passion rating: hot
Dear Ms. London—
I really enjoyed your latest novel, The Revenge of Lord Eberlin. Recently, thanks to the many thoughtful and well-written reviews here at Dear Author, I’ve been reading books out of what I think of as my comfort zone. And it’s been great. I loved Heat, disliked Beautiful Disaster, and am reading my first M/M romance. But my first love in romance is the historical and this entry into your The Secrets of Hadley Green series was a great reading date. It’s completely traditional, uses tropes common to historical romance, and even has an epilogue, a currently en vogue plot device I usually deplore. It’s set in one of those common and oft annoying British small towns full of judgmental old women and lavish estates kept running smoothly by a servant class completely satisfied with their lowered status in life. I loved it.
I’ve read the first book in the series, The Year of Living Scandalously, and thought it pretty good. That book begins when the heroine of this book, Lily Boudine, is eight. Lily, an orphan, lives with her uncle and aunt, at Ashwood, a palatial estate in the small West Sussex town of Hadley Green. It is the summer of 1793 and the night of the annual Ashwood gala. Lily sees two things that night that change the lives of many. The first is a couple whom she can’t quite make out embracing in the shadows on the stairs. The second, which she sees just a few minutes later, is a horse trotting away into the night. Lily recognizes the horse; it’s that of Mr. Scott, the woodcarver who has spent many an hour at Ashwood carving the detailed dual staircase that dominates the mansion’s main entry. She wonders why he would have been at Ashwood—the gala is for the Quality and Joseph Scott is certainly not that.
In the morning, Lily awakes to commotion. A dreadful theft has happened. Sometime during the night, someone pilfered the Ashwood jewels, a set of large priceless rubies given to the first Lord Ashwood by Edward the IV for the former’s loyalty during the War of the Roses. As Lily watches her beloved governess be questioned unsympathetically, she blurts out, “I think I know who took them.” She tells of seeing Mr. Scott riding away and, within days, Mr. Scott is hanged for the crime.
The Revenge of Lord Eberlin also begins in a summer, this one in 1808. For the first time in fifteen years, Tobin Scott, now 28, the eldest son of Joseph Scott, has returned to Hadley Green. The past years were harsh ones for the Scotts. His father’s execution destroyed his family; his mother and youngest brother died within a year of his father’s death, ruined by filth and poverty in the slums of London. Unable to provide for his younger sister Charity, Tobin took her to a church run poorhouse where she found work as a chamber maid. Tobin himself was impressed into service on a ship as a cook’s helper and, for ten years, sailed the world, never knowing whether or not his sister lived.
Tobin, though, like all heroes, is a survivor and now has all the trappings of success. He’s Lord Eberlin—he bought the title from a beleaguered Dane—and has unlimited wealth earned as an arms trader. He’s rescued Charity (and her illegitimate daughter) from a life of cleaning the refuse of others. He has everything he’s ever wanted except for the one thing he desires most: revenge on the house of Ashwood, currently headed by Lily Boudine....
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