What better way to start off the new year than with a captivating historical romance featuring two headstrong lead characters on opposing sides of a societal battle? We can’t help but wonder who will succeed first, the innocent beauty trying to sway this man to see her point of view, or the devilish rake hoping to sway said beauty into his bed. Crack this one open to find out for yourself!
What’s it About?
Lady Aeryn Dunning believes love is fiction, a clever myth designed to control the weak. It was why marriage had never been an option for her growing up. But time changes that. Aeryn starts to feel like a burden on her family and yields to their wishes, accepting the hand of her father’s friend, the Honorable Lord Dunning. Kenneth is much older than her, but the politician is kind and compassionate, making him as good a choice as any. The two become more friends than lovers, but sadly, the marriage would be short-lived. Aeryn is left a wealthy widow, free to pursue a cause dear to her and her husband – saving children from factories and giving them the gift of learning.
Handsome Royce Garrington is a member of Parliament whose tragic past made him cold and uncaring. His arrogance is well-known, and his patience razor-thin. The young lord hates wasting time on inconsequential matters and sees the Factory Act as one of these. He believes the alleged abuses in factories exaggerated and urges the House to move on to more pressing issues.
Aeryn and Royce meet under the most extreme circumstances, and immediately he is drawn to the ravishing redhead. Aeryn knows of Lord Garrington; he is a scoundrel, and she should have nothing to do with him. But when the cad threatens her father’s reputation, Aeryn is forced to agree to a most scandalous arrangement with him. Neither is prepared for the torrent of emotions that would overwhelm them during their time together. Perhaps love does exist, and its power can sway the opposition.
Swaying the Opposition proves to be the kind of historical romance where you not only have the opportunity to witness the development of a young couples’ relationship from enemies to lovers, but you also learn something about the time period in question. At first I was a tad concerned that the rather heavy subject matter of child labor and corresponding injuries/fatalities in the midst of the Industrial Revolution would put a damper on the romance evolving between Lady Dunning and Lord Garrington, but the author actually does a phenomenal job of weaving the details of the Factory Act as a key feature into the romantic story line of the book. The two elements go hand-in-hand, and while you might need a tissue (I know I certainly did) a time or two as we witness the harsh realities of factory work in this era, there are plenty of other moments where you’ll want to stand up and cheer for the bravery and resilience of those who fought to bring about an end to these injustices. What better backdrop for two people on seemingly opposite sides of the aisle to find their way into each other’s arms?
A Blackmail Scheme that Leads to Love
Aeryn proves to be the perfect boss lady of a heroine. She’s the kind of female lead you love to love. Not afraid to go after what she wants, she also does whatever is necessary for the betterment of those less fortunate than her, even if it means throwing societal pressures and expectations to the wayside. Does she ultimately succumb to the blackmail scheme devised by Lord Garrington to get her into his bed in return for his silence over her actions of trespassing to free a young girl from a harmful factory? Sure, but this really shouldn’t be construed as a matter of weakness, but almost as one of empowerment. I couldn’t help but applaud the author for her ability to highlight this scenario as a way for Aeryn to finally explore her sexuality for the first time in her life, and with a partner she actually wanted to say yes to. In a way, it felt as though this moment of blackmail was the excuse Aeryn needed to convince herself it was ok to give into the desire that Royce had awoken within her. You never for a moment think that Aeyrn was forced into a situation that she didn’t want to wholeheartedly explore herself.
And that brings us to good ole Lord Garrington. Oh yeah, he’s the perfect cad you love to hate, but then grow to love. The story arch of Royce’s character from an unfeeling politician at the start of the novel to a loving partner by the end was probably my favorite aspect of the entire book. Lady Aeryn proves to be the catalyst for him to start looking at what his life has become, and not only question where things went wrong in the past, but also wonder how he might want to change things for the future. In spite of his wealth and stature in society, he doesn’t feel good enough for a woman of Aeryn’s integrity. For this very reason Royce goes through most of the novel believing he’ll never succeed in winning her over into his life permanently, and yet this surprisingly doesn’t stop him from ultimately succeeding (with some supplemental help from a lovable friendly butler) to change his ways for the better. His continued self-deprecation was in fact a crucial feature of his growth as a character, as we are convinced by the end that Royce wasn’t merely trying to change on the surface in the hopes of getting Aeryn back in his bed, but rather she inspired him to do some soul-searching of his own to see how he could become the man, friend and brother he once was.
The Game of Politics
Politics play a critical role throughout this entire novel, not only in the logistics of the Factory Act itself, but also for the development of Royce’s character, his evolving romance with Aeryn, as well as the transition of a former friend to villainous foe. I remember at the very start of this novel thinking to myself, “it’s simply not believable that there would be such intense opposition, and from our lead male character no less, to the passing of a resolution which would safeguard women and children” to then having this eye-opening realization of “oh yeah…politics…that definitely tracks”. It was almost comically horrific to see how applicable some of the same debates and futile misunderstandings which permeated the political landscape of the era still ring true today. From Royce thinking the tales of abuse and disfigurement were merely overblown exaggerations not to be believed in the newspapers, to other politicians insisting previous legislation already dealt with the topic, and finally to wealthy businessmen arguing a change in regulations would cripple advancement and economic prosperity. Same arguments, different era.
While these political debates were crucial to capturing our interest in the story as a whole, they also presented two problematic features for our characters that I wish had been addressed or altered in some way. Firstly, as previously discussed, Royce is initially presented to us as…well a bit of an ass. He staunchly opposes the Factory Act, and seemingly delights in arguing with members of the opposition in a way that makes their blood boil. Even though we ultimately see a change in character for Royce later on that makes us (and Aeryn) fall in love with him, the fact he could be so blasé and dismissive of child endangerment at the start of the novel was quite a turn off. We do see a brief mention that Royce believes there are more pressing issues at hand to discuss in Parliament, but we never really get a full insight into what he thinks those topics are. If we could have been privy to one or two other key pieces of legislature that he felt truly passionate about, and perhaps had even put a lot of time and energy into, he could possibly have been a more redeemable character to us, and Aeryn, earlier on. And this brings me to the second, and perhaps more pressing issue that this political opposition presents, which is that it’s a bit hard to understand why Aeryn was so smitten with Royce considering he essentially stood for everything she despised.
Don’t get me wrong, I was 100% rooting for them to come together by the end of the story, but I couldn’t help but feel as though the initial connection on Aeryn’s part for Royce was almost too steeped in sexual attraction at the start. This is a woman who has devoted most of her life to rescuing women and children from oppressive working conditions, and yet after a few tumbles between the sheets with Royce as part of his blackmail scheme she continues to think upon him fondly after he sends her back home. At this point in the story all she knows of his character is that he voraciously opposes the Factory Act every chance he gets, and that he’s an amazingly attentive lover. We as the readers get a few glimpses early on that there is more lying beneath the surface for this complicated man, as we are privy to his inner musings and changing ways, but Aeryn doesn’t necessarily see the same revelations at that point in time. Later on she learns more in conversations with his butler and adopted brother that Royce came from a complicated past that impacted who he became later in life, but during those early days of their interactions she simply knows him as the ruggedly handsome blackmailer who fights her father on the Parliament floor. This is another reason I had hoped we could have seen one other thing early on that Royce was passionate in arguing for, not against, as it could have been something for Aeryn to hold onto beyond their sexual connection as a reason she couldn’t push him out of her mind.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Final Impressions: This read captured my interest from opening bell, and it was rather difficult to put down at times, as evidenced by the fact I finished reading it in just 3 days. We have a strong female lead, a troubling male lead in want of reform, and a slew of supplementary characters that bring the story to life. Sure, I would have enjoyed one or two more scenes involving Aeryn and Royce engaging together outside of the bedroom, but they were also so focused on each other when they weren’t together that you almost didn’t notice the physical distance. Almost 😉 The time period setting was truly fascinating, and the political arguments presented were surprisingly reminiscent of those we still see made today across the aisles. This novel does present us with hope though. Hope that true love can not only be found, but that there are people who won’t stand down in standing up for what’s right.
Smut Level: Me oh my is it getting hot in here! There are plenty of instances of bodice ripping and being pushed up against closed doors/walls to make you swoon.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 284 Pages