Lady Eve Thorne was devastated when Mr. Benjamin Hillary left her at the altar. She’s no longer that starry-eyed young woman, and now that he’s back, he can go hang… At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. Eve has a new man in her life, and Ben is nothing but trouble.
The worst thing Benjamin Hillary ever did was abandon his bride-to-be on their wedding day. The hardest thing he will ever have to do is watch her marry another man. But once Ben realizes he might have a chance, he’ll do just about anything to win back Eve’s heart—anything.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 7, 2015
Time and Setting: 1817, 1819, London
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This is a second chance romance, a popular trope I love – Persuasion, anyone? – but Samantha Grace’s latest book makes it a little hard to swallow.
When Ben Hillary returns to England, Eve Thorne is about to be betrothed to Sir Jonathan Hackberry, an archaeologist and a man who is not bothered by Eve’s scandalous past. Ben’s abandonment, however unintentional, ruined her reputation and Eve’s protective older brother, Sebastian, has never forgiven him. But Ben claims he still loves Eve and has always regretted his hasty and un-gentlemanly departure, even though he never even wrote her a single letter during the entire time he was away! The reason Ben left Eve is not very plausible or even a good enough explanation. We’re told he was wracked with profound (and debilitating) guilt over a youthful infatuation with a tradesman’s daughter and he suffers panic attacks, one of which strikes him at the altar on his wedding day. I don’t quite understand what triggers it, perhaps other than his too tight cravat? Anyway, he runs away on one of his family’s ships to India and is gone for two years, leaving Eve with a beautiful necklace, a broken heart, and her good name in tatters.
Eve is a stronger heroine than we are first led to believe based on her depiction in the previous book in the series, In Bed with a Rogue, in which she is a sad and pitiable character indeed, having been jilted at the altar with rampant gossip swirling around her. Here, however, she displays a quiet, inner strength that will serve her well. She is the stronger of the two in their relationship. She gives Ben another chance, she helps him through his angst-ridden nightmares and attacks, and she keeps them together by refusing to leave him even as he tries to push her away. Most women would have given up, but not Eve. In our twenty-first century mindset, however, we might call her a doormat.
Ben tries desperately to win Eve back in improbable and often silly ways, such as accompanying her to one of her pet charities or showing up uninvited at balls and parties. These are the parts of this sweet romance that are a bit too cloying. On the other hand, their few love scenes are brief but quite descriptive and passionate.
I give Eve a lot of credit for forgiving Ben but their resolution is too convenient. I liked Eve’s fiancé more than I liked Ben. Jonathan Hackberry is a generous, likeable, and genuinely funny character, who is very smart and, until he feels compelled to do something he doesn’t really wish to do, a true gentleman. He is not quite what he seems and that makes him even more interesting, possibly even more so than Ben! But this thread in the novel is just left to wither away, unresolved, and this frustrates me. I find his background and aura much more intriguing than Ben’s sad guilt issues and I hope Ms. Grace has plans to write Jonathan’s full story.
Even toward the end of the book, Ben still hasn’t resolved his past issues of self-reproach over the death of his childhood love. Eve’s patience is that of a saint and, at one unbelievable point, Ben contemplates separating himself from Eve yet again to deal with his troubles. I find him a rather weak hero; he really needs to see a psychologist.
Despite my reservations, Samantha Grace writes a nice story in an engaging style that doesn’t drag. It’s breezy and light read for readers who have read her previous books and those who like their romance on the less angsty side.