Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Earl of Banallt is easily the most notorious rake in the ton when he makes friends with Tommy Evans and meets Tommy's wife. Sophie Evans is not his usual type, but immediately Banallt knows that she is something special and his life changes in an instant. He wants Sophie desperately and though she refuses him, he cannot get her out of his head. Sophie Mercer Evans fancied herself in love with Tommy when they eloped years ago, only to discover that he was only after her money. She knows Banallt is the same type of man as Tommy, but that does not stop her from becoming his friend. She feels safe enough with him to reveal that she is a published author of adventure romances and he reveals that he loves his wife, but does not remain faithful to her, and that he his daughter is the light of his life. But both of them are married and nothing can come of their attraction. Tragedy strikes both of them and in one moment of hurt and despair their friendship is shattered, but neither forgets the other. Banallt changes his ways and Sophie moves in with her brother and makes a life for herself, determined to keep her independence and never fall prey to a man's machinations again.
When the two meet again Banallt is more determined then ever to make Sophie his; he needs her in his life, he loves her, and he will do anything to make her fall in love with him again. Her brother is protective of her and warns Banallt away, but nothing will stand in his way this time. He slowly sets about becoming Sophie's friend again by talking with her about her writing, helping her navigate her way in a society she never experienced before she married as a young girl. Through it all Sophie can find herself falling under Banallt's spell, but she is terrified of making another mistake and refuses to believe that Banallt could ever have changed. But despite her beliefs about Banallt, Sophie wants to experience passion, wants to finally feel like she is desired, so she agrees to an affair with Banallt that is everything either of them dreamed, but so much less than what they want. When tragedy once again enters their life, it has the potential to drive them apart for good, but instead Banallt steps in to save the day with an offer of marriage. Sophie has no choice but to accept, but it will take a huge leap of faith and trust for her to finally acknowledge that Banallt has changed and that he loves her as much as she loves him.
This book has received very mixed reviews as it is quite different from most romance novels. For the most part it is chronological, but it does jump around quite a bit from when they first met, to when they were renewing their friendship, to when their friendship was originally blossoming, but it was fairly easy to keep straight. Banallt is a typical rake when the story starts out and is really quite unforgivable; he cheats on his wife, he tries to seduce his friends' wife, and he cavorts around town. He was never completely black hearted as he was a loving father so we knew it possible for the love of the right woman to save him. He falls hard for Sophie, unbelievably hard for someone who has never appreciated a woman and it is a tad unbelievable that he is so hung up on her. However unbelievable, he definitely does change and his love for Sophie is impossible to deny. Sohpie's fear of committing herself to a man with Banallt's reputation is completely understandable, but I never felt like it was overblown. I just could not understand why she had married her first husband to begin with and felt like this really should have been explained more in the book as it played such a large part in who she would become.
The romance does move rather slowly, but that is in keeping with who these two are and makes sense on the whole because Sophie just cannot bring herself to completely trust Banallt. The main focus of this book is the romance, but there is still a lot going on, especially with Sophie and her inability to truly appreciate Banallt's change. The relationship between them was quite all encompassing and progressed very slowly and methodically throughout the book. I like that we got the back story about what happened and how their friendship progressed because it made it believable that they were in love, and I liked that they were friends first. Really it was just clear that they were each what the other needed; Sohpie needed someone to be there for her who truly appreciated him, and Banallt needed someone who would expect more out of him than what he had been before. Sophie's brother is in love with Banallt's ward, Fidelia, and that is an interesting little side story. There is a lot of tragedy in this book and I will simultaneously give Jewel props for being brave enough to write something so out of the norm for a romance novel I was also rather horrified by it.
Rating: A very character and romance driven novel that was all about the relationship, which I enjoyed, but it did move slow and was somewhat of a downer. 3 1/2 hearts.