When Lord Alec Carstairs returns from the Peninsular Wars, hailed as a hero in the midst of the London Season, only Annabelle Layton knows the sort of man that he really is, that the honor everyone praises is illusory.
They’d been close friends once, before a passionate kiss changed everything. But if she’d secretly loved him, those feelings had died one bright summer morning, when a reckless wager left Annabelle with terrifying injuries. Alec had abandoned her without a backwards glance.
Hardly the actions of a hero.
But Alec has never forgotten her, despite his vow to stay away. There is more to that long-ago day than Annabelle knows, and shocking lies have distorted the past. Can he uncover its painful truths, and still keep his distance from the stunning beauty? Can he deny his forbidden desire, even as it flares again between them, hotter than ever?
Review: This is a very emotional story that deals not only with old family secrets, but lies and betrayals. A woman so torn by grief at the loss of her son, blames Alec and forbids him to ever have any contact with her daughter, Annabelle. Alec complies, riddled by guilt and shame for his role is his oldest friends death. But, now several of the key people from that time are gone, namely Alec’s father and Annabelle’s mother. Alec is now back in London and has taken on his role as the Earl, the very title he was born and raised to carry. He has done all that his father would have wanted and he now must chose the proper woman to marry. But, he must also unfortunately come face to face with Annabelle. Stunned by her vehement bitterness toward him the two find it is for the best if they steer clear of each other.
Enter the most charming secondary character, Annabelle’s Aunt Sophia. Aunt Sophia may be a little eccentric, but she is one sharp cookie. She intervenes without being too pushy to try and save Annabelle from being forced into a loveless marriage. However, she chose Alec to escort Annabelle around during the season. In the process of convincing him to take on such a role when it was obvious Annabelle despised him, Sophia informs Alec of a few things regarding Annabelle he never knew, thus compelling him to at least try to do the right thing by Annabelle. But spending time with her is only making him more and more miserable as his desire for her is nearly unbearable knowing he can never have her.
Annabelle and Alec are victims of the manipulations and expectations of their parents and other family members and acquaintances. I could understand Annabelle’s mother blaming Alec and sending him away because she was so grieved for the loss of a child. However, she pained a daughter who was already suffering the same grief and was bedridden with a severe injury for nearly a year and lost her best friend who she thought she might care for in other deeper ways as well. Allowed to believe the worst of Alec when she sees him again she can barely contain her contempt. Alec also suffered untold grief due to his guilt over Gareth’s death, over leaving Annabelle, for allowing his father’s aspirations for him to cloud his mind and judgment and it nearly cost him a life of love and happiness. How many times does this still happen today? Parents living their lives vicariously through their children, placing extreme pressure on them to succeed in a field they are not interested in, marrying someone they don’t really love, and living a boring unfilled life as a result. How very sad. These values were so instilled in Alec he still can’t let go of his father’s expectations even after his father died.
What is worse of course is the real truth of what happened to Gareth, the unbelievable wager he made, the incredible debts he ran up and the plans of evil and diabolical men who used women and made decisions concerning them without a single feeling for them. Annabelle was nearly sacrificed once and now years later she finds herself being chased once more, not due to her incredible beauty but for her money.
All these evil machinations against these two honorable people, all the lies, all the secrets and guess what? Love won out in the end!!
The dialogue was sharp, the characters were well drawn. I loved them, I laughed with them, cried with them and sighed over the happy ever after. This regency period historical romance was well written and a very enjoyable read. Over all, this one is 4 stars.