A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner
Publisher: Leisure Books, Self-Published
Publication Date: September 2011
Genres: Historical Romance
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London 1815, just before Waterloo...
After her noble father disowned her, Lady Serena Ravenshaw clawed her way from streetwalker to courtesan to prosperous innkeeper. Now she’s feared and respected from one end of London to the other, by the lowest dregs of the city’s underworld and the upper echelons of the beau monde, and she’ll do anything to keep it that way.
When mild-mannered chemist Solomon Hathaway turns up in her office, asking for her help, she immediately recognizes him from one fateful night years before. She’s been watching and waiting for him for years—so she can turn the tables and put him in her debt, of course, and not because he looked like an angel and was kind to her when she needed it most.
She’s determined not to wonder what put that fresh grief in his eyes. But after a betrayal even Serena didn’t expect, she must put aside her pride and work with Solomon to stop a ring of French spies and save her beloved inn, her freedom—and England itself.
I read Rose Lerner’s In for a Penny last year and really enjoyed it, so I’ve been looking forward to her second book for a while now. It was worth the wait.
A Lily Among Thorns starts with Solomon Hathaway visiting a brothel with two school chums. He doesn’t necessarily want to be there and he can tell that the prostitute really doesn’t want to be there. In desperation (and drunkenness) Solomon gives his lightskirt his whole quarterly allowance and races off into the night.
Five years later and Solomon has entered the Ravenshaw Arms, a hotel with a well-known proprietess. Lady Serena, aka the Thorn, is known in underground circles as someone who can find missing things (among other skills). Serena is also the young prostitute whom Solomon’s quarterly allowance allowed to leave her situation. Serena recognizes Sol immediately, but he doesn’t recognize her until a little bit later. Sol needs Serena’s talents to locate some family earrings that his sister demands she needs in order to get married and said earrings were stolen a week prior by some highwaymen. Sol and Serena work out a deal that he’ll stay at the Ravenshaw Arms and do the bed hangings while Serena locates the earrings. Simple, right?
Not so much, because Serena’s former partner, the Marquis du Sacreval, has returned from France and wants to take the Arms away from Serena. This is anathema to her because the Arms is her home and something that she’s worked for and proud of. She also rescues those from her former profession and gives them positions at her hotel. She has quite a few people counting on her and the last thing she wants to do is hand it all over to Rene. But he threatens her with a fake marriage license. By now Solomon has recognized Serena and he’s vowed to help her out…but nothing is that simple and his family, her family, and a ring of French spies are only a few of the obstacles between these two characters.
There was a lot going on in A Lily Among Thorns, but it all came together very well. I did not even delve into some of the stuff going on in this story. It had a lot but it was definitely character driven. And what characters!
First there’s Lady Serena. She is actually the daughter of an aristocrat who fell for a footman and instead of allowing her father to dictate her life, she ran out. Yeah she didn’t end up in the best of circumstances, but she took advantage of Solomon’s drunken generosity and made something of herself. She’s a very strong character who puts up a front in order not to appear vulnerable to former clients who visit her hotel now and then. She’s also intimidating as hell, with a fierce reputation that makes other unsavory elements quake in their boots when she lifts a sardonic brow in their direction.
Then there’s Solomon. He is actually an earl’s nephew but who turned his back on the opportunity his rich uncle gave him and went to work for his other uncle in a tailoring shop. He can match any shade of cloth to the color of your choice. He is also suffering over the death of his twin, a twin who overshadowed him a bit. Solomon is very much a non-alpha type of character. But he has an inner strength that shines through and he has a sense of belonging that appeals to others. He’s a man who knows what he wants and he makes sure he gets it. He isn’t in your face about it and that sets him apart from overly-confident alpha types who ooze testosterone. That’s not Solomon’s style.
So great characters and strong writing are two key elements for why A Lily Among Thorns works for me. I really like the dynamic between Serena and Solomon. She can be a bit hard and that’s something that Solomon likes about her. Solomon also makes Serena believe in herself over the opinion of her extremely disapproving father. There was also a surprising secondary story that I don’t want to name a romance so much because there was no concrete HEA for those characters (I refuse to spoil the surprise as to who it is) and I would definitely like to see their story wrapped up at a later date. My only complaint about this book would be the beginning, it took a little while for me to get into what was going on. But once the story got rolling, I was engrossed. A Lily Among Thorns gets 4 out of 5 from me.
This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here.