Eighteen months ago, Lizzie Troutt’s husband died in his mistress’s bed, leaving her determined to never marry again….and unfortunately virginal.
Eighteen years ago (give or take a few) the Honorable Oliver Berwick blackened his own soul, leaving him hardened and resolutely single.
When the chance for redemption in the form of a country house party invitation comes his way, Oliver is determined to prove himself a gentleman.
Until he breaks all the codes of gentlemanly behavior… once again.
August 13 1826
“I would prefer to take supper on a tray.” Lizzie didn’t look up from her book, because meeting her sister’s eyes would only encourage her.
She should have known Catrina wouldn’t back down. “Lizzie Troutt, your husband died over a year ago.”
“Really?” Lizzie murmured, turning a page. “How time flies.” In fact, Adrian had died eighteen months, two weeks, and four days ago.
In his mistress’s bed.
“Lizzie,” Cat said ominously, sounding more like an older sister—which she was—with every word, “if you don’t get out of that bed, I shall drag you out. By your hair!”
Lizzie felt a spark of real annoyance. “You already dragged me to your house for this visit. The least you could do is to allow me to read my book in peace.”
“Ever since you arrived yesterday, all you’ve done is read!” Cat retorted.
“I like reading. And forgive me if I point out that Tolbert is not precisely a hotbed of social activity.” Cat and her husband, Lord Windingham, lived deep in Suffolk, in a dilapidated manor house surrounded by fields of sheep.
“That is precisely why we gather friends for dinner. Lord Dunford-Dale is coming tonight, and I need you to even the numbers. That means getting up, Lizzie. Bathing. Doing your hair. Putting on a gown that hasn’t been dyed black would help, too. You look like a dispirited crow, if you want the truth.”
Lizzie didn’t want the truth. In fact, she felt such a stab of anger that she had to fold her lips tightly together or she would scream at Cat.
It wasn’t her sister’s fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault except her late husband’s, and he was definitely late—i.e., dead.
“I know you feel ashamed to be in company,” her sister continued, energetically digging her own grave, as far as Lizzie was concerned. “Unfortunately, most people are aware the circumstances of your marriage, not to mention the fact that Adrian was so imprudent as to die away from home.”
That was one way of putting it.
“You make it sound as if he dropped a teacup,” Lizzie observed, unable to stop herself. “I would call the fact that Adrian died in the act of tupping Sadie Sprinkle inconsiderate in the extreme.”
“I refuse to allow you to wither away in bed simply because your husband was infatuated with Shady Sadie,” Cat said, using the term by which the gossip rags had referred to Adrian’s mistress. “You must put all that behind you. Sadie has another protector, and you are out of mourning. It’s time to stop hiding.”
“I am not hiding,” Lizzie said, stung. “I take fresh air and moderate exercise every day. I simply like reading in bed. Or in a chair.”
Or anywhere else, to tell the truth. Reading in a peaceful garden was an excellent way to take fresh air.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon Impulse, June 2016
Time and Setting: Sussex, 1826
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Caz
This charming novella is loosely related to Eloisa James’ Essex Sisters series by virtue of the fact that the heroine’s sister is friends with Josie, Countess of Mayne. The central romance develops quickly – over the space of a couple of days – but it’s well done, with plenty of humour and crackling chemistry between the two leads which enables the reader to buy into this whirlwind courtship without the need for the suspension of too much disbelief.
Lizzie, Lady Troutt has been a widow for just over eighteen months. Not unusually for the time, her father chose her husband for her and chose badly; Adrian Troutt only wanted Lizzie’s money so that he could continue to live with his long-term mistress. Poor Lizzie had no idea of that until her wedding day, when her new husband unceremoniously dumped her at his mother’s home, told Lizzie to look after her and waved goodbye. Hurt and disillusioned, Lizzie ran back to her father – who sent her right back and basically told her to get on with it.
Adrian’s unorthodox living arrangements were widely known, which naturally made Lizzie into a figure of fun or pity, and his death ‘on the job’ only served to increase her notoriety. In the year and a half since his death, all Lizzie has wanted to do is to fade into the background, stay at home and read her beloved books.
Her older, happily married sister Cat, Lady Windingham, is worried about her, though. Lizzie used to be vibrant and quick-witted but has become entirely self-effacing and reclusive; she seems to be holding herself responsible for her late husband’s faults, and Cat wants to shake her out of her gloom. She extracts a promise from Lizzie to attend the house-party she and her husband are holding and hopes to find a way to bring Lizzie out of her shell.
Oliver Berwick still feels guilty over some youthful indiscretions that caused hurt to a couple of young women in society. When the opportunity to offer both ladies an apology presents itself, he grabs it, accompanying his fifteen year-old niece (and ward) to Lady Windingham’s houseparty. Cat makes Oliver very welcome, but Lizzie is quiet and aloof, making a reluctant appearance at the dinner table that first evening and skipping breakfast the next day, simply to avoid meeting him again. Oliver is funny, charming and far too handsome for Lizzie’s peace of mind; and besides, she doesn’t want a man. Widowhood comes with certain benefits, one of which is not having to be subject to the dictates of any man ever again, even a gorgeous, amusing and surprisingly straightforward one.
Both Lizzie and Oliver are such well-rounded, engaging characters, that it’s not hard to get to know them quickly and to feel that they’re part of a longer story. It’s easy to understand what has driven Lizzie to want to hide herself away and to sympathise with her insecurities; and it’s clear that Oliver has grown up to be a conscientious, caring man. He is sweetly smitten with Lizzie from the start and determined to coax her out of herself and show her that not all men are selfish bastards. Lizzie is wary and at first wants nothing more than to hide away; but – and here I thoroughly applaud the author – Lizzie starts to realise ON HER OWN that she is doing herself down by dressing in drab clothes and living vicariously through the books she loves. I loved watching her succumbing to the warmth of Oliver’s personality and his gentle teasing, but I also loved that she was finally standing up for herself and discovering the women she was supposed to be.
In spite of the short page count, Ms. James manages to create a genuine connection between her central couple and to add in some swiftly but ably drawn secondary characters, too. A Gentleman Never Tells is a fun, quick read that can be enjoyed by fans as well as those new to the author’s work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ELOISA JAMES is a New York Times best-selling author and professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com
Connect with Eloisa James
Website – http://www.eloisajames.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/eloisajames
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/eloisajames