Surrender to the Earl by Gayle Callen
Audrey Blake has been blind since childhood and so her family is very protective of her to the point where she feels suffocated. When her husband died in the war he left her an estate but her family always comes up with an excuse to prevent her from travelling. Robert Henslow, the Earl of Knightsbridge, served with Mr. Blake, and he believes his actions were responsible for Blake's death and feels like he owes the widow a debt of gratitude. When he visits Audrey at her family home he sees how capable and strong she is and how her family refuses to see this and treats her like a child. When she asks for his help escaping he agrees but the only way he can think to get her out is by pretending they are engaged. Her family is surprised, especially her beautiful younger sister who is upset that her older sister is once again taking the matrimonial prize, but they do let her go with him. She is excited to finally be starting her own life and knows that she will have a lot to prove to everyone, but she is wary of this pretend engagement.
Mr. Blake had courted and married her so he could use her dowry to purchase a commission in the army so she is wary of new attachments and does not want to come to be dependent on someone else. When Audrey arrives at her new home the servants are surprised and everyone can immediately sense that they are hiding something but she wants to get out to a good start with everyone so does not push. When Audrey's ladies maid becomes sick Robert accompanies her around the village and helps her look through estate matters. He admires her independence and determination but believes that they get in the way of her forming attachments to other people. He wants a real relationship with Audrey but she cannot give up her fears and feels betrayed when he reveals the truth about her husbands death. Together they must learn that it is okay to depend on someone else, to trust and love someone enough to know that they will never let you down.
I was immediately intrigued by a book featuring a blind heroine because I realize how much many romances rely on descriptions and details, and I was very impressed with how Callen developed a real character and didn't gloss over the hardships that would come with being blind. Audrey was a very interesting and likable character; fiercely understanding and reluctant to accept any help, but it made sense when considering the way she had been so protected her entire life. She was very capable of running her own life and obviously cared about those around her from her spoiled sister to her lady's maid to the family who works at the estate. Robert was a very admirable character with a keen sense of honor and I really enjoyed reading about him falling in love with Audrey. It was obvious he was proud of Audrey's abilities and would be accepting of her abilities without trying to smother her or control her. Yet it was clear that he would do everything he could to protect her and wanted to have a relationship where both of them were partners.
Audrey and Robert spent a lot of time together in various situations and we were able to see how they would get on under different circumstances. Throughout the book what really stood out was how supportive Robert was of Audrey at all times and that was really what she needed. The two were very attracted to each other, and even without her being able to see him, that aspect was really clear throughout the book. However, there really was very little sex in the book and even if what was there was hot, I felt like there should have been more. She worried that he was using sex to control her and that was one of the little issues that irritated me in the book. There was also the problem of him believing he was responsible for her husbands death and those little dramas took away from the book. I really liked the relationship between Audrey and her sister and how it developed throughout the novel as just an extra little treat.
Rating: A very good book with a unique heroine who was portrayed so honestly and I really felt like the relationship was a strong one.