Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde - the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn't want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.
Draws you in from the opening line
I adore Jude Knight's writing. She slowly draws you in with words that create great imagery.
From the opening line, I was drawn into Becky's story. I felt her heartache and determination and did not judge her for the choices she needed to make for her and her daughter to survive.
I had a clear picture of Aldridge, a confirmed womanizer, and his friend Hugh, who has a tortured soul.
Just when I thought Becky would finally find her happiness with Aldridge, Jude introduced a plot twist that involved Hugh, which was interesting and complicated.
While I did not always enjoy the antics of Aldridge and Hugh, I admired Becky's resolve.
A Baron for Becky
Through circumstances beyond her control, Rebecca “Becky” Winstanley, has been on her own since the age of 15. For many years she was known among the demi-monde as “The Rose of Frampton”, a name that eventually earned her the right to choose her own protector. Unfortunately, it did not provide the ability to choose a “trustworthy” one. Her latest protector flees creditors, stealing what she had saved to build a better life for her daughter and sells Rose and her daughter to creditor to help over his debt. As Rose flees before being captured she encounters a naked man in the summer house where she has stored escape baskets should she ever have need. What she doesn’t realize is this discovery sets off a chain of events that will change her life and give her the two things she craves most: a better life for her daughter and love.
Lord Aldridge, a.k.a. The Merry Marquess, doesn’t know how he came to in a summer house with a horrendous headache, naked and being stared at by a beautiful woman. Or why there are men obviously of dubious character looking for this woman. Learning the reason Aldridge hides the woman and her daughter then takes on his most ducal persona to handle these men. When his cousin arrives after receiving a message that Aldridge was able to convince one of the men to deliver, they devise a way to help Rose flee.
Baron Hugh Overton spends three weeks of every year with his friend Aldridge. Three weeks spent on women and drinking. Those three weeks are his one time each year to forget his responsibilities and everything he has been through: disfigured in the war, the death of his wife and daughter, and his inability to father children. Introduced to Aldridge’s mistress during this time, Hugh takes an instant dislike but can’t help but be intrigued by the way she comports herself and her devotion to her daughter. This intrigue that leads Hugh to eventually accept Aldridge’s ridiculous proposal.
In the years since Aldridge rescued her and she agreed to be his mistress, Becky has had two different personas: The Rose of Frampton, Aldridge’s mistress and Becky, a genteel woman devoted to her daughter. As her contract with Aldridge nears its end, Becky is looking forward to a quiet life in the country and raising her daughter in a place where no one knows her background. All provided for her in a stipulation in her contract. Finding herself pregnant she listens to Aldridge’s bizarre plan and is confused by Baron Overton’s acceptance since she is aware of his disdain for her profession. Agreeing to a courtship to see how things go between them, Becky soon finds herself caring for Hugh.
A sweet courtship develops into a marriage; a marriage that Becky is under the impression is idyllic. A marriage where she feels her background no longer bothers Hugh. Until that ideal is broken when Hugh makes disparaging remarks about women who sell their body, remarks made without him thinking how it will affect Becky. Remarks that turn into a verbal argument which leads to Becky telling Hugh her whole story, a story that has Hugh resenting every man who has held control of Becky’s life, himself included which leads to a very poor decision.
When Becky delivers a daughter instead of son coupled with Hugh’s detachment since her revelation throw Becky into a deep depression. A depression so deep that when she hints at killing herself Hugh contacts Aldridge in hopes that he can help. An event that breaks through Becky’s haze in a heartbreaking manner and unveils the true depth of feelings Hugh has for her.
An event occurs that makes Hugh realize that his family needs to be taken care of should anything happen to him. This realization has him reaching out to Aldridge to ensure they will be since Hugh has no male heir the Barony will revert back to the crown upon his death. A request laid out to Aldridge after Hugh has a little fun teasing the man who introduced him the love of his life.
Jude Knight writes in a way that has the reader feeling every emotion the characters feel alternating between loving them, feeling sorry for them, and exasperation with their antics. Take those feelings, add in a meddling mother and the reader will be laughing, crying, and threatening to knock some sense into them.
While this is a wonderful story (one I highly recommend reading) centered on Becky and Hugh, Aldridge plays an engaging secondary character and makes one wonder what antics he will get into next and will he ever reform to achieve his happily ever after?