Title: Portrait of a Forbidden Lady
Author: Kathleen Bittner Roth
Series: Those Magnificent Malverns #2
Genre: Victorian Romance
Length: Short novel
Available: 21st March
Lady Georgiana Cressington is living a nightmare. Coerced by her father into returning to her childhood home, the young widow becomes a pawn in another of his heartless games. Her return to Summerfield Hall reunites her with the man she once loved before their hearts were shattered by a devastating betrayal.
Sir Robert Garreck, an artist knighted by the queen, lives in a mansion near the family estate Georgiana’s father won in a crooked card game. Rob sets out to regain Summerfield Hall to keep Georgiana’s son from inheriting Rob’s rightful home. However, when he and Georgiana are thrown together, he craves the forbidden lady he never stopped loving. Facing danger and a long-hidden truth, Georgiana and Rob try to claim the powerful love hey once had.
Source: ARC from Entangled: Scandalous via NetGalley
The opening of this book gave me a headache – so many characters doing unusual things all at once. The unusual actions continue throughout most of the book, as do the numerous characters, but my headache soon faded as this developed into a thoroughly enjoyable second chance romance, complete with heaps of heartache, some villainous specimens, an amazing grandmother and a charming young man who defies bad feelings to make everyone love him.
The romance centres around Rob and Georgie, who fell in love far too young, were wrenched apart by lies and the bitter cruelty of a nasty man, which led to difficult lives for them both. Rob went to war and has been nursing his hurt feelings ever since, while Georgie was forced into a marriage with an awful man and has spent the last sixteen years protecting her son. A lot of time has passed between them, along with some secrets, lies and an awful lot of pain, to the point where neither feels able to trust in love again.
Except they still desire each other and the chemistry between them is scorching. Rob is kind of grumpy, a tortured artist who loves his family and doesn’t quite know what to do with the loneliness inside him. I found him likeable but not overly loveable. A bit like Georgie. I could admire her strength in holding out under such awful conditions, but at the same time that strength made it hard to fathom why she put up with what she did from her father (just use the laudanum, Georgie, and a pillow). I also struggled to understand why she did what she did all those years ago, and I just wanted her to see Rob as the man he was and trust that he could take care of himself.
As individuals I found them okay to read about, but as a couple I found their romance compelling. It was easy to see why their hurts had been held onto for so long, even as I longed for them to push through and start again. Especially when Lucas shows up. He’s great and I really liked him. Almost as much as I liked Mum, the eccentric grandmother who rules the Malverns with home-brews and mischief. The story also takes quite an emotional turn towards the end as plots and secrets really start to unravel.
Overall, I liked this. There are some great secondary characters mixing in with a stirring romance and a tale that isn’t afraid to add a few fun scenes amongst all the heartache. If you’re looking for a Victorian romance that’s full of family, passion and a twist of torment, then give this a try. It’s my first taste of both this series and this author’s work, but I doubt it’ll be my last.
Portrait of a Forbidden Lady is out March 21st!
Visit Kathleen Bittner Roth for more details.