The Phantom of London. Enigma Earl. The Greenwich Recluse.
Half of his face, shadowed by gold and brown whiskers, showed male perfection, but the other half, a bizarre pattern of scar lines and puckered flesh. Truly, staring at his face was akin to seeing a painting of two men, split down the middle. Lydia recoiled as much from the hot anger flashing in his eyes as from astonishment.
HE’S A MYSTERIOUS RECLUSE
Lord Greenwich is notoriously elusive. His tendency to hide his face in public and refusal to appear in London Society have even earned him some choice monikers, including “the Phantom of London.” Is he disfigured? Mad? Hiding something? With a reputation like that, no woman wants to get near the dark earl. And no one is more surprised than Miss Lydia Montgomery when she is betrothed to the earl in order to save her family from penury. But if Lydia wants a chance at happiness, she’ll have to set aside her fear of Lord Greenwich and discover the man hiding behind the beastly reputation…
Conkle's first Georgian romance is an awkward homage to the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Miss Lydia Montgomery is taken to a midnight meeting by her stepfather, where she is traded to the mysterious Lord Sanford, Earl of Greenwich, in exchange for the earl relieving her stepfather's debts. Sanford, outcast due to his facial scars and lurid reputation, feels he has no choice but to marry Lydia, "an honest, barely educated, commoner of some past disrepute," if he's going to beget an heir. Lydia, unafraid of Sanford's appearance or reputation, agrees to the arrangement and becomes intrigued by Sanford's mysteries, including his oddly familiar relationship with his gorgeous housekeeper and his research in his greenhouse of exotic plants. Though the novel is hauntingly atmospheric, the heroine's irrepressible and na ve curiosity is rather grating. Sanford's self-imposed deadline for marriage and conjugation feels artificial, as do the story's attempts to bring the pair together.