his affair with a married woman and his abusive childhood. When his secrets catch up with him and his reputation is destroyed, he realizes that Miranda is the only person he trusts with the truth. What he doesn’t realize is that even if she believes him and returns his feelings, he can’t free her from the shackles of her past.
After a promising opening, this tepid historical from Harwood (Impossible Saints) loses momentum. Early one morning in October 1907, clergyman Tom Cross wakes up in a London hotel room next to his mistress, Julia Carrington, and decides to end their scandalous relationship. Tom makes his excuses to Julia before heading off to visit the sick at London Hospital in Whitechapel. After leaving the hospital late that night, he gets into a cab and falls asleep. When he awakes, he's on a remote country road, where he's soon set upon by three men and left unconscious. He's rescued by siblings Miranda and Simon Thorne, who take him into their Surrey cottage and nurse him back to health. Tom conceals his true identity from them, even as he finds himself increasingly attracted to Miranda, an aspiring artist. He feels even more conflicted when he learns that she has had an aversion to men of the cloth since having a mysterious and unpleasant experience with one when she was younger. Harwood gradually pulls back the curtain on Tom's own past, which may hold the answer to the mystery of why he was assaulted. Routine plotting and character development make it hard for readers to care much about the goings-on.