Published by Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 30th 2012
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She rose to spectacular heights . . .
From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous—if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.
He never expected to fall so hard . . .
He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation . . . and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam's strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to heaven . . . or make outcasts of them forever?
I love that Long writes such unapologetic characters. She takes risks with them that I find utterly enchanting.
Evie was an actress and courtesan who was the toast of London, until she did the unthinkable and married an Earl, who just happened to win her hand in a card game. As if that weren’t bad enough, shortly after they entered wedded bliss, he died. It just so happened a well known gentlemen gave a presentation about a spider during that time, and Evie was labeled as the Black Widow. Left with no protector and no reputation, she decides to take residence in the estate the earl left her in Pennyroyal Green. What she really wants more than anything is a fresh start. She was a country girl from Ireland once, and she remembers what it was like growing up in a small town. She hopes to establish herself there and possible make friends. Unfortunately the women of the town have already heard of her, and they want nothing to do with the Black Widow.
Enter Adam Sylvaine. He’s the local vicar and a man determined to stay away from scandal. He wants to do right by his parish and his cousins the Evesea’s, who gave him the living. Unfortunately, the Eversea blood runs hot in his veins just as much as it does his cousins’, which means he has to fight all the harder to remain upright. The last thing he needs is the widow begging for his help in finding friends. And yet..he can’t turn her down. Not only is it his duty to help when asked, but he truly wants to help Evie. He sees vulnerability and sadness in her, and he wants to lighten her load. Of course, he kind of wants to lighten his load as well (if you know what I mean), which means he has to be extra vigilant. Only Evie is hard to resist. And Adam is just a man, not a saint…
I cried several times over the course of the novel, mostly at the unfairness of what Evie suffered, both in London and in Pennyroyal Green, though I admit to a bit of anger toward her at times as well. She was a very likable character. Her reasons for becoming a courtesan were ones I could relate to, but I liked that she was unapologetic about it. She made her choice and didn’t regret it. Her practical, sassy attitude really struck a chord with me.
Adam I wanted to be a bit more true, a bit less human, I think. Which would have diminished his character greatly, but would have made me feel more kindly toward him at times. Despite being the vicar, he’s a flesh-and-blood man with hopes and fears like any other. One of his biggest fears is being relieved of his living there in the parish. That means keeping a squeaky-clean reputation. It also means he hurt Evie several times over the course of the novel. I might have hated him for it, but he hated himself enough for the both of us.
Nothing about this story is easy, but I was enthralled and engaged from page one. Long delivers again.
4.25 out of 5