Duo Review: Beckman and Gabriel (Lonely Lords 4&5) by Grace Burrowes

rhfl covers
Beckman: Lord of Sins at Amazon
Gabriel: Lord of Regrets at Amazon

We’re doing something a little different today here at RHFL in that we’re running reviews of two related books together in the same post. Given the proliferation of “series” in the genre, it isn’t possible to review every single book in any given one. Caz reviewed Darius which was the first in this series back in April and rated it highly (4.5 stars) Since then, another four or five books have appeared and there just hasn’t been space to review them all. Hence your humble reviewers’ idea to review two of them together.

Anyone who is keeping up with Grace Burrowes’ latest series featuring a number of rather scrumptious heroes known collectively as the Lonely Lords will know that although each of the books can be read without reading any of the others, there are some which benefit from a little previous knowledge AND which are closely linked to some of the other books in the series. Two such books were the second and third in the series (Nicholas and Ethan) and the same is true of the two books being featured today. The character of Gabriel North features strongly in Beckman Haddonfield’s story, past events are referenced and some other characters cross from one book to the other (most notably Gabriel’s love-interest), so it made sense to run a collaborative review.

Beckman

Beckman finally emerges from the shadow of his wife’s death by agreeing to restore a family estate…and embarking on a dalliance with the quiet, mysterious housekeeper who resides there. But she is not who she seems…

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2013

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

I’m gradually catching up with the Lonely Lords and have now reached the fourth book, which is the story of Beckman Haddonfield, one of the younger brothers of Nicholas, Viscount Reston and Ethan Grey.
The events in this book run parallel to events that take place in Nicholas, and there are several references throughout as to what Nick is up to, rattling around in London, as well as to the cautious rapprochement that is taking place between Ethan and his half-brothers.

This book opens with the dying earl seeing Beckman off as the latter departs for Three Springs, one of the family properties which is in desperate need of attention. Lady Warne, Beckman’s grandmother, owns the place, although she does not live there, and she is not altogether happy with the responses she is receiving to her letters and enquiries.

We learn as the novel progresses, that Beckman is the “fixer” in the family, and that he has travelled extensively in this role, surveying the family’s holdings at home and abroad, and doing what needs to be done in order to maintain them and keep them profitable.

The thing that struck me immediately was the depth of feeling in the relationship between Beckman and his father – a thing rarely seen in historical romances. Normally, fathers and sons are at loggerheads or estranged, but here, Beckman is loath to leave; knowing his father is dying, he wants to stay, but also knows the earl is despatching him because he doesn’t want his family to see him in his decline. It’s also clear that Beck is something of a favourite –

Nicholas is a good time. You are a good man.

and that the earl is concerned about Nick’s suitability to inherit the earldom.

Arriving at Three Springs, Beckman makes the acquaintance of the women who run the house, the taciturn land steward and slovenly servants. The house and lands are in a bad way, but there has not been enough money forthcoming to do much other than to keep the house running in a very basic manner. The ladies – Sara Hunt, the housekeeper and her sister Polly, the cook – are helped by the mysterious Gabriel North, a man Beck immediately suspects is much more than a simple land steward, and hindered by a couple of lazy farmhands who Beck very quickly gets rid of.

I found this to be a very gently moving story about people finding their place and their purpose. Beckman has been a wanderer for years, a situation that came about when his father realised that Beck needed something to divert him from the course towards self-destruction on which he’d set himself after the death of his young wife and unborn child. But he’s become weary and a little bit resentful of being continually sent away for “his own good” and wants to put down some roots.

Sara is surprised to discover that this son of an earl isn’t above getting his hands dirty. He and Gabriel work all the hours God sends in order to set the estate to rights, something which takes its toll particularly on Gabriel because of a recent injury.

Like Beckman, Sara (whose full name is Sarabande) has her own secrets and inner demons. A hugely talented violinist, she married a man who subsequently exploited her and her talent, hawking her all over Europe, from concert halls to drawing rooms, and spending all the money she made on drink, gambling and other women. The Hunts were clearly a talented family as Polly (or Polonaise) is an incredible artist, a talent that appears to have been passed to Sara’s daughter Allie.

Although Sara’s cruel, wastrel husband is long dead, she and Polly live in fear of his relatives discovering Allie’s whereabouts and taking her away to exploit her talent as an artist. This means that they are reluctant to let the girl paint as they don’t want her to immerse herself completely in her gift to the extent that they had done in the past and in a way that left them open to the machinations of an unscrupulous man.

The thing that stopped me rating the book more highly, because the romance is by turns beautiful and scorching, was the fact that Sara’s secrets turned out to be so… well, insignificant. She has hidden herself away since returning to England because she is so ashamed of the fact that she gave “private performances” barefoot and wearing scanty costumes to rooms full of gawking men, feeling it makes her unfit to mix in society and causing her to worry in case one of those men should recognise her.

I admit I’d expected Sara’s deep secret to be something a little more scandalous, but in the grand scheme of things, that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. As I’ve said, the central romance is utterly beautiful, and Beckman is an absolute joy of a hero; kind, caring and insightful, and I never cease to be amazed by the amount of romantic and sexual tension that this author can bring to the merest touch of a hand or a kiss.

In Beckman, like the books that precede it, Ms Burrowes has also written a superb male friendship. I’m finding these to be among the highlights of the books in this series that I’ve read so far – in Nicholas and Ethan, the eponymous characters resurrect and repair a relationship destroyed years earlier and in this book, Beckman and Gabriel North strike up a friendship that I’m convinced will last for years. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in their banter, there were times they may not have liked each other much, but it’s clear there was a lot of mutual respect and understanding between them; and in fact, their parting was almost as painful as the one that took place when Beck had to leave Three Springs after his father’s death.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book despite the misgivings I’ve mentioned about certain aspects of the plot. But Ms Burrowes is one of those writers whose characters are so compelling and whose handling of the emotional content of her stories keeps me coming back for more, despite some minor inconsistencies.

Gabriel

After years in hiding, when Gabriel Wendover leaves behind the woman he loves to resume his place as Marquis of Hesketh, he finds the lady herself already ensconced his household, and the mysterious danger still stalking him. Gabriel loves Polonaise Hunt (Polly) and is both upset and thrilled to find that she’s been hired by his brother to paint the family portraits. He must keep himself, his brother and Polly safe, but there’s nothing he can do to safeguard his own heart…

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2013

RHL Classifications
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

“It’s time I rose from the dead.” With those words, Gabriel, Marquis of Hesketh begins the process of reclaiming his life. He was injured in Spain over two years previously, and since that time, several attempts have been made on his life. In order to protect himself until he is stronger and can figure out who the would-be-assassin is, he lets everyone believe he is dead. Meanwhile, he is acting as a land steward at Three Springs, Beckman Haddonfield’s estate very close to his own home. (Beckman is the previous book in the series. This book can be read without having read Beckman, but reading it provides some background information as the characters in both stories are closely connected.)

Gabriel’s younger brother, Aaron, has now claimed his title, and his fiancée, Marjorie. (It should be noted that this was an arranged marriage of convenience, and not a love match.) He would appear to be high on the list of suspects, along with another cousin, George, who is in line to inherit after Aaron. George acts as steward to the Hesketh estate, but neither he, nor Aaron are doing a good job of managing it, as one disaster after another happens.

While Gabriel had been living incognito at Beckman’s estate, he became enamored of the cook, Polly. He fights his attraction to her, knowing that he is living a lie and can’t have a serious relationship until his life is straightened out. He backs away, and lets her know that he will be leaving, but Polly has secrets of her own. She is an accomplished painter, and ironically is hired to paint a portrait of Marjorie, Gabriel’s former betrothed, and now his brother’s wife.

Gabriel decides to take the direct approach, and confronts his brother face to face. Aaron’s joy at seeing him alive leads Gabriel to believe that it isn’t his brother who wants him dead. So, who is responsible? And now, to muddy the waters even further, Polly is here to paint the portrait, and discovers that Gabriel is the presumed-dead heir. Gabriel tries to send Polly away, to protect her from any danger, but she refuses to give up her commission.

Their proximity leads to intimacy, and to love. Gabriel is now determined to marry Polly once the mystery is solved, but Polly feels unworthy due to his title, and her past. She has a secret that she feels will turn Gabriel away from her, not realizing that he already knows. His acceptance is a beautiful thing to see, as is her acceptance of his past.

There is a lot happening in this story. There is the secondary story of Aaron, Gabriel’s brother, and his unhappy marriage. There is the mystery surrounding cousin George. And there is the mother-in-law from hell, who has to be one of the most despicable characters I’ve read about. I just wanted her to die on the spot. I did have to raise an eyebrow at the identity of the would-be-killer(s), and his/her reasoning because the circumstances didn’t quite ring true with me. All that aside, the focus of the book is Gabriel and Polly’s love story, and it is a beautiful one indeed. As with all of Grace Burrowes’ books, the story is very character driven, and I highly recommend it, and the others in the Lonely Lords series.

2 thoughts on “Duo Review: Beckman and Gabriel (Lonely Lords 4&5) by Grace Burrowes

  1. Pingback: VIRTUAL TOUR: Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen #1) by Grace Burrowes | Romantic Historical Reviews

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