The rather gloomy photograph on the front of On Silent Wings (a castle-like building with a dark background and sultry sky) and the unfortunate misprint on the back cover (where a dash '-' has become '¾' through some computer malfunction) aren't too promising. However, as soon as you start reading the book, as Katherine Seymour arrives at the home of her new guardian, a castle-like building, you're drawn into the story of Katherine and Alexander Fletcher, Lord Drayton. Katherine is herself perhaps only ¾ of a young woman; she lost her voice after the great fire of London and has also become afraid of confined spaces. People think she's not got all her wits because of her lack of voice, and she has to deal with the misunderstanding of those around her.
Alex is a suitably wounded hero. His wife jumped out of a window after her fourth miscarriage and madness.
He has vowed, as so many men in this kind of story vow, never to love again. He treats Katherine in an abrupt and unfriendly manner, resolving to get her married off as soon as possible. His plans don't allow for her to have a say in her future, yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes she has her own mind and, despite her inability to talk, she can make her wishes known.
Alex's neighbors, the Cooke family, appear periodically in this novel, and they're rather generic characters (overbearing father, weak son who can't pluck up the courage to court Elizabeth, Alex's cousin, who lives with him, and evil daughter Agnes). Agnes is quite clearly the 'baddie' in this story,
and her actions are no surprise to this reader - nor is the gradual unveiling of her roles in various disasters that have befallen Alex and Katherine. I was rather amazed that Agnes wasn't punished for some of her actions when they come to light - it serves to show the huge difference in life for people in
King Charles and the Earl of Rochester are mentioned in On Silent Wings, and we meet both of them in its pages.
Court intrigue and machinations are part of the plot as Katherine finds herself an unwilling pawn in a game of Charles's mistress and as various secrets are unveiled. The romance between hero and heroine seems to begin due to proximity, but as they find they can communicate despite Katherine's lack of voice, there is more depth. However, I found the vacillations of both characters a bit annoying, albeit probably realistic.
The story aims for Katherine to regain her voice and Alex to recover his emotions,
but there is more to be unveiled: Katherine's father's treachery, the story behind Alex's first wife's death,
the truth about Alex's parents' murders. On Silent Wings is always easy to read and the dialogue well-written, though a few modern Americanisms slip in. Alex is an appealing character, particularly in his more 'modern' approach to controlling unruly females that doesn't rely on beatings, although he can be very wounding with words. Katherine is feisty yet quiet, opinionated
but mute, although she seems remarkably dense about Agnes's plotting. For those who enjoy historical romances set in England in the
Restoration period, this is a very good offering and something to be enjoyed on a lazy day.