Being a fan of Lorraine Heath and learning that her newest series would be about the children of the characters from her Scoundrels of St. James series I was instantly hooked and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. As soon as it was offered for review I jumped at it and requested immediately. But then I picked it up and realized that it dealt with a subject that I wasn’t sure I wanted to read just then. You see, in the blurb it doesn’t mention the fact that the hero, the Duke of Lovingdon, has no interest in finding love because he’s still suffering over the loss of his beloved wife. Having recently read another book with a premise closely resembling this and being quite disappointed with the way it was handled I wasn’t sure I could step into another so quickly. So I set it aside. Just for a little while. It wasn’t until just last night that I decided to pick this one up again and give it a chance. And was so happy I did because it was everything I hoped it would be.
Lady Grace Mabry is besieged by offers for marriage. Coming from a powerful family and having a rather large dowry almost ensures that she will be. But she wants something more. She wants a marriage like her parents, based on devotion and love. She has her own reasons for desperately wanting to make sure that any man she takes in marriage loves her for herself, not for her money or social standing. She needs to find a way to be able to look past the superficial courting rituals of the Ton and discover which one of her suitors is serious in his affections. So she asks her childhood friend Lovingdon to help guide her.
Lovingdon has lived a life of complete debauchery since losing his beloved wife and daughter two years past. He has absolutely no desire to find love again, nor does he ever wish to remarry for any reason. His heart shall always belong to his lost love and it has no room in it for another. He wallows in his grief, shutting himself away from his family and polite society to immerse himself in wickedness. When Grace comes to him with a request to help her figure out real love he sends her away. Only Grace won’t take no for an answer and sets out to get under his skin, hoping with enough urging he will not only help her, but maybe find his way back to the man he used to be.
She studied him for a long thoughtful moment before asking, “What is it like to have such a grand love?”
It was all-encompassing, permeated everything. How could he put into words an emotion that defied them? “You laugh, you smile. You have secrets to which no one else is privy. You can communicate without words. You know what each other is thinking. There is a sense of euphoria. But it all comes with a price, Grace. Losing it can destroy you, turn you into little more than a hollow shell.”
Grace and Lovingdon’s story begins as you might suspect. With a lot of angst, sadness and frustration. They’ve always been friends because of their parents, but haven’t had a close relationship in years due to his loss and retreat from polite society. She has her work cut out for her, but Grace slowly works her way into Lovingdon’s heart and mind until he can’t help but think of her and want to be near her. Even if he keeps telling himself he doesn’t want to. And this is where I thought this book shined. As I said above, I recently read something else, I won’t mention the name and it was from a completely different genre, but while reading it I found myself wondering why a deceased spouse must always be portrayed as less to make the current love interest believable to readers. To me having loved that deeply is a treasure. I want my main characters to be capable of great feelings. I want them to fill the pieces of each other that need to be filled. I’ve said it before in other reviews and I will say it again, sometimes reading about second love can be even more fulfilling than reading of first love, because you know that these characters understand how special it is and value it that much more.
Although he was hit with a sudden jolt of guilt, as he had not thought of his loss in… days. He recalled when he counted not thinking of it in minutes. A minute had passed without him thinking of them, then two. Sometimes with enough liquor and a woman, he could go hours.
Grace is very different from Lovingdon’s late wife. And I appreciate the fact that it’s acknowledged, but never in a way where he is comparing them and one falls short. They fall in love slowly, in fact I think it almost takes him by surprise that he can’t keep his thoughts away from Grace, that he keeps finding himself reaching out to her and jealous of the attention she gets from other men. He tells himself and her repeatedly that he has nothing to offer her, that his heart shall always belong to his late wife and no other can hold that part of him again. I think this might give pause to some readers, but for me I couldn’t wait for that moment when he realized that yes, he can love deeply again and that she can’t ever replace his wife, but can reside alongside her in his heart nonetheless.
There is another sensitive subject brought up in this book that I thought was handled rather well. I won’t spoil anyone and mention exactly what it is, but I do think it will surprise some readers and hope that they find and appreciate how it brings an additional layer of strength to Grace and the love she finds with her Duke.
I had so many feelings while reading this first book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series. Sorrow, hope and ultimately happiness with this couple’s happily ever after. It also has a rather lovely epilogue that I was so thankful Ms. Heath included. It was the perfect ending and left me with a wonderful feeling of tenderness. Definitely recommend. Final Grade- B+
Fire, she thought, we’re fire, shaping something beautiful and wonderful here.
He sighed with deep satisfaction. Her body curled and tightened around him. Yes, this was love, this melding that made it impossible to tell where she ended and he began.