Enjoyable as always. Anne Gracie, I love you.
The heroes of this regency romance are Hope and Sebastian. She is a beautiful and spoiled young lady, the belle of the London season. Her childhood was steeped in misery, but she is past the horror of her past and determined to enjoy herself. Young aristocrats swarm around her, but the moment Sebastian appeared on the fringes of a ballroom, she is aware of him. He doesn’t look or behave like the man of her dreams but he attracts her like nobody else.
Sebastian came to London on a quest: to find a wife who could be a mother-figure to his two young sisters. He doesn’t seek love or beauty, just strength of character. Hope doesn’t fit his pre-set profile of a sensible woman who could deal with his traumatized sisters, but he can’t take his eyes off her. She seems a magnet for his heart, and against his better judgement, he follows his male instincts and starts courting her.
The main obstacle to their romance is that they don’t talk to each other, don’t explain anything, at least in the beginning, so the usual misconceptions arise and threaten their unfolding relationship. Some reviewers bemoan the trend, so common in romance fiction. They say: “Why don’t they just talk to each other?”
I thought that both protagonist were true to their characters. Certainly a man like Sebastian, a loner burdened with responsibilities, with his tragedy-riddled youth, full of unimaginable hardships, wouldn’t open up to a pretty girl, not at first anyway, maybe not ever. Too much is at stake for him at the moment; his sisters’ lives and happiness are on the line. He can’t risk exposing their vulnerabilities to anyone, so he keeps his lips shut and pursues his goals with dogged determination. Only love for Hope, unforeseen but effervescent, keeps interfering in his plans.
Hope is more open, but unlike Sebastian, she’s never been alone. She’s always had her four sisters beside her. They have been together through many painful years, always supporting each other, so she is much more trusting, willing to risk all for her loved ones’ happiness.
One grim secondary theme runs through this otherwise flighty love story, lifting it from the mere triteness of fluffy romance to something much more meaningful – poverty and suffering of destitute orphans. Both Sebastian and Hope care. Both want to make it better, even though their views of ‘better’ are different. While Sebastian, a supremely practical man, thinks that food and clothing is enough, Hope is on the side of joy and play. Everyone, especially young orphan girls, should be allowed some fun, should have some fripperies and toys, and she perseveres to make it happen.
As could be expected, Hope’s opinions prevail. She convinced Sebastian that joy is of as much importance in life as food and shelter. For orphan girls as well as for grown men. For him too, and as soon as he accepts joy as a necessity of life, he realizes that Hope is instrumental for his own joy, that he can’t be happy without her.