Courtesan main characters in a Romance and Romances with some kind of religious figure, like a vicar, are iffy reads for me. But a book with both of those things? Wow, sounds like the kiss of death, doesn’t it? If it wouldn’t have had Long’s name on it, I wouldn’t have pounced on the book the way I did. I’m glad it did, though, because this was a wonderful romance about the unlikeliest of pairs.
Evie’s traveled to Pennyroyal Green after the death of her husband. She’s hoping to live a quiet life, but her unfortunate reputation follows her like a dark shadow, making her an outcast when she’s barely just arrived. She’s an Irish girl from poor roots who has been an actress, courtesan, and wife—and each role has brought her more notoriety than the last. The people of Pennyroyal Green are not welcoming, but her determination, and the vicar’s championship, gives her the best chance at belonging that a woman of her infamy can get.
The heart of this book is unquestionably Evie and Adam, the vicar. They were both such likeable characters, and their relationship was so frustratingly impossible, that you couldn’t help but root for them. Their fascination was reluctant on both sides, but they couldn’t resist each other. The tension that Long throws in is particularly impressive given that Adam’s job necessitates an air of restraint and chastity throughout their dealings with each other. Neither of them are the ideal choice for each other, and they’re not even sure they like each other at first, but something draws them together. They forge a strong connection, filled with friendship, quiet moment, longing, and restrained passion.
I absolutely loved Evie’s character. Even when it would have behooved her to play meek and regret her actions, she refused play the victim and act repentant. She did all the things that they whisper about her for, and she doesn’t regret. Yes she was an actress. Yes she was a courtesan. Yes her husband won her in a card game. So what? It was refreshing to have someone so matter of fact about her past and the choices she’s made in life.
Adam was a bit murkier for me. He was an excellent character who you couldn’t help but like, but at times his character was so realistic that I almost hated him. He is a man torn. He cares for Evie and wants to be with her, but just like her reputation defines her, so does his. His very livelihood rests on the good opinion of his congregation. To form any kind of attachment to Evie, no matter if it’s honorable or not, will bring condemnation down on him. His being an Eversea got him the job, but it matters to him. His torment and hurtful choices made him admirably true to life, but it made me so very angry. Especially when I wanted him to be angrier and do something! I spent a lot of the latter half of the book alternating between raging at Adam and the townspeople and wanting to cry for their misery and star-crossed love.
The author does not take the easy way out in their courtship. Their HEA is hard won and you will go through a rollercoaster of emotions before it’s over. If you’re like me, you’ll understand but still be helplessly caught up in a righteous fury. I’ve got to say, hearts and rainbows and unicorns in Romance may give you a toothache, but it’s a lot easier on the nerves.
This book was another solid entry by Long. I have no complaints and the only reason my grade isn’t higher is that I’m still struggling with conflicting emotions about some of the people and the actions they took.
If you’re in the mood for an emotional read, or if you just want to hear the latest news about the Olivia/Lyon storyline, you won’t want to miss this one.
”And besides, what do you know about love?”
“More than you, as you willna let them get near yer heart. Ye nivver fall in love, ye fall in commerce.”