This is the second Victorian-era romance I’ve read by Lilly Gayle, and I’m officially stating that she’s just too good an author. Why is this, you ask? Because her books are so engaging I can’t put them down! It’s seriously interfering with my designated bedtime.
When a brooding English earl with a Slightly Tarnished reputation marries his dead wife’s American cousin to save her from an uncle’s vengeful schemes, the sea captain’s daughter with a taste for adventure sparks desires he thought long dead. Nicole Keller has always been headstrong and independent, but after a failed business venture and a sinking ship take her father, her home, and her childhood sweetheart, Nikki must support herself and her mother. But moving to England and marrying Chadwick Masters, Earl of Gilchrest isn’t what she has in mind. And falling in love with the mysterious earl could endanger both their lives.
Gripping stories and dynamic characters aside, something else I love about Ms. Gayle’s novels is that I always learn something new about English society of the period. These informational tidbits often take on a darker tone than the fluffy debutante balls which are so common in British historical romances, but they are fascinating nonetheless. This book shed light on the Great Stink which plagued London in 1858, as well as the terrible working conditions for street children. Combine this with some romance, a villain or two, and a plethora of lovable characters and you’ve got yourself a book!
There’s always something happening! From Nicole’s sicko uncle who wants to marry her off to an abusive 80-year-old, to Chad’s mother who blames him for his brother’s mentally impaired state, there’s never a dull moment. The timeline of events is also organized so incredibly well. It starts off with the death of Nicole’s father in a storm at sea, Nicole and her mother moving to England, her marriage to Chad, and then eventually it comes back full circle to finding out exactly what happened to her father. Every question and mystery raised is eventually answered in full detail.
I personally really enjoyed the romantic aspect of the book. What starts off as a marriage of necessity, combined with obvious mutual attraction, quickly turns into one of loveydoveywonderfulness. At first they are both hesitant to fully trust the other. She knows he’s keeping secrets about his brother Edward, and he questions if she’s scheming after his fortune. After a while she falls for him, and although he tries to insist that they are in lust, not love, Nicole simply smiles to herself, knowing that his feelings are more profound.
The Good, the Bad, and the OMG
So we’ve covered the various aspects of the storyline; let’s move on to the characters. Holy cannoli each and every one was entertaining! Her fearful mother, his bitchy mother. Her psychotically deranged uncle who you just want to kick in the groin. The creepiness and ickiness surrounding his character practically leaps off the page to the point where you’ll want to wash your hands. What truly showcases Ms. Gayle’s talent though is that there is always an underlying explanation for what appears to be, at first, a quirky personality trait of each character.
And now for my favorite character and storyline: Chad’s twin brother Edward. The whole of society believes that Edward died as a child due to a fever he contracted after swimming in the Thames with his brother. In actuality he survived, but his mother hid him away from everyone due to the brain damage he suffered. It wasn’t until Chad was an adult that he discovered his brother was alive, and ever since he has been severely protective of him. Nicole discovers Edward’s existence fairly early on, unbeknownst to Chad, and her immediate understanding and compassion surrounding the whole matter is commendable. Don’t even get me started on Edward’s fear of thunderstorms, and how Chad would hold him tight in the hopes of providing some little comfort to his brother. Oh God, I’m getting a little verklempt!
Series: Let’s call it the Slightly series, book 1. To read my review of the second book in this series, Slightly Noble, click here.
Should you read it? If you’re in the mood for a great historical romance, then yes! There’s suspense, intrigue, romance, and some questionable family dynamics.
Smut Level: For a historical romance it was pretty darn steamy at times, especially the first sexual romp on their wedding night. Chad also has the tendency to whisper sweet dirty talk in her ear.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press. 310 Pages.