A Visit from Sir Nicholas by Victoria Alexander
A Visit from Sir Nicholas opens 10 years before the majority of the story takes place as Elizabeth Effington and Nicholas Collingsworth, the heir to a Lord whose death is quite a ways away, fight their attraction to each other. Elizabeth, Lizzie to her friends, has presented a facade of frivolity (a word that appears much too frequently throughout the novel, to the world and it is only to Nicholas that she has felt able to reveal her true intellect and non-frivolous-ness. Nicholas has spent his entire life with the belief that he has to prove himself as his father was a wastrel and he does not want to merely rely on his uncle's generosity. He is set to leave for America the day after the annual Effington Christmas ball and Lizzie takes the opportunity to basically throw herself at Nicholas. However, Nicholas takes the high road, convinced that the best course of action is for Lizzie to marry her longtime "sweetheart," Charles, with whom she has been unofficially betrothed to since childhood. Lizzie leaves him humiliated, but manages to convince herself that she was not really in love with Nicholas, marries Charles, and is determined to never see Nicholas again.
Things do not go as plan as upon Charles' death seven years later, he leaves control of Lizzie's fortune, and that of their two sons, to Nicholas who returns to Britain three years later. Nicholas is initially ready to turn over control of the finances to Lizzie, who has done a great job, but changes his mind during their first meeting. Nicholas realizes he made a huge mistake and is determined to finally make Lizzie his. Unfortunately Lizzie has never completely gotten over the humiliation of his rejection. However, she has managed to get over her dead husbands betrayal, as she has already forgiven him (granted he is dead) for having an affair that lasted through half their marriage. Then the story becomes a little lengthy as Nicholas goes over and over the fact that he made a huge mistake, Nicholas is worried that Lizzie will never fully trust him because of what happened with Charles, and Lizzie becomes mopey about not wanting to admit that the last ten years of her life have been a mistake. Eventually the confrontation becomes over Lizzie learning to forgive herself, and her dead husband, and Nicholas, and moving on with her life.
This story had some amazing angst, which makes sense as the whole premise that the two leads made a huge mistake and must make ammends to themselves. And Alexander writes some great angst including some great scenes told from Nicholas' point of view where he reflects on what could have been. As is usual for most Alexander novels the dialogue is witty and zippy and all together fun, although there are times when the book takes the path down the witty banter disguised as arguing which both characters seem to like. Although the reasons behind why the two gave up on each other ten years ago may seem a little overdrawn and ridiculous, Alexander does an amazing job of delving into their inner thoughts and thus explaining their reasons. And I totally fell in love with Lizzie's kids, Christopher and Adam, who were entirely enjoyable, realistic, and just as well written as Lizzie and Nicholas.
Unfortunately the whole pretending to be frivolous thing just seemed a little overdone. While we see no real examples of her acting frivolous we are told, numerous times that she indeed does behave as though she's frivolous. In fact she manages to behave frivolously for seven years and convinces her husband that she has no business controlling her own finances so he leaves that responsibility to a man he hasn't seen in seven years. Adding that to the mistress thing makes it just to wierd that she so easily forgives him. For some reason I really do not get on the whole, "forgiveness" is key to moving on mantra that inhabits so many romance novels. Making it even odder is that fact that we meet the mistress, who lets Lizzie know that she, the mistress, and Charles had been soul mates and thus could not resist temptation. This prompts Lizzie to further forgive Charles and move on with her life. And said mistress happens to be friends wiht Nicholas and when Nicholas and Lizzie finally get together one of his conditions is that he will not give up old friends- which Lizzie readily agrees too. Personally, forgiveness does not extend far enough to allow your new husband to remain friends with your former husbands long-time mistress.
Rating: Their definitely could have been more sex, but the angst was some of the best I've read. I liked all the characters, but I couldn't get over the drawn out nature of the problems and the forgiveness bit.