Title: To Love a Hellion
Series: The London Lords, Book 1
Author: Nicola Davidson
Release Date: August 17, 2015
Genre: Historical, Romance
ARC Received From & Reviewed For: Nicola Davidson
Two years after the shocking deaths of his father and older brother, life is finally improving for Stephen Forsyth, Earl of Westleigh. His mother has rejoined society, the estates are flourishing, and according to his mathematical calculations his new betrothed is a sensibly near-perfect match. What better way to celebrate than attending a pre-Season country house party? Yet on Bruce land, the world is utterly awry. Strange happenings, bizarre hosts, seven spinsters stalking, and assistance comes from the least likely source - Caroline Edwards, his best friend’s hellion sister and fiercely dedicated nemesis. An unwanted sizzling attraction soon scorches their war of words, but a far sterner battle lies ahead: an old enemy sworn on vengeance is closing in, and won’t rest until Stephen and everyone he loves is destroyed.
The beginning of this story brought turmoil and heartache. Stephen came into his title after he lost his father and older brother in one day. The unfairness of that day resonated from the pages, as did his grief. Unbeknownst to him, their deaths were no accident although they were deemed that. And it would take years, a bullheaded woman who enjoyed needling him far too much, and a peek into his late brother's life to understand the reason behind their deaths.
The bullheaded woman I speak so fondly of was Caroline. I've enjoyed getting to know plenty of Regency era women but Caroline was, well, exceedingly fun to get to know. Her brain was fully-functioning, her tongue sharp, her wit even sharper. These amazing (and amusing) qualities made for great interactions between her and Stephen, but all they did was mask a heart that beat loud and strong for him.
Stephen's search for a bride led him to a woman who was Caroline's complete opposite. She would make him the perfect wife...if she didn't irritate him to death with her timidity. I think years of knowing Caroline ruined him for wanting a meek and softly spoken wife. As much as he thought that kind of woman would be a smart match, his heart knew better. He needed a woman who challenged him, fought for and defended him, was loyal to a fault, and loved him for him and not his title.
Whiiiiiich led to Caroline. *grins and chuckles* Their marriage came around after an unfortunate (depends on how you look at it, really) event involving their respective intendeds and Gretna Green. I can't tell you the relief I felt when those betrothals fell through and they got married to each other instead. Stephen was the grounding Caroline needed, a man strong enough to stand up to her but smart enough not to stifle her uniqueness with rules and expectations. Caroline was the not-so-gentle kick in the ass Stephen needed to live beyond his mathematical calculations and in a world that was meant to be enjoyed in all its fullness. The good, the bad, the ugly, the expected, the unexpected.
For all the sweet and heated moments in this story, there were plenty of dark ones. The unresolved deaths of Stephen's father and brother. That uneasy feeling about Taff (the man who'd been there that fateful day and befriended Stephen years later) and about men associated with his late brother. Disappointment birthed from assumptions gave way to divine relief when Stephen realized the depth of Caroline's loyalty and love after he was arrested for murder.
This story is rich with description, traditional Regency era amusements and ways of thinking. The struggle between light and dark teeter totters throughout the story, with darkness seemingly gaining the upper hand almost at the end. I was on the edge of my seat, anxious, as I read those pages. And I'll admit it, I totally fist-pumped and said, "Yes!" when good won and happily ever after meant happily ever after.
Ms. Davidson didn't pen an engaging story; she wrote a compelling one. It has everything I want and look for in a historical romance--passion, seduction, intrigue, resolution--and ties it all up with a stunning cast of characters. This is a story I will read again and happily, wholeheartedly recommend.
NICOLA DAVIDSON worked for many years in communications and marketing as well as television and print journalism, but hasn’t looked back since she decided writing wicked historical romance was infinitely more fun. When not chained to a computer she can be found ambling along one of New Zealand’s beautiful beaches, cheering on the champion All Blacks rugby team, history geeking on the internet or daydreaming. If this includes chocolate – even better!