Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “This must be what heaven smelled like: musty books and leather furniture.“
A poor weaver from the ghetto of Whitechapel, Abigail Vautille may not have had much, but she had her looks and her job until a madman takes it all away from her. With no means of employment and a gambling addict for a father, Abigail is faced with the prospect of prostitution or starving. When her father’s latest debts are more than she can pay, she offers herself to the man who holds her father’s markers, promising him two weeks and her virtue if he excuses the debt.
Inspector Michael Strickland of the Metropolitan Police has used his family’s good name, connections, and money to afford himself the finer things in life. Success and women have always come easy to him and he has never questioned his means until he sees Abigail again. When he rescued her from near death, he visited her everyday at the hospital, willing his strength into her. He never forgot about her and while he dreamed of her coming to his bed, it was never like this.
The more time they spend together, the more Michael realises that two weeks will never be enough time to uncover all the secrets of Abigail. But Abigail’s scars run deep and when she discovers a secret Michael has been keeping from her, she will need to decide if love is enough to forgive the past in order to secure her future.
I love retellings of classic fairy tales; Beauty and the Beast being a particular favorite of mine. Erica Monroe takes this classic and reworks it, adding a pinch of this and a shake of that to create a unique and bittersweet love story that offers up a un. Set in the 1800’s, Beauty and the Rake focuses on London’s lower and middle class. A nice change from the usual trend of historical romances playing out among the aristocrats where the idea of going hungry or cold is unfathomable. The mechanics of the story work well with the characters. Monroe’s obvious attention to detail allowing us an intimate view of the attitudes towards the lower class and the struggles that they endured day to day to survive.
Abigail Vautille and Michael Strickland were first introduced in book two-Secrets In Scarlet. Though I didn’t read the first two books of the series, I had absolutely no confusion while reading this one. Monroe doesn’t recap the series but she does give the reader just enough of the past to let us know and understand the demons that push Abigail and the part Michael played in the events that led up to Abigail’s torture.
I found myself instantly smitten by the hero and heroine. Michael is a sexy alpha with a seemingly laissez-faire attitude that confuses, confounds, and delights as we slowly piece together the real man behind the mask. His childhood plays a large role in his present behavior yet for all his posturing, there is a strong thread of respect, decency, and honor that exists within in him. It will just take the right person to bring it out.
“It’s easier for you this way, isn’t it? If I pretend to play the game.”
Abigail tugs at our heartstrings as we can feel the despair that always surrounds her. Forced into the role of parent and provider to her sister and father at a young age then tragically disfigured. The anger, shame, and disgust she feels by having to prostitute herself out to yet save her father again is at cross purposes with her strength and pride. She has survived worse and will survive this. Michael and Abigail’s romance begins slowly and antagonistically; our hero and heroine fighting against the chemistry and their own demons from first meeting. We are privy to their every thought which makes for interesting insight into their lives.
“She was immaterial. Her life meant nothing. Her virtue meant nothing.”
I loved watching Abigail grow, not only in her sexuality but as a person. With Michael at her side, she is able to slowly let go of the anger and shame that consumes her. Michael has kept his feelings buried for so long and Abigail’s own emotional breakthrough helps to break down his walls. Watching him fall in love with Abigail is emotionally gratifying. His constant struggle between what he wants and what he feels he should do is a never ending battle that extends through much of the story. The physical scenes are very passionate and gratifying with bits of humor and naughtiness involved as Michael goes from teaching Abigail how to pleasure him to doing all he can to bring her pleasure.
‘I’m not a perfect man but around you, I become something more. “
A dynamic cast of secondary characters are all well developed and add to the familiarity and continuance of the main storyline. Their merging stays constant through the story and Ms. Laurens does well in slowly integrating them into the story and allowing their scenes to help our protagonists. I enjoyed finding the small scenes and figures that Monroe culls from the fairytale for her story. The small suspense storyline that carried over from book two is low key as we follow the hints and clues to their discover their ultimate goals.The ending comes at you fast and wraps up the storyline and subsequent sub plots in a clear and concise manner that answers all our questions and concerns. There is even a sweet epilogue (and you all know how much I love epilogues) that leave us secure in Michael and Abigail’s future.
I look forward to reading more of Ms. Monroe’s books in the future.