Last Night With the Earl (The Devils of Dover)
Reluctantly, Eli Dawes, Earl of Rivers, returns to take up the inheritance he has avoided since his serious injuries at Waterloo, but when he arrives at his estate seeking seclusion, he finds it rented out to a girls’ school for a special summer program. Worse still, the art teacher is Rose Hayward, a valued friend he failed to protect from her treacherous fiancé. The powerful attraction between them remains, but both have changed: she remains angry at him for his role in her social humiliation, he oppressed by guilt and a sense of unworthiness. Can they overcome these obstacles and find happiness together?
Since this is a romance, the outcome is not in doubt, but the road is challenging. Eli bears terrible facial scars, but his psychological wounds run deeper. Rose helps with his healing, but her own psychological wounds leave her reluctant to trust any man again. Progressive and enlightened attitudes feel more modern than Regency, but both the experiences that lead to them and the struggles to overcome suspicion and self-doubt are convincing. An insightful and well-told story.
The novel is bound with Respect for Christmas, a novella by Grace Burrowes. Here, too, the protagonists are outsiders in society: Henrietta Whitlow is a notorious courtesan who has decided to retire; Lord Michael Brenner, Baron Angelford, was born poor and Irish before being ennobled for his services. They are an attractive pair, possessed of hard-headed realism born of bitter experience, yet tempered by courage and humor. They are, in a word, well suited, but like Rose and Eli, they have issues to work through, including a betrayal of trust. However, Christmas is coming and with it the hope of forgiveness.
Strongly recommended to those who enjoy wit, ironic humor, and happy endings for those brave enough to risk disappointment.