***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***
Julian West returns to London on a hero's welcome and reputation, but he feels a fraud. There's nothing heroic in him, since he left his friend to die in the field. He intends to stay in London just long enough to fulfill his obligation, but his cousin's wife's request proves to be yet another obligation.
Eleanor's younger sister, Charlotte, the one who stole Julian's heart and broke it a year ago, is going through a scandalous phase now that she's out of mourning for her husband, and Ellie and Cam need Julian to curb her impulses. Julian owes Ellie, so he's willing to do anything to repay the debt he feels toward her, so he agrees, knowing that Charlotte's spell won't work on him twice. He's no longer the man she knew...But the first time he lays eyes on her after the year spent apart, Julian realizes, Charlotte is no longer the woman he fell in love with.
Charlotte and Julian's story, this story, is a perfect example of how a single decision can change one of multiple lives and futures.
In the previous book Julian first seduced Charlotte, then she seduced him, they both fell in love, but Charlotte suddenly found out Julian's true role in his cousin's scheme, and, cutting all communications, married another. She sent word of her nuptials to Julian on the day of her wedding, and he went off to war...Charlotte's husband died mere four months after the wedding, and his death, and everything that followed, changed her. Julian had also been changed in the battlefield and its aftermath...Their decisions, spurred by the misunderstanding and lack of trust, shaped them, changed their lives, and their characters.
But in the end, once it all worked out, once these two idiots actually talked to each other without the barriers of resentment, anger, hurt, and betrayal, it turned out the change wasn't that big at all; their new personas were just masks they hid behind, afraid to show their true self with all their flaws. And they ended up being the only ones who could look and actually see behind the other's mask.
This wasn't an easy story to read. It wasn't happy, it wasn't funny, it wasn't carefree. Far from it. It was dark, troubled, angsty, and turbulent. And I loved every single, dark, moody moment of it.
I didn't particularly care for either the protagonists' behavior; the antagonism was grating, especially since I knew their history and what was beneath their animosity. What bothered me the most was Charlotte's blasé attitude toward what her behavior meant for her family and her seemingly complete disregard for her sister's feelings. Yes, she didn't know what she wanted, she felt she deserved to be punished, but I don't understand why she felt her sister needed to be punished as well.
Oh well. She and her reasoning was off, I guess.
Julian, as he hero, was no better, hiding behind his icy veneer, blaming the "vast blackness" inside him for snapping at Charlotte, when it was obvious it all stemmed from his hurt feelings.
These two were so wrong for each other, especially in their initial states of mind, they were absolutely perfect for each other. A match made in dysfunctional Heaven, if you like, and I enjoyed every single bruising, hurtful moment they spent together.
Because I just wanted for them to figure it out, work out whatever bothered them individually and about each other, I wanted the truth to come out, and I wanted the blasted conflict to end. Which would've if they actually talked, communicated.
I usually hate these types of conflicts that stem from miscommunications, but I found myself enjoying this one, looking forward to each scene, each tidbit of truth that was revealed, because as dysfunctional a pair these two were, despite me not approving of all their choices and behavior, I was invested in these two characters.
Which just goes to show, what a great author Anna Bradley is for creating these two heavily layered, flawed, issue-laden characters, enveloping them in a complex, dark, and angsty story, and still making them shine, showing what was beneath their veneer and mask, keeping me rooting for them, keeping my fingers crossed they don't make an even bigger mess of things...
I got my wish. I suffered, but it was worth it.
Damn, what a wonderful story!
Lady Eleanor Sutherland has, so far, refused five marriage proposals (well, six, but no everybody knows about that first offer). Her standoffish manner and her rebuttal of the even slightest attempts at flirtation, have earned her the nickname Lady Frost and her own page in the betting books. But the truth is, she isn't cold, she just refuses to settle for anything else but a love match.
Yet it looks like that's what she'll have to do, thanks to Camden West and his blackmail. The cad had the gall of making his cousin Julian trap Ellie's younger sister, Charlotte, in a compromising position in a darkened garden. So far, only the four of them know the truth about the "incident", but Cam is threatening to tell everybody, if Ellie refuses to marry him.
In the end, Ellie has only one option. Outsmart the villain without ruining her sister or her own life.
Oh. My. Sweet. Lord.
I chose this book for the cover (look at all the bright colors without one single naked male chest in sight) and the blurb. Usually, that's a recipe for a reading disaster, but this story was as far removed from any kind of disaster as it could possibly be.
I. LOVED. IT.
I immediately took to the heroine with her spunk, her determination, and her ability to send any man scurrying for cover, and I laughed out loud at her inner musings, especially when she decided occasion merited an unladylike curse or two. I adored her to bits, and I was skeptical as to what kind of hero she was saddled with. At first.
I didn't particularly like Cam at the beginning. He was acting fishy, and he severely underestimated his heroine. It was lovely reading about him scrambling to catch up and keep pace. Then, the puzzle pieces started to fit together, and although I still didn't approve of his tactics, I grudgingly understood his motive.
And then, well, then he got to know the real Ellie and started to show his own true self...And the rest is history. Is it any wonder Ellie fell for the guy? Who wouldn't? Especially after reading about his inner turmoil and his true feelings. Lordy!
These two were perfect for each other, both hiding deep inner scars, yet so utterly vulnerable in each other's company; each other's opposites, yet rather similar in many aspects. It was a pleasure reading about their "antics", the schemes, the struggles against any possible tender feelings for the other...
Theirs was a romance in a true sense of the word. They didn't like each other at first, distrusted one another, yet once they got to know each other, once they peeled away all those protective layers, acceptance and love blossomed. This is what I like in my romance stories. Not some insta-love, stretched-so-thin-it's-almost-transparent, implausible crap, but the "realism" of it all. How feelings and attitudes change (for better or for worse) as a person gets to know someone. How you have to know someone (and yourself for that matter) to give your trust, your forgiveness, and your heart.
Ellie and Cam's romance was believable, realistic, bitter-sweet and so beautifully written it made my heart flutter. There, I said it.
It wasn't perfect, it wasn't starry-eyed and their path was filled with obstacles (some of their own making), but it worked.
I couldn't say the same about the secondary romance between Cam's cousin and Ellie's sister, which worked as well, yet it didn't work out; and they have quite a long road (and an entire book) ahead of them. I'm looking forward to their story, even though I never quite warmed up to Charlotte, but maybe her rebellious tendencies will be explained in the next book.
I absolutely adored this story, from the characters (the little Amelia being my absolute favorite of the bunch), the voice, the narrative style and the flow it brought to the story, and the perfectly imperfect romance.
Intriguing elements and dark mysterious hero but only given a promise of that never delivered. Story plods along with not much happening but repeated scenes and romance drags out only to be given a few bedroom scenes without much relationship depth.
Tempted to read the next in series though because of promise of author.
Miss Georgiana Wickford had an idyllic childhood with her playmate Edmund, Earl of Ashenden but that all ended abruptly when he was sent away and he never replied to her letters. He is her only hope to avoid the marriage mart. Edmund is still angry at her for not returning his letters but he wants to help her in some capacity, accompanying her to events, but he's finding himself strangely possessive, it's strange.
It's an interesting read and the characters spark well off each other