A dramatic, heartbreaking Victorian romance between two slightly damaged people whose secrets are an obstacle to the kind of love they want and need.
Injured in body as well as in mind, Stephen Lyons is no longer the cheerful, skirt-chasing charmer he had been before the Crimean War. When Mercy Dawson, one of Florence Nightingale’s nurses at Scutari, shows up with an angry father and Stephen’s son, he has no choice but to marry her even though he can’t remember a single moment of their time together.
This is the second book of a series, but references to the previous book are fairly easy to follow. The story starts with a prologue to show Stephen pre-war; it’s a little slow but serves its purpose. I do wonder how Stephen managed to avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases with the repeated emphasis that Heath gives to his promiscuous ways.
Lorraine Heath’s Victorian romance paints a very bleak picture of war, and it’s to Heath’s credit that she doesn’t gloss over the suffering of soldiers. Interestingly, nurses were also frowned upon—I didn’t understand this at first, but apparently the fact that nurses are comfortable with undressing and bathing men was seen, at least by some in the Victorian era, as disreputable—-and Mercy pays a huge price for her desire to help in the battlefield.
Although Mercy has a bit of a martyr complex, her reasons for keeping secrets from Stephen are pretty compelling. It’s also hard not to feel for Stephen, who feels like he’s going insane from his lack of memories. The climax of their conflict is fairly predictable by the time it happens, but this doesn’t detract from the drama nor the need for copious tissues.
I also loved the scenes with Stephen’s mother and her lover, Leo—probably even more so than the main romance. (This intersects with Stephen’s story because his mother has her own secrets that she’s kept from her son.) It’s so much more ambiguous and complicated and heartbreaking. I can’t help but hope they get their happy ever after, too:
‘I do love you, you know.’
‘But not as much you do others.’
She opened her mouth to protest and he touched his fingers to her lips. ‘I do not resent the love you have for your sons and now your grandsons. I would never seek to usurp their place in your hearts. I cannot even resent the lover of your youth, because at least through him you knew what it was to be loved. But he is not here now. Tell me you do not think of him when you are in my arms.’
‘Never does he cross my mind when I am here with you.’
‘Liar,’ he whispered softly, and proceeded to ensure the words she’d spoken took on a measure of truth.
Yay or nay?
This is a dramatic, heartbreaking Victorian romance between two slightly damaged people whose secrets are an obstacle to the kind of love they want and need. Keep those tissues handy.
An e-galley of this book was generously provided by Avon via NetGalley.
Title: Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman (excerpt)
Series: London’s Greatest Lovers (Book 2)
Author: Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon (HarperCollins)
A format: 9780061922954 (1/12/2010)
Ebook: 9780062078513 (1/12/2010)
Where you can buy this book
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WORLDWIDE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository | Or check your local library
Other books in the London’s Greatest Lovers series