A Gentleman Never Tells by Juliana Gray
You know this is a good book when I’m compelled to read the entire series.
When they find themselves accidentally renting the same castle in Tuscany, three lords and three ladies make a bet to devote themselves to scholarly pursuits for an entire year without intimate interaction with the opposite sex.
In this book, the second of the Affairs By Moonlight series, Elizabeth Harewood, now the Countess of Somerton and mother of a precocious five-year-old son, encounters Roland Penhallow, the ex-love of her life. She’s escaped to this castle to hide from her husband, who is abusive and somewhat depraved. She cannot afford to give away here whereabouts, as she is afraid he will take her son away. Roland has been in love with Elizabeth for years and sees this opportunity as a chance to get her back. Will this work itself out?
Of course, it will.
This series is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. I did not read the summary before I read the book. Maybe that would have helped make sense of certain things; I’m not sure. Nevertheless, it’s not a requirement. The story basically follows the premise that men and women can’t be together without succumbing to romance, so to speak, and the characters bet each other as to who will succumb first—the men or the women. (Deliberate temptation is definitely involved!)
This book is interesting and witty. If you can get over how Elizabeth and Roland end up in the same house in the first place—a rental mix-up that seems like, well, one of you is a Duke, so perhaps you should be able to buy yourself another house?—then everything falls into place. The characters are well written and the exchanges are interesting, even between the secondary characters, which means I now have to read the rest of the series.
I do feel that the villain is slightly cookie cutter-y, even though his motivation is explained. He is really not a nice person and I understand why his wife wanted to divorce him. I feel that the novel has a pretty realistic depiction of divorce in those days—how scandalous it was, how determined you had to be to go through with it, and how much it would affect you, especially if you were a woman.
*** MILD SPOILER & POTENTIAL DEAL BREAKER ***
For those who consider adultery a deal breaker, the heroine leaves her husband (there are hints of abuse) and hooks up with the hero. Technically, yes, they’re not divorced, but she leaves her husband, so I consider that separation already, although in those days it probably wasn’t. Your mileage may vary.
*** END SPOILER ***
All three books in this series take place at the same time. I haven’t read the other two, but I am looking forward to catching up.
Yay or nay?
Good enough to make me want to read the entire series!
Who might enjoy it: Readers who enjoy second-chance romances
Who might not enjoy it: People who dislike cookie cutter villains