By candlelight she lures him…
Glittering court socialites and underworld cutpurses alike know that Adrian Ferrers, Earl of Rivenham, is the most dangerous man in London. Rivenham will let nothing—not the deepening shadow of war, nor the growing darkness within him—interfere with his ambition to restore his family to its former glory. But when tasked by the king to uncover a traitor, he discovers instead a conspiracy—and a woman whose courage awakens terrible temptations. To save her is to risk everything. To love her might cost his life.
At swordpoint she defies him…
Lady Leonora knows that Rivenham is the devil in beautiful disguise— and that the irresistible tension between them is as unpredictable as the dilemma in which Nora finds herself: held hostage on her own estate by Rivenham and the king’s men. But when war breaks out, Nora has no choice but to place her trust in her dearest enemy—and pray that love does not become the weapon that destroys them both.
Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Star, March 2012
Time and Setting: England, 1715
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Caz
Set at a time of great unrest and political turmoil, Ms Duran spins a terrific tale of love and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. This period of English history saw the ending of the Stuart monarchy with the death of Queen Anne and the accession of the first George, causing deep divisions throughout English society. The threat of rebellion – principally from the “Old Pretender”, James Stuart (whose father, James II had been ousted from the throne because he was a Catholic) – was never far away, and there many whose sympathies may not have lain with the Jacobites, but who were resistant to the idea of a German on the English throne.
Leonora, the widowed Lady Towe, is the daughter of Lord Hoxton and sister of David Colville, both of whom have been stripped of their lands and titles because they have been plotting against the new king. Both men have fled to France, leaving Nora alone to manage Hodderby, the home for which she has a deep and abiding love.
Adrian Ferrars, Earl of Rivenham has been sent to arrest Colville and bring him to London to face trial and, almost certainly, execution for treason. Nora is stunned at Adrian’s unexpected appearance, and not just because she knows the danger he represents to her brother. Their family estates border each other, so Adrian, David and Nora grew up together; and six years earlier, Adrian and Nora had fallen deeply in love and had a brief affair. When Nora’s father discovered their relationship, the pair were brutally separated, for Adrian was a Catholic, and thus not a suitable husband for the daughter of a high-ranking, Protestant family.
Their short-lived affair ended bitterly and violently, with Nora believing Adrian abandoned her to the fate forced upon her by her father (marriage to an older, abusive man) and Adrian believing she deserted him in order to do her father’s bidding and marry a rich man of his choice.
Adrian was then bundled off to France by his family for his own protection. Upon his return some years later, he renounced his faith and by virtue of his intelligence, charm and wits, rose quickly through the ranks of the court to become a trusted advisor to Queen Anne, and has retained his position under the new king.
Their reunion is barbed and bitter, both of them haunted by memories of betrayal and heart-break and determined to convince the other of their utter indifference. Adrian is cold and cruel and Nora meets his harshness with sharp-tongued defiance, determined to protect her property and her brother, sometimes to the point of stupidity. But Adrian has powerful enemies, and is walking a political tightrope, and with those enemies prepared to join forces in order to bring Adrian down, he is prone to attack from all directions and decides there is only one way he can do what he must and keep Nora safe at the same time.
With the undercurrent of attraction that still swirls between them proving harder and harder to deny, the two begin an uneasy rapprochement. The devastating truth about what happened six years ago is revealed, and the barriers between them – barriers not of their own making – begin to break down. But even so, Adrian must ignore Nora’s wishes and act to protect her in a way which threatens to destroy their re-kindling relationship; to protect her from herself as much as from those outside forces which seek his destruction.
Ms Duran’s story is utterly compelling, as are her two central characters. Adrian is a wonderful hero, a man who can be ruthless and uncompromising when he has to be, but who also shows a remarkable capacity for tenderness and consideration. The depth of his love for Nora drives him to desperate measures, it’s true, but that love is never in question. Nora is a little more difficult to warm to, primarily because of the blind loyalty she shows toward David, who has put her in danger time and again. I found myself frequently wanting to scream at Nora to just cut the cord and leave him to fend for himself! Even though he is preparing to marry her off to another man to further his own ends, and after Adrian has revealed to her the extent of his duplicity six years before, she can’t bring herself to wash her hands of him. Loyalty is an admirable trait most of the time, but in this, Nora really is her own worst enemy. Yet she is clever, stubborn, and courageous; her motives might not always be clear-sighted or in her best interests, but she possesses a great inner strength.
At Your Pleasure is a beautifully developed romance with real emotional depth set against a fascinating historical background. I found it to be an intense read with very little to lighten the tension and there are some scenes which make for downright uncomfortable reading – but I loved the intrigue and that feeling of walking the thin line along with the characters. The writing itself is gorgeous, and I applaud Ms Duran for the way she shows us the grey areas that are part of the lives of these characters and the tough decisions they have to make.