Tracy’s rating: 4/4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Four Hundred, #3
Release Date: September 25, 2018
I thought this was a solid 4 star read, maybe even 4.5 stars…
Lady Christina Barclay is in in New York City with her parents, who have left England under a cloud of scandal and unpaid debts. Her parents want to marry her off to a rich man as soon as possible and have gotten an “in” to NY society via her mother’s cousin. Christina is meek and painfully shy, she hates crowds and escapes to the solitude of her cousin’s reclusive neighbor’s garden whenever she gets a chance. On this day, she is taken by surprise by a very large dog, the dog knocks her down and she is knocked out and ultimately rescued by the reclusive neighbor, Oliver Hawkes.
Oliver Hawkes never intended to be a recluse, but after losing his hearing at 13 and trying to fit into society, he decided he would rather not subject himself to cruel, ignorant people and has made a life for himself alone, he is filthy rich and incredibly smart. He uses both of those resources for his experiments and inventions. He is not happy to find a trespasser in his garden, but he is honorable and takes her in and sends for a doctor. When Christina wakes, she is embarrassed and scared, when the butler, Gill explains that Oliver is deaf, but can read lips, she forces herself to look at him while thanking him. They talk, with Gill acting as a translator. Later she learns that he can speak, but he choses not to, he makes an exception for Christina and even teaches her a few words in sign language, but then he tells her she is not welcome in his garden, he wants to be left alone. She leaves.
Days later, he sees her in the garden again, he brings her inside and they talk, she again asks if she can walk in the gardens and this time, he agrees. She watches him work and he teaches her a few more words before she leaves. She really likes Oliver and feels comfortable with him, but he has made it clear, he wants to be alone.
When her parents try to marry her off to a vile old man, Mr. Van Peet, she runs to Oliver for advice. Her parents are truly awful people, her father is self absorbed and her mother is emotionally and verbally abusive. They don’t care what Christina wants, they need money and she is just a means to an end for them. When Van Peet does something that terrifies Christina, she again runs to Oliver, knowing her parents would do nothing to help her. Oliver is appalled and agrees to help her run away. But before they can form a plan, her parents burst in and insist that Oliver marry her. He refuses at first, but then changes his mind and insist they marry immediately. What he doesn’t tell Christina is that it will be a temporary marriage in name only.
At least that was Oliver’s plan, but as the days pass and he gets to know her, he begins to think that maybe they could have a real marriage. But there are those who will do anything to keep them apart and when his greedy cousin Milton has him declared insane, Christina will have to put all her fears aside to save the man she loves.
I really enjoyed this story and found it a refreshing change from the more traditional historical romances I generally read. It was well written, steamy, fast paced and interesting. There are cameos from Nora, Julius and the rakish lawyer Frank Tripp and well as some wonderful secondary characters and some really nasty villains. I would have given the book 5 stars, I could understand why Christina was timid, but I never really understood why she had so many fears and why she was so shy. I also never learned what the scandal that drove them from London was or why everyone kept saying how strong she was, because she ran away and cried a lot, she wouldn’t stand up for herself and even at the end needed to be almost forced to speak on Oliver’s behalf in public. These things along with some timeline errors kept this from being a 5 star read for me, but I would absolutely read the book again and would happily recommend it. It is the third book in the series, but it can definitely be read as a stand alone title.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review of an uncorrected eARC that was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher.*