I did a fair amount of reading this summer, but I wanted to talk about one book today: The Echo by Sarah Lockhart. It’s a self-published book, Regency romance, and I couldn’t put it down.
In fact, I ripped right through it. It’s not perfect, the middle kind of lost focus, if still being very readable, and the end has a shift in tone and pacing that surprised me. But I loved the writing, and the sense of time and place.
The heroine, Sarah Vere, has been ruined—that’s clear in the very opening of the book. Her brother kills the man who has ruined her in a duel, and is then forced to flee to the continent. The hero, Harry, is that man’s twin and in the opening he learns his brother is dead.
Harry is the second son, and he was called the echo of his brother who was to inherit everything. It’s an effective setup. Everyone’s existence is quite harsh, including how Sarah being ruined affects her life drastically. Her brother has had to desert her and her mother, and they don’t even know if he’s alive. Harry has not had it easy either, though it’s more implied and less explored.
The couple clearly has a lot to work through, as Harry loved his twin and initially blames Sarah for his death. The book takes place over a number of years, so there isn’t the usual concentration of time that often takes place in romances (and other genres). I liked that. I also really liked the title. Harry is the echo of his twin. The event that put into motion everything that follows echoes throughout the book. Harry and Sarah both have brothers they have lost, and these losses echo one another.
This book came out in 2012, and I think it has basically disappeared from view. But I was quite taken by it. Sunita at Dear Author reviewed it, which was part of what piqued my interest. She makes the point that the opening is very confusing. It is! But I was okay to push through that.
It’s hard for me to describe the style of this novel. It is at once cerebral and emotion-filled. Very little is spelled out, and the reader really has to trust the author. The prose can be elliptical but is often quite lovely.
Sunita also makes the point that there is no on- or off-page sex, which I didn’t even notice! There is enough tension (and romance) to mitigate that to my mind.
There’s certainly a mixed bag of reactions at Goodreads, but this comment by Mely interested me.
What I really like about this is the silences, the use of narrative negative space.
And it’s true. Not everything is spelled out. I enjoyed that about the book. It becomes clear what happened that led to Sarah’s ruin, but it’s referred to obliquely. And that’s not the only thing left for the reader to fill in. Harry’s relationship with his twin was not, let’s say, entirely healthy. It’s easy for me to imagine when one twin is to inherit everything and the other is not, how that can force a dynamic upon the boys that does harm to them both. Although I don’t mean to excuse Harry’s twin’s actions by saying that.
Plus Harry has been to war, and that has affected him. But since this is more about his twin’s death and Sarah’s ruin, that again is left for the reader to fill in.
It’s quite an emotional read while not being what I think of as angsty. Perhaps because I associate angst with emotion being more spelled out more than it is here?
Ultimately I found it a very satisfying read, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a Regency romance that has a slightly different flavor while not entirely departing from what one loves in the genre.