Long before this book came along, I had already fallen under the spell of Madeline Hunter and her writing. The author has a talent for seducing readers with her powerful story-telling skills, memorable characters (who could forget David de Abyndon, Christiana Fitzwaryn, Anna de Leon, Rhys, Daniel St. John, Dante Duclairc), heart-stirring description of emotions and expressions, as well as her attention to historical details which made the setting come alive for readers.
This latest of her work throws Hayden Rothwell in the path of Alexia Welbourne, an impoverished well-born young woman who captured his imagination. Hayden has promised to keep silent on his evidence of the crime of utterance that Alexia’s cousin committed to repay a debt of honour to Alexia’s first love and his best friend. However, he was in turn painted as the ruthless and mercenary noble who ruined Alexia’s family and made her penniless.
Desperate to keep her respectability, she decided to accept the position of tutor to Hayden’s cousin and companion to his young and flighty aunt while both ladies are in town for the season. Hayden had offered Alexia the position out of guilt and frustration at her coldness towards him for his ‘crime’ towards her family. But when one impulsive act of passion forces Alexia to marry him, Alexia started noticing that what she’s been told about him doesn’t quite add up to the man she’s observed and slowly but surely, she starts to fall for him. As for Hayden, who started off seducing her with first job security, then marriage and intimacy, he found that he’s the one seduced by the promise of her love and loyalty.
Ms Hunter has created, yet again, realistic and engaging characters with depth of personality and a interesting plot angle which investigates the social history of banking and investment in the late Regency era. For insights into the setting and her inspiration for the equivalent of today’s corporate crime of embezzlement, read up the history page of her website.
I was especially drawn to the last few chapters when the trail of funds transfers led the two main characters to a surprising find and the question of whether Alexia intends to stay in the marriage was raised, Hayden finally dropped his last barriers and admitted his love for Alexia. Alexia’s declaration, when rejecting her first love, was a lot more memorable:
“No sensible woman can dismiss either of those qualities (money and title) in a man. Nor could I ever repudiate my vows and duty. However, my reason is not nearly so practical or respectable. I love him … I love him so deeply that what you and I shared was a very shallow emotion in comparison. I would never leave him. I would never give up the chance to spend my life with him.”
And to Hayden, she confessed that it was “cowardly of me to wait for you to admit it first. I should have known my heart better. should have trusted what it said to me.”
“I much prefer loving as a woman. It is much deeper. Much richer. Much more romantic, and I like that too. Different, however. Different enough that I did not know what to call the emotion that moved me so profoundly while I held you in my arms.”
I do not know what to call the emotions that stirred in me when I turned the last page of the book. I only know that I’m already looking forward to Ms Hunter’s next book, The Lessons of Desire, which will focus on Hayden’s brother, Elliott, and Alexia’s rather bohemian friend, Phaedra. I’m even more curious about the eldest brother, Christian, who seems to be waiting for something or someone to happen.