Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Review: Marilyn Harris’ THIS OTHER EDEN – Emotionally Wrenching, Enthralling Tale from 18th Century England

It’s hard to see how this book could be rated anything other than 5 stars just for the effort it is. The writing is meticulous, the plot intricate, the characters well drawn and the story enthralling. It’s a well-told tale of cruelty, deception, dishonor and treachery—and, yes, it’s emotionally wrenching. I also thought the ending was melancholy. There are a few other negatives that I will point out that might turn away readers who would prefer a more sedate historical romance. Just so you know, this was my first by Harris, and it’s the first in the Eden series (see list below). I’ve already got book 2 waiting on the shelf to be read though I may take an emotional break before I come to it.

Set in England, beginning in 1790, it tells the story of Thomas Eden, the Fifth Earl and Thirteenth Baron, lord of the stone monolith, Eden Castle, on the Devon coast, and the servant girl, Marianne Locke.

Marianne is no ordinary servant, being both beautiful and taught by a well-educated tutor to young ladies. She is smart and, for the most part, quite a reflective thinker. However, she is naïve and too trusting, and thus taken advantage of by those who would manipulate her, including her sister and Lord Eden. Somehow, through all the betrayals (and there are many), she maintains her kind heart. That I wanted to slap her at times was a reflection of how easily she was misled.

As the story begins, 16-year-old Marianne is being publicly flogged for rebuffing Lord Eden’s advances. The event scars her for life and nearly kills her. (It also drives her father to madness.) All that changes her. Once a spirited beauty, she is now a shell of a young woman, sent to London by friends of her father to see if she can be revived. There she lives with her conniving sister who is jealous of Marianne’s beauty. Jane is the kept mistress of a journalist named William who quickly falls in love with Marianne.

Alas for Marianne, Lord Eden has not forgotten her. No matter he is more than twice her age (she is 16, he is 40), he lurks in the background plotting to have her and willing to do any unethical thing to achieve his goal. Thomas Eden is a man who sees himself above all those who serve him, who thinks he is entitled to take any young girl’s virginity simply because she is “low born.” To their shame, most of his acquaintances aware of his dirty dealings either enable him or look the other way. He goes from one “heinous deed” (his words) to another. I was 3/4ths of the way through the book when I decided this man was beyond redemption. I so wanted to see him fall, and fall hard. In the end, he did not fall hard enough for me.

If you don’t like stories where the hero and heroine are separated for a time, or a “hero” who seems truly evil, this may not be the book for you. Still and all, it is a well researched historical love story that kept me up to the wee hours of the morning—-two nights in a row. So, for the brave among us, I highly recommend it!

The Eden series: (All are Victorian save for the first)

This Other Eden (late 18th century)
The Prince of Eden
The Eden Passion
The Women of Eden
Eden Rising
American Eden
(Civil War)
Eden and Honor


  1. Sounds like an enthralling read. Definitely going on my list.

    1. It is, Anna, and if you're up to it, a very worthy read. Not since Teresa Denys' two novels or Christine Monson's Stormfire has a book so moved me.

    2. Regan, that's a high recommendation indeed. I'm going to have to track these books down. Never enough angst and drama for me. :)

    3. Yeah, me too. I am such a sucker for that! Have you tried Elizabeth Stuart's novels? Heartstorm and Without Honor are my favorites but all are 5 star reads.