OK, I have to admit I'm cheating a little here. I've got the serious blogging blues. I'll say that I loved this book as much this time around as I did the first two. Yup - this is my third read of this one. I haven't read it, though, in 3 years, so it was like opening an old box of love letters. You know that they are something that made you feel wonderful, but you can't quite remember exactly what was in them.
I'm reprinting my original review of this book below, cause I couldn't come close to being this eloquent these days, LOL. How did I manage it all? Ahhh... I was still working part time then. I remember now... So here's my review from Jan 06. You can read the review of the entire series here.
This, really the 2nd (the first was a short in an anthology that, actually, I never read, but you don't need to read it to begin with this 1st full length), is a story about the Marquis of Waltham, Marshall. He is looking for a long term relationship, although has no intention of marrying. So, a mistress it will be, but he is sick of the "scene" and wants someone he can truly care about (without marrying her, of course). He meets Evelyn Dennsworth. She works in a dressshop, she's the daughter of a pastor, and has been arrested and accused of theft. He feels drawn to her and can't help but exert his standing in society to assist her in clearing herself of the charges. The description of Evelyn's feelings as she goes to trial is remarkable, you really feel the terror and shame right along with her. Marshall takes her home to his estate under the guise of being a companion to his stepmother, who has recently lost her husband, Marshall's father. You can guess the rest.
What is wonderful about this book is the depth of character development - Waddell doesn't shy away from the agonizing feelings of despondence and guilt for going on without your true love (his father's was truly a love match). In many ways, this is really Evelyn and Constance's (the stepmother) story. How Evelyn unselfishly draws Constance out of her shell of grief is beautifully and sensitively written. Marshall's precocious 10 year old half-sister is a wonderful character, full of life and love for her family - no spoiled villains in this family.
Marshall is also truly unselfish, loving his stepmother and wanting her to be whole again. He understands her grief, because he, too, loved his father completely and without reservation. She does not miraculously recover from losing her husband of 20 years. Her descent into grief and laborious climb out of its depths is emotional for all the characters, and therefore to the reader as well.
There is not a false moment, a false feeling or emotion in this book. Although he wants Evelyn for his mistress, he firmly believes she is the right person to be Constance's companion. Watching the love and depth of feeling unfold between Marshall and Evelyn is wonderful as well. Their strength and passion and character are well portrayed. Waddell doesn't rush these feelings, and gives them time to develop. As the reader, by the time I knew they were truly in love, I had totally bought into it. The story is believably, beautifully written. Highly recommended.