Reviewed by Fran.
Whilst visible scarring can steal sense of self-worth and lead a victim to seek sanctuary from prying eyes, it is unseen scars that plague Melanie Grey. For once a duchess always a duchess she had thought, until death became the parting from a life she had lived, feared and despised. Even after the death of her husband, a savagely despicable duke, cruel fate deigned to deal a further hand of betrayal. Destitute, Melanie sets out to redeem sense of purpose and reason for her survival from a tragic circumstance that was way beyond her control. Prepared to embrace the freedom to heal from within, she journeys to the wild remoteness of a country house in Northumberland, and there takes up position as a housekeeper-cum-cook. In theory her decision made perfect sense, the reality however proves far more testing than imagined. What exactly her employer does with his time intrigues Melanie, for nothing is quite as it should be at a country estate devoid of horses and carriages, and where visitors are forced to walk from the main gates to the house. Though visitors a loose term, being only one and a close acquaintance of his lordship.
Lord Jarrow harbours secrets, too, for a tragedy from his past haunts his waking hours all too often, and more so on dark nights of his riding across heather and furze-clad moorland. To have a housekeeper is paramount in a house, where there’s a widower, a young daughter, her governess and a lone visitor to cater for. Jarrow’s needs outweigh anxiety as to whether he can trust Miss Grey, and something about her is most unsettling, not least her propensity for being in the wrong place at the wrong moments in time. Hence security all things a secret pastime could so easily be exposed by an interfering busybody. His daughter, though, is quite enamoured with Melanie Grey, and thereby renders Melanie’s life more than just bearable despite her employer’s brusque manner.
But, when Jarrow returns with a gunshot wound, Melanie rallies to his aid despite severe misgivings as to his business transactions. And from thence onward their lives become entwined and no way out for either, for once love takes hold, no matter the consequences, when danger lurks a woman must do what a woman must do to save the hide of a loved one. Equally, Jarrow does all in his power to right past wrongs, and in doing so brings ecstatic happiness to the two most important women in his life. Nonetheless, there are aspects of his dark past that remain and continue to slip through the shadows of night. Dark Whisky Road is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic Victorian adventure, in which drip-fed flashbacks reveal heartrending memories as Melanie and Jarrow come to terms with past heartache and untold mental anguish. IMHO, there’s a touch of the dark and brooding so typical of Emily Bronte’s writings within this novel.