Inferior and seduction are bitter tasting words…
How could Caro love and hate the same man? How could she be foolish enough to harbour that love for years; to hide herself away from the world because of her embarrassment over her failure to be loved in return? Because she is a fool… Yet Rob Marlow sees not that but courage in her, and this beautiful young man, who gives her back the strength she’s lost is someone she longs to cling to for the physical comfort she has missed since the end of her marriage.
Integrity, idealism and honour are at the heart of Rob Marlow, and yet he knows that perhaps pride is his weakness, but he thought it his only possible weakness until he spends a summer with his sister and discovers a new addiction, Caro, his brother-in-law’s dependent sister.
Source: Review copy from HarperImpulse via NetGalley
I’m still a relative newcomer to this series, having only read the previous book, but I have to say there’s something curiously compelling about Jane Lark’s writing and I find the books very hard to put down – even when I have questions about historical accuracy and even when I know which way the plot is clearly going.
Picking up where the previous book (The Dangerous Love of a Rogue) left off, we learn a bit more about the cruelty of Caro’s marriage. Even though her husband beats her and is generally awful, I appreciated how complicated Caro’s feelings are towards him, especially when she thinks back before he laid a hand on her and she thought he loved her. Combined with her neglectful childhood, it’s easy to see why Caro fell in love with her husband and why it hurts so much for her to be without him, even after he accused her of incest and divorced her.
I also liked that she didn’t simply bounce back from everything. Instead she is not only deeply hurt, but also almost frightened of the world. She essentially locks herself away for years, under her brother’s care, and it’s not until Rob decides to help her that she emerges into the world again. Actually, I was a little unhappy with Rob’s pushiness when he first decides that Caro should live again. Yet he is young and sensible and he does give her back her courage and confidence, so I didn’t hold it against him too much. And I loved their little ritual of asking for forgiveness before kisses – it’s adorable.
In fact both of them are so inherently good that the first half of the book is merely a pleasant exploration of halcyon summer days. He may be six years younger, but he definitely acts older than his years and is a perfect match for her. Except that he has political aspirations, which he intends to achieve on his own, rather than rely on the wealth and prestige of his family.
It was at this point that I thought Caro’s divorce would become an issue, since divorces were terribly scandalous. Except it doesn’t. In fact the whole issue of the divorce felt off to me. Regency divorces were expensive and time-consuming and not easy to obtain, and since Caro’s husband didn’t make the incest charge stick, I’m not sure what his grounds for divorce would have been, since infertility wasn’t eligible. Caro would have been allowed to sue for divorce on grounds of lethal cruelty – although proving that would be near impossible, since a wife was regarded as her husband’s property to do with as he wished – but a man could only divorce due to adultery, which would have involved a humiliating criminal conversation trial with her husband suing her lover for damages. Without which he could not then obtain a divorce. Since none of this is even mentioned in the book, I’m assuming that didn’t happen. Also divorced women were effectively shunned by society, which made it highly unlikely she would have had such a busy time in London. I’m also fairly positive she would not have been allowed to then remarry in a church.
In other words, it would have caused a lot of fuss. There is no fuss in this book regarding Caro’s divorced status. Instead the fuss is caused by inferiority complexes, unstable ex-spouses and other such things. After the sweet ease of the first half, it does all become rather dramatic, with touches of darkness, but it also allows the Marlow family to shine through as all that is good, great and noble – well, apart from a few of those pesky cousins. There’s also a fair potential for heartache, and I really appreciated how certain fears were dealt with. However, that ending was too abrupt for me. I know there’s an epilogue to make it all neat and tidy, but it still felt a bit sudden.
So, if you’re already a fan of this series, you will probably find lots to enjoy here. Also, if you’re not too concerned with historical detail, then that side of things won’t bother you. If you are, however (and it’s not just the divorce, the titles are still a mess that make me cringe with every Lady Framlington moment – she’d be Lady Andrew!), then your enjoyment might be effected. Which would be a shame, because even though both Caro and Rob are so very good, their story is till worth a read. I certainly enjoyed it enough to keep going anyway. I look forward to seeing which of the extended Marlow’s is up next – and catching up on a few other ones in the meantime.
The Secret Love of a Gentleman is Out Now!
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