Even though their choice led to a life of virtual poverty, Sacha Waverley's parents, a vicar and the daughter of a noble family, married for love, and Sacha hopes to do the same. Sacha's selfish, look-a-like cousin, Deidre, comes to Sacha with an unusual request to take her place at the bedside of her injured fiancée, the Duke of Silchester, so that she might go to a party with another man. Sacha feels she cannot refuse without risking her father's position which provides their only income. Secretly, she travels north to Scotland, where she sits with the temporarily blinded Duke, keeping him company and gently nursing him, body, mind and spirit. The couple slowly begin to fall in love, but soon Sacha must return home and allow Deidre to retake her rightful place in his life. Sacha's heart breaks at the knowledge that the Duke is the man of her dreams yet also the one she can never have, but an unexpected request from the Duke may unintentionally bind Sacha to him forever.
I've always been a sucker for fairy tale re-tellings, and Light of the Gods mixes two popular tales, The Prince and the Pauper and Cinderella. It begins with a poor young woman who trades places with her rich look-a-like cousin, and then falls in love with her cousin's fiance, a wealthy handsome duke. The narrative is entirely from the heroine's perspective and relies heavily on dialog and introspection to tell the story. There aren't many environmental details and no real action to speak of since the hero is confined to bed recovering from wounds received in a accidental explosion. The reader has to infer quite a bit from the interactions between Talbot and Sacha to understand that they are falling love, because nothing particularly overt occurs until their first kiss. Once they get to that point though, Barbara Cartland has a very poetic way of metaphorically relating love feelings and the act of making love which I find to be very emotionally engaging and sensual, while still being quite innocent. It's part of why I've generally liked her writing for over twenty years, even though her stories lack the depth of character and plot development that most of today's romances have.
Sacha, the heroine, is the penniless daughter of a vicar and a gentle, long-suffering young woman. She feels she doesn't have much choice when her rich cousin, Deirdre, asks Sacha to take her place at the sickbed of her fiancée so that she can go party with another man. Deirdre was a selfish, petulant girl who thought of no one but herself and didn't deserve the Duke. Of course, Sacha not only nurses the Duke's body, but more importantly she ministers to his mind and spirit as well. She accomplishes that by simply spending time with Talbot, encouraging him, and letting him know that she believes wholeheartedly he will regain his sight, but that if he does not, he is still a wonderful man. She was also able to see the potential in him that he had been neglecting. I had mixed feelings about Sacha's willingness to deceive Talbot by pretending to be her cousin, but it was made more palatable in a couple of different ways. I liked that Sacha kept forgetting that she was supposed to be Deirdre and instead was just being herself. Also, Talbot was an intelligent man who in spite of being temporarily blinded, could see quite clearly, and I believe he sensed that the sweet woman at his side could not be the same vain creature he was engaged to.
It would have been difficult not to like the Duke, as he was the proverbial knight in shining armor. I did wonder a lot about him and wished that there had been more input from his perspective besides his conversations with Sacha. The only thing about him that could potentially be considered a flaw was his original choice for a wife. I honestly don't know what he saw in Deirdre other than her outward beauty, although it seemed that he was being pressured into marrying soon for the sake of begetting an heir to his title. Perhaps he merely had a moment of insanity and then saw what he was truly missing when Sacha came to his side. Otherwise, Talbot was as nice as could be and so was his grandmother, the Dowager Duchess, who could be credited for bringing Talbot and Sacha together in the first place.
There were a few things in the book that were a little eyebrow raising. I know that Barbara Cartland was very much into health and nutrition, but I couldn't help wondering at the historical authenticity of the belief that nutrition and positive thinking play a role in healing. Maybe there were people back then who were into those things, but it seemed a little more like modern New Age thinking. I also questioned the propriety of an unmarried young woman visiting a man's bedchamber (even one who is injured and to whom she is engaged) alone, but I guess at least the grandmother admitted that she was being a poor chaperone. I freely acknowledge that Barbara Cartland's stories usually would not stand up to a great deal of critical scrutiny, which is typically something that would bother me. It might have been the sweet fairy tale quality that I love so much, the fact that I have a soft spot for Ms. Cartland as my first mainstream romance author, or some other reason entirely, but I seem to be a bit more forgiving of the holes in her plots. I think I just go into reading her books with the bar set a bit lower than most. Her stories may be simple and predictable, but generally pretty enjoyable, and Light of the Gods definitely fell into that category for me.
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