Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile–even if it’s just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won’t wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.
Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he’s determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won’t budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her–and his daughter–from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?
Cayton stepped before her.
He turned, held out his arm. Though one would never call it invitation in his eyes. “Shall we go in?”
The others were already filing out the door. Brook on Stafford’s arm, Catherine on her brother’s, Whitby glancing over his shoulder at Ella and Cayton with a lifted brow.
She folded her arms over her chest. “I am surprised you would dare to escort me rather than leaving Lord Whitby to do so. What if I mistake your attention for interest and start planning the wedding, my lord?”
Cayton didn’t budge, not so much as a twitching facial muscle. “Surely you are not so daft as to ever wish for a future with my surly self.”
It was rather amusing to listen to him growl over absolutely everything. She made a point of giving him her most mischievous smile. “Don’t be so sure. I have yet to test the limits of my reason.”
He looked pointedly at his arm – in part, she suspected, to hide the laughter in his eyes. “Sometime tonight would be preferable, Lady Ella.”
“Well, that’s rather quick for a wedding, don’t you think?” With a bat of her eyes, she slid her hand onto his arm and stepped near to his side. “I would prefer September. The autumn foliage would provide the perfect backdrop for my auburn hair when you paint my wedding portrait.”
He’d led her one step but stopped at that, a single brow lifted. “Pardon?”
“October, then? It may be a bit cool. Do paints behave strangely in the cold? I’ve no experience with them. I was an absolute dunce at anything artistic.”
She’d done it – she’d caught him completely off his guard, and the bafflement in his eyes eclipsed the surliness.
She deserved some sort of prize for that.
He shook his head. “Why would you think I have any more experience with paints than you have?”
Ella tugged him forward – Whitby was still lingering in the hallway waiting for them – but nodded toward the painting of Addie. “That, my lord, was done by someone who had spent entire days just watching her. And done, moreover, with love.”
“I hardly think -”
“Plus.” She grinned. “You had paint in your hair this morning. I didn’t know at the time what it was, but now it becomes clear. Bright blue paint.”
Cayton sighed . . . but tugged her a bit closer. “Cobalt. And I’m going to have to sack my valet yet – he’s supposed to catch those things before I leave my room.”
A chuckle tickled her throat. She’d been right. And realizing that he had such talent, that he indulged it in more than occasional poetic talk . . . Perhaps her instinct to like him wasn’t so misplaced. Maybe, just maybe, it was Brook who was wrong about him, not her.
Oh, how I have enjoyed this series! Roseanna White has captured the elegance of the Edwardian era beautifully in both her characters and the setting, and added a wonderful flavour of romance and suspense besides. I’m not sure what more a reader could ask for!
After reading the previous book in this series, the Duke of Nottingham became one of my favourite literary heroes ever (yes, right up there with Gilbert Blythe and Mr. Darcy!) but I now find myself thinking it must run in the family. Lady Ella Myerston positively sparkles in this novel – in a refined, English way, of course! – and I can’t help borrowing Jane Austen’s words about her own heroine, Elizabeth Bennet: “I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.”
Lord Cayton, on the other hand, tries very hard not to sparkle – something that only encourages Lady Ella in her light-hearted banter! Now a widower and a single father, he has genuinely turned his back on the man he used to be, but his new faith is untested, and there is no way he is going to be responsible for Lady Ella being hurt, either physically or emotionally. In the hands of some authors, Lord Cayton’s attempts to be surly and disagreeable in Lady Ella’s company could have been overdone and grating, but here they provided some of the most enjoyable scenes in the novel, not to mention one of my favourite ‘first kiss’ and ‘declaration of love’ scenes ever! The latter stopped my heart at one point, it was so beautiful!
As for the Fire Eyes, the intrigue in this novel is two-fold. Firstly we have the introduction of a third point of view character: Kira Belova, a Russian ballet dancer with the Ballet Russe in Paris who is recovering from an injury. She is the mistress of Andrei Varennikov – a wealthy Russian mogul living in Paris – who paid Lord Pratt a deposit for the Fire Eyes almost two years ago, but has yet to lay eyes on them. He wants what he paid for and has contrived to have Kira hired as a lady’s maid to Lady Pratt in order to learn their whereabouts. In fact, he gives her little choice. And so she becomes Sophie Lareau, a mere servant…
On the other side of the coin are Lady Pratt and her brother, Lord Rushworth. If they cannot follow through on Lord Pratt’s sale of the Fire Eyes, they have no doubt a different kind of payment will be extracted from them and Lord Rushworth wants Lord Cayton to use his friendship with the Duke of Stafford, and his charm on Lady Ella, in order to learn the whereabouts of the Fire Eyes…
This is a well-layered story with a delicious mixture of intrigue, danger, betrayal, love, grace, and second chances. Lady Catherine Pratt is also a recipient of Lady Ella’s determined friendship during the course of the novel, and of all the characters in this series, it is perhaps Lady Pratt who tugs most at my heartstrings. You need to have read from the beginning of the series to understand what a twisted journey she has been on, but just between you and me, I would love to see her get her own story – her own new beginning.
I feel like I could talk about this book all day, but then I would be stopping you from reading it. And you really should read it! The whole series! I can’t wait to see what’s next from Roseanna White.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 13 September 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Author’s website: http://roseannawhite.com/wordpress/
Read my review for The Reluctant Duchess.
Read my interview with Roseanna White.