Sunday, August 15, 2010
Hope Merridew dreamed of dancing the perfect waltz with the perfect man — and he's not the tough, dark stranger who has come to London to court another woman. Only how can she resist him?
Sebastian has his own demons: a dark past to come to terms with and two desperately needy little sisters to care for. For their sake he must resist Miss Hope Merridew — but can he?
I loved this sweet regency romance, I thought it was even better than the first in the series! Sebastian Reyne is a great big bear of a man who tries to find a staid wife to help take care of his two younger sisters. Instead, he meets and falls for the beautiful and vivacious Hope Merridew who surprises him with her sisterly know how. This was a great story filled with emotion and poignancy, not to mention an adorable love story that develops between Sebastian and Hope. Not a lot of sizzle between them, it's tame for a romance novel, but their relationship grows and grows with each meeting. I loved him and the way he was so big and forbidding, yet such a sweetheart inside.
Sebastian lost his sisters years earlier which has greatly affected him as an adult. Searching for them for years adds to his complicated background. A widower and self made man who has a factory in the North (a la North and South), he comes from a good family, but his father ran into numerous debts when they were children and killed himself leaving his mother to manage for all of them. The strain on her is too much and she dies, leaving a twelve year old Sebastian as man of the family. He must work to put food on the table. Too young to take care of his infant sisters, he pays for a woman to take care of them and visits them regularly. But one day, they all disappear and he cannot find them for years and years. Finally, as a grown man who is now a successful industrialist, Sebastian's detectives find the girls, but they are introverted and have seen a lot of the world, much of it scary and Sebastian blames himself for losing them, he fears they will be scarred for life for what they went through. He's too scared to even ask them what happened, fearful for what he will learn. All he knows is they don't trust him and it's going to be a long, hard road to get them to accept him as their brother. Wracked with guilt, he is convinced he must marry the plain and sensible Lady Elinore who has an interest in running a orphanage for girls like his sisters based on the rules of "Rationality." Her mother founded the orphanage and Sebastian thinks that if he marries the practical Elinore, his sisters will be in good hands. How wrong he is, even though his heart is in the right place.
His plans go awry at a ball when he meets Hope Merridew. Hope is a breath of fresh air and the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. She's vivacious and naturally full of charm, guiless in every way. She likes the way Sebastian looks at her too, yet he resists her at first until they waltz together at the end of the night, Hope's special last waltz that she reserves for only someone special. Both are affected greatly by their dance and so begins the romance. After that, they meet in the most unexpected places and they gradually fall for one another. Soon, Hope meets his two little sisters and is able to work her magic on them, for Hope has had a frightful childhood herself. She knows what little girls need - much more than Lady Elinore and her school of Rationality!
Hope and Sebastian are drawn to one another, but he's torn for wanting the best for his sisters. He's convinced Lady Elinore is the one he should marry - even though he's falling for Hope! After some amusing episodes (one at a musicale that was especially funny) Sebastian succumbs to the siren song of Hope and sees for himself how right she is for him - and his sisters. But there's also a lot of action and excitement before he reaches this conclusion for someone from his sisters' past is trying to kill them! Hope and her equestrienne riding expertise saves the day! A daring rescue, some much needed soul searching and important secrets are all revealed to clear the path for happiness.
A short review, but take my word for it, this was an enjoyable story, more than just your typical romance. The character development, writing and atmosphere were first rate. Hope, the beautiful sister could have been just another pretty faced heroine, but she's so full or life and her riding antics bring personality to what could have been a boring heroine. I loved the side story of Lady Elinore and Sebastian's society friend, Giles. Sebastian is a tortured hero, full of guilt over the loss of his sisters. Hope is able to make him see that it wasn't his fault what happened to them and we have a happy ending for everyone. I recommend this highly, mostly because I loved Sebastian. He was such a great big lug with a kind heart and I loved the way he completely gave in to Hope's charms and finally saw what was best for his sisters - and himself.