He’s a fighter, not a lover .But that’s about to change…
Lady Imogene Norwood lives a sheltered life of quiet respectability and routine…until she debuts at her first Season. There among London’s elite she meets the wild and broken Lord Atwood. And the very shy English rose suddenly realizes that a little chaos might just be what her heart desires.
Lord Nathaniel James Atwood doesn’t believe true love exists. Since scandal tore him away from his family at an early age, he has spent his life fighting for what he wants. That attitude has made him a rising star in bare-knuckle boxing, and now leads him back to London to reclaim the life that was stolen from him. But upon meeting the innocent Imogene, his beliefs are trounced…as guarding his heart against her proves to be the fight of his life.
Those who have been reading the previous books in this series will recognize some of the background characters as the story begins in the dregs of the Five Points burrough of New York City where Coleman, one of the leaders of the Forty Thieves is a bare knuckle feet fighter and a man who has hidden from his true identity for thirty years. Abandoned for reasons that are too heinous to reveal lest his family and loved ones suffer irreparable harm, Coleman is wooed away from his pals and the environs of New York to return to London and begin to re-establish himself as a peer of the realm. It is difficult to begin to once again call himself by his given name, to respond to those who remember far differently than he is now. His father refuses to accept him as the returning prodigal son, his mother is not allowed to see him, and it is only the care and support of his brother-in-law and nephew that sustain him. The only thing he really know how to do is box and this is where the heroine come in.
Lady Imogene is a young woman who has always been judged to be “sickly.” Her father hasWh spent untold amounts of money, literally beggaring himself in order to secure some kind of healing for her. He even entered into a loveless marriage in order to be able to support her, but even now he is kept on a tight leash financially and wants to be shed of his unfaithful and penurious wife. Lady Imogene is coming into her inheritance and it is decided that they will invest in the best boxer they can find in order to win the Champion of England competition. Imogene’s father has been watching Nathaniel as he has been working out and has decided he is probably the best fighter alive and approaches with a business proposition. But Imogene has another kind of proposition: believing that Nathaniel will continue to walk out on his investors as he has in the past, she insists that they marry until after the competition is complete at which time they will split the prize money and go their separate ways. However, Nathaniel insists that while they are married they will have a real relationship–none of this “in name only” stuff.
This is a fascinating look at the society of the late 19th century and the rise of boxing in the world of sport. Gentleman Jack is known far and wide as the best trainer and he figures prominently in this novel. There are still strict rules about women being present but because Imogene is Nathaniel’s patroness as well as his wife, she is allowed to be present at all daily workouts. What begins as a business relationship slowly evolves into something quite different, and through the talented pen of Ms Marvelle, readers are gifted with a slice of English life and sport that is not common in a great many historical romances. It is such fun to watch Imogene emerge from the sickly and pale debutante who is not really interested in marriage into a woman who sees herself apart from her daily dose of “medicine” which is really a heavy sedative that is doing her no good whatsoever. And it is equally fascinating to watch Nathaniel emerge from his down-and-out persona, a street fighter who gives away his last penny for the people of his slum environs into the Lord of the Boxing Ring and a man who begins to feel at home in his rightful place in society, not as Coleman the street fighter, but as Lord Atwood.
This is a fine novel and one that will be a favorite among readers who really like the late 19th century as it moves toward the modern technology of the 20th century. The social rules seem just as rigid as ever–this is Victorian England, after all, but even here one can glimpse that technology and modernization, the emergence of the machine age, is forcing change even when the “upper crust” is resisting with all its might. This is indeed a stand alone novel but it is even more appealing to those who have been following the strands of story about the various characters connected through friendship, marriage, and family.
I hope you will take the time to read and enjoy this delightful historical romance. I know I found it to be one of the best I have read recently.
I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.