4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
The premise is, perhaps, the hardest part to accept here: a born on the wrong sides of the sheets heroine, the by blow of an earl who’s led a pampered life, is sold off by her half-brother to be a mistress to the highest bidder. Our hero, who has no interest in keeping a mistress acts impulsively and claims her for his own. After some negotiating, he convinces her that being a wealthy man’s pampered mistress would be far better than taking her chances, practically penniless, on the streets. Now, once you get over the premise (as well as odd little details here and there that may pop you out of the story), it’s actually a very engaging read. Though we go delve into overly-dramatic-twists every now and again, these are characters that you like and believe: their choices are measured, thoughtful, and, even when you don’t agree with them, you understand them. At its heart, this is an engaging, fulfilling love story, great for the escapist in us.
Greater Detail (with spoilers):
Rafe Easton is the owner of an infamous gambling hell. Having worked his way up from the poorhouses, and made a living initially as a street enforcer , he is now powerful and wealthy beyond our wildest imaginings (almost too wealthy, to be honest, he mentions something like one million pounds coming through his gambling house during a time when ten thousand pounds probably would have been fairly impressive). He’s socially a recluse, withdrawn even from his two older brothers (he feels as though they’ve abandoned him). He’s got all sorts of PTSD-like symptoms as a direct result of what he suffered during his formative years (he was almost raped by a stranger, beaten, etc and thus hates being held, doesn’t like confining clothes) and has thus never kept a mistress, much less thought of something more permanent.
Almost entirely by accident, he ends up as the protector of Evelyn Chambers, the illegitimate daughter of an earl who’s always protected and cosseted her (but, extraordinarily, has failed to make ANY provisions for her, leaving her to the mercy of her half-brother who’s apparently always vehemently hated her).
Evelyn thinks she’s meeting men who will court her. Her half-brother has really arranged to sell her off to the highest bidder.
There’s a bit of ensuing discussions/arguments/etc as Evelyn’s dropped off at Rafe’s house without being told what’s going on, as her half-brother never bothered to disillusion her about his true intentions.
It’s clear from the beginning that Rafe is at least… sympathetic of Eve’s position. She’s been betrayed by her half-brother. He felt abandoned by his brothers (a continuing subplot in this novel as both of his older brothers have returned from their adventures/self-imposed exiles, and are happily married and continuing to reach out to Rafe). Their connection and attraction are clear, and their blossoming feelings are completely believable.
My small quibbles would be that the side plot (the estranged relationship with the brothers) is tied up far too quickly/easily, and I did wish for a romantic declaration that was slightly more romantic, as opposed to being the aftereffect of a kidnapping/murder climactic scene.
Still, those aside, this was a solid lead with enjoyable leads, just enough of a supporting cast/back story, and a nice resolution.