Dear Ms Long,
Having heard such good things about your other books, I felt it was about time I gave you a try. I did worry that since this was the last book in a trilogy, I might end up lost or overloaded with backstory. Happily this turned out not to be the case. Yet, despite enjoying aspects of this book, I was left with a less than overwhelmed feeling for it.
Miss Sabrina Fairleigh, the adopted daughter of a vicar, hopes that the country party to which her married friend Lady Mary Capstraw takes her will turn out to be the answer to her prayers. Sabrina has been inching towards an understanding with her father’s curate Mr Geoffrey Gillray and since the owner of the estate at which the party will be held is Geoffrey’s cousin, she hopes their mutual desire to bring Enlightenment to the natives of some far away land will be facilitated by a gift from the Earl. She does note the irony of the rakish Lord being the one to help bring religion to the heathens (after all he is known as The Libertine in tonish circles because of his sensuous poetry and long list of conquests) but once Geoffrey feels he has something to offer to her, she’s sure he’ll offer for her.
Rhys Gillray, Earl of Rawden is bored already in the rustic setting of his recently reacquired country seat, La Montange. The property represents everything to him, though. All the hard work he underwent to buy it and all its exquisite contents back from those who purchased it after his father’s financial ruin and the dark secret of the manner in which he gained the money to begin his almost two decades long climb back the height of Regency society. He is amused at his dissolute cousin’s current position as a country curate and immediately susses out the fact that Geoffrey is hiding from creditors and wants money only to finance his return to a lavish lifestyle. The beautiful vicar’s daughter’s attempts to charm him might offer a cure for his ennui if only to prove to her that she is just as susceptible to passion as the next woman.
But Rhys never intended to get caught kissing the lovely Sabrina. However, faced with his friends and her father, there was nothing for him to do but reluctantly offer for her. Oh well, he had to marry sometime anyway so he’ll just enjoy his Married Rights while in the country and scoot back off to London to the delights of town when he feels like it. Sabrina soon learns that being a Countess is much less work than she’s accustomed to as the daughter of a busy vicar and sets out to find things to fill her days alone. Though sometimes those things, such as inspecting the roofs of estate tenants, don’t meet with the approval of the housekeeper and result in letters to Rhys which bring him back earlier than he anticipated. And so they begin to get to know each other, and care for each other, all the while never anticipating the fact that the past is rapidly catching up with both of them in a way that could tear them apart forever.
Beauty and the Spy and Ways to be Wicked are the first two books in this trilogy. I give you kudos for filling me in enough to know what’s gone on in the past without info dumping in this book. It’s a tricky thing to manage. However, there were times when this storyline tended to get a bit lost for a few hundred pages. And the resolution to Sabrina’s past seemed a bit too easily discovered. I also applaud the fact that when the roadblock to ultimate happiness for Rhys and Sabrina is revealed, it’s a doozy and not something that two minutes worth of conversation would quickly wrap up. Nor is it brushed under the carpet by either party and resolved in a week. It cut deeply, hurt badly and needs the time you give it for all parties to move on. Thank you.
Rhys starts out as a typical rake enticed against his will by the Innocent Heroine. This plotline is nicely done but, alas, offers little in the way of newness to the dozens I’ve read before. Sabrina is more refreshing in that she’s more honest with herself and Rhys about her reactions to him then I’ve seen written in other books but she’s not a total blast of fresh air either. And the callous way in which Rhys leaves Sabrina over and over doesn’t make me feel much love for him and makes the book’s middle sag. I will say that the manner in which you handled their reunion, especially in terms of who facilitates it and how that person manages it, was delightful to read. Straight talking and blunt observations cut off the usual shilly-shallying that litter so many romance novels.
I enjoyed my first time at bat with you, especially your use of language. I wasn’t lost in the trilogy story arc though I felt the arc sometimes got misplaced during the course of this story. The HEA for Sabrina and Rhys is well deserved and realistically achieved though their characters sometimes sank into slightly same old-same old territory. Altogether this is a nice book but it’s not a great one. B-