The bastard son of a nobleman, Julian Bellamy is now polished to perfection, enthralling the ton with wit and charm while clandestinely plotting to ruin the lords, ravish the ladies, and have the last laugh on a society that once spurned him. But meeting Leo Chatwick, a decent man and founder of the exclusive Stud Club, and Lily, Leo’s enchanting sister, made Julian reconsider his wild ways. When Leo’s tragic murder demands that Julian hunt for justice, he vows to see the woman he secretly loves married to a man of her own class.
Lily, however, has a very different husband in mind. She’s adored Julian forever, loves the man beneath the rakish facade, and wants to savor the delicious attraction they share — as his wife. His insistence on marrying her off only reinforces her intent to prove he is the only man for her. Obsessed with catching a killer, Julian sinks back to the gutters of his youth, forcing Lily to reach out with a sweet, reckless passion Julian can’t resist. Can her desire for a scoundrel save them both–or will dangerous secrets threaten more than their tender love?
This one really touched me. I think it's my favorite of the trilogy. I've been watching the obvious love between Julian and Lily since book 1 and couldn't wait to read their story.
I loved that Julian, once he decided to share his past (and only halfway through the book!), really opened up to Lily. And that Lily accepted him, warts and all. I really appreciated that Lily's deafness was portrayed realistically, but that Dare showed that she could still have a mostly normal life. Being half-deaf and a lip-reader myself, I appreciated her noting that when faces were turned away, Lily couldn't see what people were saying. I also liked her noting that Lily basically got the gist of what people were saying, even if she didn't understand everything that was said. How true this is! I spend a ton of time nodding my head to conversations I didn't really quite get. I was surprised, however, to read about a community of deaf people who were signing, and how accepted it was. It made me wonder if I should look it up to see if signing was an accepted language back then already. But not enough to actually go do it :)
Anyway, I liked that even though Julian and Lily love each other at the beginning of the book, they took the time to get to know each other (ok, Lily forced it on him, but isn't that always the way?). It allowed for deeper sharing and acceptance between them.
Julian also had a long road to take toward self-acceptance. Coming from his background, it was good to see him coming to terms with it all. And that even though he had a very rough beginning to life, that he had a place to go where he was loved and accepted as himself. And how awesome that Lily accepted all those parts of him. It was also really great to see Julian work out his differences with Moreland. And to see all the couples interacting.
I liked that Lily never played a victim card. She was a strong, smart, lovely woman. And I was thrilled that Julian recognized this and treated her accordingly (when he wasn't trying to marry her off for her own good, LOL). And I loved it when she called Julian on the carpet for his treatment of her and his poor treatment of himself.
An interesting end to the mystery of who and how Leo was killed as well. SPOILER: The fact that nobody was to blame - a random act of violence - really helped settle Julian. Sill, very difficult to accept for them all. END SPOILER.
One thing I didn't quite catch (and maybe it's because it was 2 am when I finished - not conducive to remembering well) was how Julian and Lily were living - as the Bells or as the Bellamys (given how Lily suggested they use Bell). Also I would have liked to know if they were still accepted by the ton or if they had to move toward a more gentrified set. But very small in the grand scheme of things, for sure.
Tessa Dare is definitely a star on the rise in historical romance today. I can't wait to see what she has coming up next.