3.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This love story is all about choices… and in some case, sacrifices. Though the hero and heroine are almost immediately attracted to one another (ok, he desires her immediately, she finds him both fascinating/intriguing and irritating/upsetting), they’re held apart by their vastly different expectations of what they think they want. She’s already loved and lost once (her fiance died of cholera during the war) and wants nothing more than to somehow move on, get married, and settle down. He has been at sea since he was 14 years old, and in some ways, he’s not sure he could ever be tied down to a normal, landlocked life. Their relationships definitely stems from physical attraction, eventually builds to something more, and is interesting because even as they’re not-choosing-each-other, it’s not from misunderstanding or other outside calamity. It’s more that they both seem to recognize that being together might involve sacrifices neither of them are fully prepared to make. Though it’s ultimately more his sacrifice than hers, and their relationship just wasn’t as emotionally moving as some other romances (I just found some of the behavior, especially earlier on, a little contrived), it’s a solid, definitely-above-average read, more so if you’re into the idea of ships and seafaring.
Greater Detail (some spoilers):
Tristan’s story is the second within our missing lords trilogy. He’s the younger twin brother (by 22 minutes) of the current Duke of Keswick, and has spent most of his life on the sea. He’s the captain of his own ship (and goes by the alias Captain Crimson Jack) and rarely comes to town to assume his more noble title of Lord Tristan Easton. When he’s approached by Lady Anne, who wants him to act as a private charter for her, he initially turns her down. After much bartering, they settle on a price they can both live with: a kiss, whenever and wherever he dictates, that lasts as long as he wishes it to.
Lady Anne’s backstory is an interesting one. She has four brothers and a domineering father. She was greatly in love with her fiance, but (spoilers ahead) refused to spend the night with him the night before he entered the military. When he dies, two years later, of cholera, she is heartbroken, and greatly regrets not sleeping with him when he had the chance. Her family is eager for her to be done with mourning (at the start of the novel she’s been in mourning for two years), and get herself married. Deep down, it’s what she would like to do too, and so she decides to journey to the cemetery where he was buried (unmarked grave, obviously a very sad and touching scene) to say her goodbyes.
I’m fine with the setup of this novel as well as the general idea of protagonists who initially think there’s nothing more than physical attraction between them. The consummation scene here though isn’t… I don’t think… completely believable. She’s about to reenter the marriage Season, and she wants to perhaps prove that sex is just sex… but if so, any emotional element is taken away, and it certainly doesn’t explain how she justifies continuing to sleep with Tristan, while actively encouraging a different suitor (and even, massive spoiler, eventually accepting that suitor’s offer of marriage).
It all feels a little… dirty by the end. Yes, it works out, and it turns out that Lady Anne’s new fiance doesn’t actually love her so it’s kind of/maybe okay that she jilts him after maybe/sort of cheating on him (definitely during the courtship if not the actual “engagement” period). Also, the things that are keeping these two apart start to pall and feel a little contrived far before the book ends.
That said, Heath is a talented writer and I’m definitely invested in these characters, just not as much as I wanted to be…
Comparison to Other Books/Authors:
This is only my second Lorraine Heath book, and though I didn’t like it quite as much as I liked Lord of Wicked Temptations, I can tell that this is an author is one that I’m going to enjoy. She’s great at creating the emotional pull, the layered characters, and will probably eventually be up there with my favorites.