Series: Lost Lords #7
Published by Kensington on April 28th 2015
Genres: Historical Romance
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Also in this series: Sometimes a Rogue, Not Quite a Wife
Also by this author: Sometimes a Rogue, Not Quite a Wife, The Last Chance Christmas Ball, Once a Soldier, Seduction On a Snowy Night
Daniel Herbert has come to London in search of a wife, someone sensible who can oversee his newly inherited properties, leaving him free to pursue his life's work as a doctor. He never expects to become intoxicated by a woman as mysterious as she is shockingly beautiful. . .
Jessie Kelham's looks have always been a curse. Now alone with a young daughter and a perilous secret, she is in need of protection. But dangerously attractive Daniel is not the kind of husband she has in mind. If he recognizes her, the demons of her past will surely erupt. Yet they cannot keep apart, and soon they are drawn into a union that may bring joy--or shattering danger. . .
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Mary Jo Putney has a gift for making even the most unlikely or incredible situations believable through the very real emotions her characters feel. In Not Always a Saint, Jessie’s past holds far more than her fair share of troubles, but I easily connected with her and even more with Dr. Daniel Herbert, now Lord Romayne – who may not always be a saint but is always a good, kind, and honorable man.
The book pulled me in from the very first scene, in which a battered, bleeding, half-strangled woman staggers into Daniel’s surgery in need of help. The descriptions of “Jane’s” injuries are horrifying and utterly realistic. It’s a compelling scene, and gives a lot of insight into Daniel’s character: kind, caring, generous, and progressive in his views about women.
When we next see the battered woman, she’s ten years older and wiser, the cherished wife of an elderly, dying baron and the mother of a little girl. Those scenes establish Jessie’s mature character: she loves her husband and adores her daughter, and she will do anything to protect little Beth… even remarry in a hurry after her husband dies, lest her odious nephew-by-marriage gain guardianship over the child. She isnt weak, but the fears of her past still haunt her.
Jessie tends to hide her feelings, and is extremely reticent about her past, which makes her hard to know. As I slowly learned more about her, I understand why. Putney does an excellent job of exploring the lasting trauma and emotions of an abuse survivor. In particular, she nails Jessie’s mingled fear/anger toward her father and her longing for some kind of tenderness/recognition from him, despite knowing how unlikely it is.
Daniel is a healer first and foremost. As a result, his dismay at inheriting a title and estates rings true, which gives him a much-needed touch of humanity. He’s a perfect match for Jessie, particularly because of his sensitivity toward women’s feelings and his understanding of the effects of abuse. It’s easy to see and appreciate the growing feelings between Daniel & Jessie even before they are able to identify and articulate them to themselves and each other, and I loved their developing relationship.
But where were Daniel’s flaws? If he had any, I couldn’t see them. The man really is almost a saint. I kept expecting him to lose his temper or pull away from Jessie or something, but he is superhumanly kind and patient, even when he discovers she lied to him by omission. And he remains true to his Hippocratic oath even when the patient has tried to harm him and those he loves.
I was a little bothered by the suddenness with which Daniel falls in love with Jessie. You can (and Putney does, a few times too many) call it coup de foudre – the thunderbolt, or love at first sight – but it’s essentially insta-love. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen on occasion, but I would have preferred if Daniel had simply been drawn to and fascinated by her at first – infatuated, if you will – then found himself falling in love as he got to know her better.
Jessie’s love for her child is one of the best and most joyful things about her, and little Beth is a delight, so I was surprised and a little disappointed not to see more of the child. It made Beth’s presence in the book feel a little bit like a plot device on the author’s part. That said, her absence through much of the book is consistent with the way children were raised in the upper classes, and with the two adults being either at various social occasions or on their honeymoon – neither of them places you would expect to see a four-year-old. (A quick aside: Beth’s speech is surprisingly polite and advanced for a four-year-old, which detracts a little from her believability.)
The only real flaw in the book, though, is the aforementioned odious nephew, who is a thoroughly unlikeable villain. He does at least have motivation – plenty of it – for his actions, but he displays no redeeming features – not even charm. He’s truly despicable; the more I learned about him the more I hated him. But he’s so unrelievedly nasty that he comes across as two-dimensional and unbelievable.
The same could perhaps be said of the other supporting characters – that they are flat, I mean, not that they’re wicked. It’s mainly because they don’t get a lot of page time, and because for the most part their characters were already developed in previous books. That doesn’t mean you can’t start with this book, but you may enjoy it more if you’ve at least read the previous novel, Not Quite a Wife, which features Daniel’s sister.
I’m not sure if this is the end of the Lost Lords series. If so, I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to the characters – but I’m not sure there are any of this group left unmarried. I’ve really liked most of the books and loved several. But then, Putney is one of my go-to historical authors. It will be fun to see what she comes up with next.
Read for #COYER Scavenger Hunt #12 – any type of romance novel
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Scavenger Hunt - Summer 2015
- Historical Romance Reading Challenge 2015