Reviewed by May
After a moment, she heard the soft click of the door as it opened and closed behind him.
Even then, Rose did not give in to tears. Instead, she turned her misery to hate. She fantasized about how she could punish him. There were physical punishments, of course; throwing something at him would be satisfying, something large and hard. But physical pain wasn’t good enough; she wanted to pay him back in kind. She wanted him to experience the same feeling of cruel rejection that she had just experienced. She wanted to be beautiful and for him to desire her desperately. Se wanted him to beg her for a crumb of her precious attention.
She knew she might as well wish for the moon.
This is the story of Rose, a seventeen year old girl yet to come out who has been presented with a most appealing option for marriage. There is a young man named Gil, a future Earl in fact, who she is told is interested in being paired with her. Little does she know that her father (a professional gambler) won all of the Earl’s unentitled estates and now the earl-to-be faces two choices: he can marry this ugly young girl or his family can be ruined. Never mind that Gil fancies himself in love with another woman, or that Rose is extremely thin and covered in scabs and scars from her recent (near death) illness, the match is made and the pair wed for there really isn’t a good alternative.
Gil resents Rose and all she represents in his mind, and Rose quickly comes to hate that she fell so in love with Gil at first sight and ignored her instincts telling her not to marry him and that something was wrong. Rose is so uncomfortable, and Gil’s cold attitude does nothing to help her or ease her way into married life.
This story is incredibly well told, an emotional roller coaster, and a book I won’t soon forget. I found it heartbreaking how perception and misinformation brought so much pain and suffering to the lives of these two relatively good people, and those around them as well.
Instead of making a go of the marriage, or putting effort in, Gil is as immature, selfish, and inconsiderate as can be with his new wife, abandoning her at his earliest opportunity and ignoring her for years. He goes back to London and lives a scandalous life as if he were still a single man. Despite her letters to him over the years, he will not return and eventually our heroine Rose finds herself taking a stand, and venturing to London.
This obviously plays upon the ugly duckling trope, with a heroine whose wishes to once again be viewed as a beauty most certainly do come true. While I appreciate that the author shows us that Gil recognizes and loves Rose’s personality and inner beauty, it bothered me that he does not consider her as a person much at all until besotted with her beauty and charms. Indeed Gil to me did not develop within this story as much as I would have liked. He still felt very immature and in need of far too much direction and guidance even at the end.
Speaking of the end, I found myself wishing that we had been given more than just the glimmer of hope and love at the end. More joy compared to all of the emotionally draining scenes that dominated the story. When I read a romance novel that is so heartbreaking, I really prefer to have strong emotion (of the happiness and love variety) make a big show at the end. I felt let down in this regard, but that is my personal preference for a story such as this one.
If you are looking for an emotionally charged and character driven historical romance I would definitely recommend taking a closer look at this book. The author does not make things glossy and pretty, nor is it an easy path to redemption and happiness for her characters. I appreciated how real she made them, and how they not only made mistakes but blunders and missteps as well. There was no perfection or too good to be true here – and that was both refreshing to see and a very interesting story to ponder afterwards as well.