From the New York Times bestselling author of The Saving Graces and Flight Lessons comes Book II of the Wyckerley Trilogy…
To Have and to Hold
Suave, cynical, and too handsome for his own good, Sebastian Verlaine never expected to become a magistrate judging the petty crimes of his tenants and neighbors. Nor can the new Viscount D’Aubrey foresee that, when a fallen woman appears before him, he’ll find himself beguiled against all reason to alter her terrible fate...
Rachel Wade has served time in prison for her husband’s violent death, but soon discovers that freedom has its own price. For no one will offer her a second chance but a jaded viscount who needs a housekeeper. Scorned by the townspeople of Wyckerley as D’Aubrey’s mistress, tempted beyond her will by the devilish lord, Rachel risks everything she has to claim a life of her own...and a love that will last for all time.
After spending ten years in prison for killing her husband, the newly released Rachel Wade is picked up for vagrancy and brought before the magistrate, Sebastian Verlaine, Viscount D'Aubrey. Bored, debauched, selfish and quite willing to admit it, Sebastian is intrigued by Rachel, who seems old beyond her years and beaten by the world. From the first, Sebastian admits that his attraction for Rachel has something a bit perverse about it--an odd theme that runs the length of this romance set in 19th-century England. To save Rachel from another jail term, he hires her as his housekeeper, a position, everyone assumes, that includes more intimate duties. After it becomes obvious that Rachel suffered at the hands of her husband, Sebastian continues to force Rachel to submit to his own selfish desires. Gaffney tries to justify this by the fact that he wants only ``to give her pleasure,'' while her dead husband had found ``pleasure in giving her pain.'' The explanation is not enough to take the bad taste from one's mouth, nor does it help endear a hero who in one scene allows his jaded London friends to spend an amusing evening in tormenting Rachel about her past. Gaffney may have written a different kind of romance, but it is also unsavory.
A fascinating, darker version of the reformed rake story.
I honestly detested the hero at first and wondered what in the h#!! Was the author doing with this guy. It was all explained very well and I could almost feel his anguish when he made his turn around. No insta-love, it all happens gradually and with quite a few hiccups.
The heroine is deeply troubled and trying to find her way back to normal after being sent to prison. The overwhelming experiences she has with the freedoms we all take for granted were very well written. Beautiful and insightful, really.
This a little dark, but not overly so. It might make some uncomfortable with the indignities she had to endure. Not much is glossed over, but it explains why she is so damaged. There is an HEA at the end.
There are quite a few distracting typos. It needs a good proofreader. There are also a few references to things I'm not sure were invented in this time period, but I'm no expert so it was easy to ignore.
The story deserves the five stars for the well thought out plot and touching romance alone. I have already downloaded another book by this author, I highly recommend this refreshing version of the well worn plot device of the reformed rake.
What a fantastic love story!
Truly unforgettable characters.