Delilah Daysland doesn't see herself as marriage material. After all, who could love a woman locked in darkness?
Try telling that to Lord Tyrone Frost. He's determined to do his duty and see her wed to a suitable gentleman, as the King commands.
Delilah has other plans. Convinced her father’s death was no accident, she must depend upon her pony Jester to guide her through everyday challenges as she seeks the truth behind mystery, murder, and deception. Though drawn to Tyrone she's afraid to trust him, until she sees the world and love through gypsy eyes.
The death of a squire is hardly Parliamentary business, but for Lord Tyrone Frost, who wishes to become next leader of the Whig Party, it marks the start of an alliance with the rather politically unsupportive King. To curry His Majesty's favour, Frost is asked to assume guardianship of the newly buried Squire's daughter, whose absence from court since her coming out six years earlier has been noticed. Frost is not overly excited to be adopting a young lady, instead of assuming the leadership of a political party, but since he's relying on the backing of the Monarch, he falls on bended knee and agrees.
All too quickly, the Earl of Merryweather is quickly dispatched to Westpoint Manor with strict instructions to marry off his new ward, so The King (George III, for those playing along at home) can then arrange for Frost, a most politically advantageous matrimonial event, to the apparently delectable Miss Simone Deval, which would hopefully see him swiftly rise to power, thus completing their deal.
However, when Frost arrives at the country manor, he finds all is not what it seems – the estate is run down and near destitute, with no livestock or crops to speak off. Keeping the manor running are a team of loyal servants, headed by Aims the (somewhat burly) Butler; whose foolhardy dedication to their mistress and former master can only be admired, if it wasn't so vexing. This blind naivety is echoed in their mistress; the rather brash, recklessly independent Delilah Daysland. But Miss Daysland herself is hiding a rather large secret – a childhood accident has left her blind, and after a quite disastrous and humiliating coming out ball, her father withdrew her from society, settling for a reclusive life at Westpoint. There, with the help of her guide pony/miniature horse Jester, Delilah can successfully and quietly live out her life, without interference from anyone else (especially a man), thank you very much!
When Frost shares the royal orders to his young ward, the resulting argument is explosive – Delilah steadfastly refuses to marry, dismissing his platitudes of romantic suitability as she firmly believes that no man would want a woman who could not see, a belief formed from the scornful gossip and mortification that caused her exile from court. The pair are initially antagonist and combative towards each other but fall into a tentative truce when she is manipulated into a marriage deal with the oily, obsessive neighbour Baron Augustus March, whose had his evil eyes on her inheritance for quite some time.
A sudden series of small accidents on the property threaten Delilah's safety, and when March runs interference in the fledging peace between between the girl and her guardian, it pushes her into accepting his empty promises of a marriage of convenience. When drunken truths are devastatingly revealed on her wedding night, Delilah flees her new husband and lands in the hands of local gypsies. There, she learns more about her heritage than she ever envisioned, and discovers the true meaning of sight. Destinies and romantic entanglements are revealed, private thoughts overheard, lives threatened and lies both told and revoked. A Kingly visit, a few naked nocturnal swims, a brave pony, a failed courtship and some revelatory dances reunite the Westpoint pair, with true love making liars of them both.
For the most part, Through Gypsy Eyes is a good read – nicely written, easily digested, personable enough characters with an interesting enough plot to keep you engaged. I easily smashed through reading the entire novel in an afternoon, which was a nice change from other romance novels that require your brain to be at 1000% to follow along. However, there is something about it that seems just a little out of step for me – the protagonists and antagonist are very clearly, quickly identified to point of lacking any tension, the plot too tidily revealed and then later, resolved, with the entire gypsy subplot seemingly disjointed from the rest of the novel; a little out of left field (probably to align the readers more towards the heroine, who up until then, are a little distanced from her due to her stubborn, unmoving nature that doesn't allow for a good connection) and definitely rather sketchily done.
There wasn't a chance to engage with anything – all too swiftly were we introduced to characters who were when dismissed, all of which were failed to be developed with any sort of dimension, especially the secondary characters. One point bugged especially – why were 'The King' and 'The Squire' never named? Google told me that 'The King' of the time was George III, a simple enough thing to remedy, but not naming 'The Squire'/'Father' smacked a little of laziness and became irritating towards the end, especially when major truths are revealed about the nature of Delilah's parenthood and he's just continually referred to as 'The Squire'. A minor quibble to some, but if you are going to play in an existing universe (a.k.a Georgian England), then at least take the time to fully create it!
The relationship between Delilah and Tyrone is deceptively complicated – he can't initially have her because he is courting another, she hates him for him intrusion in her life, they form a truce, she gets married, craziness happens, the King weighs in and it "Alls Well That Ends Well", as usual. But their initial relationship is too rough, too mean, too nearly abusive – he threatens to break her fingers on their first meeting, which doesn't do anything to endear him to the reader. Delilah herself isn't all roses and sunshine to read; her immovability and disdainful dismissal of Frost's tentative olive branches is grating. Sure, through their later interactions they redeem themselves, but in the early chapters their relationship feels undeserving of the reader's continuing efforts. Not to mention, all the action of their romantic relationship happens 'off camera' so to speak...
Ms Sheffield has not done all wrong, despite what you may think from the above – she has created an engaging novel with enough historical nods and tiny creative details that makes Through Gypsy Eyes a decent read. However, if it wasn't for those minor quibbles, I would be able to full enjoy the novel. Instead I had a rather large non-reaction to the novel; my feelings about it are no here nor there. There are no surprises, no tension, no romantic excitement or delights. It is all just neatly unravelled for you to digest without much thought. I didn't hate it but I didn't love it, so for me, that's enough.