"You come to me." His mouth lowered, but he didn't quite kiss her.
"To forget. To not hurt any more—" She bit her lip. "To hurt all my life."
"I won't hurt you," he whispered.
She closed her eyes. "You tear me apart."
"Leigh," he said, "I love you."
The intensity in his voice made her turn her face away. "Leave me alone," she said.
Gawd, the emotion in this one. Quickly, Leigh travels from England to France looking for "The Prince of Midnight" a highwayman that the people of her town looked upon as Robin Hood. Her town has been taken over by a cult leader and she thinks the Prince of Midnight will be the legend that can break the townspeople's blind following of Rev. Jamie Chilton, she also wants the Prince to teach her how to fight so she can kill Chilton. When she finds the Prince, he turns out to be S.T. Maitland, deaf in one ear and experiencing serious balance problems because of it. He's a forced into retirement highwayman living in an abandoned castle with a pet wolf.
S.T. rubbed the wolf's ears and smiled to himself. He'd charmed wilder things than a dour girl, after all.
To say the least, Leigh is crushed, her savior can't even ride a horse. In what is a bit of a role reversal from what we usually see in our heroines and heroes, Leigh is the cold, shun love, and blindly bent on revenge while S.T. is the romantic, heart just wanting to burst with love, more sensitive one. S.T. was a little uneven in the beginning for me because his love and trust in a woman is what led to the end of his highwayman career but he is pretty instantly all-in on his want of Leigh. What saved this insta for me was the author underlying acknowledging that it was insta. It is mentioned how S.T. hasn't had a woman in 3yrs, insta-lust of Leigh, and as the story goes on, you see how love and human contact is necessary for S.T.'s personality but as S.T. and Leigh travel and spend more time together, we begin to see S.T. actually get to know her, which I need to believe in couple's love. It's a bit, well, S.T. got lucky in his love at first sight but I can't help it, I really enjoyed his yearning and putting himself out there for Leigh, while, with insight from personal thoughts from Leigh, the reader could see and feel how hard Leigh was fighting her feelings.
"He murdered my family. My mother, my father, and my two sisters."
There wasn't a tremor in her voice, not a trace of emotion at all. S.T. gazed at her cool moon-washed face. She stared back at him, unblinking. "Sunshine," he whispered.
"The others are frightened."
"Such cowards as that?"
"No." She shook her head, watching the ground ahead of her. "Not cowards. Frightened."
He considered that. It was a telling point, a subtle, crucial difference. Miss Leigh Strachan was no fool. "Of what are they frightened?"
"Of what happened to my sisters," she said. "They have daughters, too."
"Wasn't a tremor", "not a trace of emotion", ugh, I could barely take Leigh's pain. There is definitely a solid background and foundation behind Leigh's tough exterior and her telling the story of what happened to her family, while trying not to breakdown, had me breaking down a bit. The author wonderfully conveyed how hard Leigh had to keep herself together, another brick in the character's personality wall, because if she didn't, she would shatter. The events that lead up to and the scene where Leigh finally does breakdown was heartbreaking. I thought it was masterful how the author used S.T.'s working and relationship with animals to mirror what was happening with Leigh.
"I don't want your rotting gratitude," he said. She lay perfectly still, a mirage of the impersonal moonlight, as lifeless as the ruins. He couldn't even feel her breathing.
"Then I'm sorry." She spoke suddenly. "Because that's all I have to give."
Forbidden worlds. Wild joy and romance. A midnight ride with an outlaw prince, and life, and life, and life. He burned with it. And she would have gone. Her throat grew thick with longing. She thought: you should have come sooner. You should have come when I could feel.
I can see how some readers would have issues with Leigh (I read some reviews not liking her coldness) and while she frustrated me at times, again, the author provided credible reasons for it. Leigh was a painful character and every time S.T.'s reaching out was cruelly rejected or bounced off her wall, I was mad but I still understood her. The only misstep I think the author did was not having somewhat of a grovel scene, I demand it of my heroes when they have personalities like Leigh.I think if the author had shown the scene where, I'm going to put this in spoiler tags because it deals somewhat with how the story ends,
Leigh worked to get S.T. pardoned for his highwayman crimes and how she missed him in London, showing her longing for him and how she was nervous to proclaim her love for him, I think readers would have softened to her more. It was kind of glossed over at the end and I think some missed feeling how she was ready to open herself up to him finally.
As it was, it kind of felt like S.T. constantly beat himself against Leigh's wall and Leigh never repaid or responded in like to prostrate herself like he did.
She closed her eyes. When she opened them, the horse was still there. The Seigneur was still there. She was still hurting, still alive, still drowning in love and grief and rage.
She'd gone to France to find the Seigneur with no family and no future and no fear, with a well-spring of hate in her heart. But now she was afraid. Now she was cornered and desperate. Now she had something to lose.
The plot involving the cult leader was interesting but towards the end when the author tied it into The Hellfire Club, it got a bit loose and didn't completely work for me; felt like forced danger added in. This had quite the epilogue, lol, but I enjoyed seeing these two happy together. Overall, this was a painfully emotional read at times and I enjoyed these two together, their pain, their yearning, and their connection, there is no doubt that these two fought for their HEA. There was a lot of layers to the story and I would suggest reading this a little slower to let it soak in. I wanted a little more from Leigh, S.T. was so earnest in trying to connect with her that I would have loved seeing her put herself out there too, but maybe the argument could be made that just isn't her personality. Anyway, read this for S.T.'s loving soul, Leigh's tightly contained heartache, and Nemo.