Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stolen Encounters with the Duchess - Julia Justiss (HH #1296 - Sept 2016)

Series: Hadley's Hellions (Book 2)

She would rather burn in his presence than pine in his absence

Faith Wellingford Evers, Duchess of Ashedon, is tired of society's endless gossiping about her failings and her late husband's infidelities. Seeking escape one night, she's attacked by ruffians, but is saved by an unlikely figure from her past!

Having risen from penniless orphan to Member of Parliament, David Tanner Smith is no longer the quiet boy Faith once knew. With the first spine-tingling kiss, their old friendship is transformed. And in its place is an explosive mix of illicit encounters and forbidden desire…

Good combination of a second chance and friends to lovers story. Faith is the widow of a Duke, one who had professed his love for her until they were married. After that, he became controlling, cut her off from friends and family, and carried on numerous affairs. He died under scandalous circumstances, leaving her to face society's gossip and disdain. Escaping from yet another evening of such misery, Faith is attacked by thugs, and rescued by a passing gentleman. That gentleman turned out to be an old friend.

David, an up and coming member of Parliament, used to work for her uncle. They met when she was sixteen and he was twenty and became good friends. David would have liked to be more, but their statuses in the world were too far apart. When David came to her rescue, he barely recognized the girl he once knew. This Faith was a shadow of her formerly glowing self. He was determined to help her regain her joy in life.

I loved seeing how quickly Faith and Davie reconnected. Faith found it easy to confess her troubles to him, and was happy to renew their friendship. She did not expect to be so aware of him as a man. Davie also quickly realized that the love he'd had for the young Faith had never died, and that being near her only made those feelings stronger. Though he knows that there is still no chance of a future with her, he still takes every opportunity to spend time with her. 

I really enjoyed the way that they were still able to talk about anything and everything. I loved how Davie took steps to bring her into his circle of friends that are active in political and social issues. It was so sweet to see how he watched her like a proud parent as she quickly made a place for herself within the group. His support and belief in her also went a long way toward repairing her confidence in herself. Before seeing Davie again, Faith seemed to be easily intimidated by her snotty mother-in-law and the often vicious society women. With his support, and some timely advice by her new friend, she gained the courage to stand up to them. I especially loved her death glare at the snide remarks made by one woman.

Spending time together as they did, the attraction between them continued to grow. I was a bit disappointed in Faith as she considered having an affair with Davie, but never considered that they could have more. I did like seeing her take her courage in hand and make advances to him, even though she wasn't sure how it would turn out. As hard as it was for him to do, I had great respect for Davie, as he refused to do anything that could bring disgrace to her name. 

Both Faith and Davie had some serious self-worth issues that were keeping them apart. Davie couldn't see past the social divide and believe that he was no longer that poor farmer's orphan. I loved that moment of truth when he realized that the Reform Bill that they were working so hard on showed that he was easily a good enough man to ask for her hand. But he was still cautious, and I loved the way that he wanted to make sure that he wouldn't create more problems for her. The support he received from his friends and mentors was wonderful. Faith had spent so long being diminished by her husband, her mother-in-law, and society, that she couldn't believe that she would hold Davie's interest for long. She was willing to accept whatever time she could get with him, just for the momentary happiness it would provide. I ached for them both when Davie made his case and Faith couldn't believe that it would last. I loved how her sister was able to talk sense into her, and Faith's big moment after that.

The secondary characters were all terrific and important parts of the book. Faith's mother-in-law was rather a nasty piece of work with the way she was constantly putting her down. I loved seeing Faith gain the confidence to stand up to her, On the other hand, Faith's brother-in-law was just plain creepy. His unwelcome advances and threats were scary, and I certainly understood Faith's fear of what he would do. I loved how Davie dealt with the problem while at the same time keeping his promise to Faith. My favorite of the secondary characters were Faith's three sons. I loved seeing how her relationship with them changed through the book as she was able to spend more time with them. I especially loved how she was determined to make sure her oldest didn't grow up to be like his father.

I also really enjoyed the attention to the detail of the politics of the time. It was fascinating to see the work done on the Reform Bill and its efforts to make things more equable for all Englishmen. Even the riots were accurately portrayed. I enjoyed the touches of the personal as Faith took care of one of the tenants and ended up showing the woman's radical grandson that not everything was as bad as he thought. I also liked seeing Davie and Faith team up to defuse another potential problem.

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