Regency historical romance at its finest is what you get with this compelling novel by Vonnie Hughes. This book sweeps you back to Britain into the early 1800s where life for the wealthy was filled with elegance and grand parties. But there is more to the era of great achievement both politically and in the fine arts. The rich attended soirees while the poor scrounged in any way possible for food. Hughes touches on the reality of the era and its costs to the people. Definitely a book to read.
What happens when a man achieves his secret wish at the expense of a brother he despises? How does he then live his life?
John Trewbridge is destined to spend his life in the British army. If he had been thinking clearly, he’d never have enlisted with the 71st regiment. But Serena ripped the heart out of him when she said that he was only a second son and therefore of no account. She was echoing the words of John’s older brother, Spencer, who has spent years crowing about his future plans for the marquessate he will inherit. Yet it is John who loves the Trewbridge estate and everything that goes with it. When he is sent home from Corunna, injured, he discovers that Serena is about to marry Spencer.
On a raw winter’s day John meets Marguerite Ninian. Crippled from birth she hides from the world and John, despairing and disillusioned, lashes out at her, telling her that instead of feeling sorry for herself and should pity the injured soldiers who had limbs amputated. Not an auspicious beginning.
But over time her humour and intelligence help John to understand that second is just a word, not a value judgment or a statement of mind. Cautiously John and Marguerite move toward a tentative friendship until Spencer implodes and smashes the Trewbridge family apart.
Spencer’s arm was trapped beneath the phaeton. The pain must be excruciating. John tugged oﬀ his glove and held tight to Spencer’s free hand. “No, Spence. I envied you Trewbridge, not the title. Oh, and sometimes I envied your famous way with the ladies. But I didn’t want to be you.” He noticed he was talking in the past tense and reined himself in. How callous could he be?
“No. I’m too dull to enjoy racing around, trying to keep ahead of my conscience.” Spencer ignored the last comment. “Dull,” he rasped. “I told her that would singe your whiskers.”
“For a time it did,” John murmured. “But I’ve found someone who needs me and doesn’t think I’m dull. And I have an estate that will not give me sleepless nights like the responsibility of Trewbridge would.”
There was a long silence and John felt the world shrink down to just the two of them, in the dark, with the sounds of rescue far away. Then Spencer’s cracked voice whispered, “But you will have it all now, while I dance with demons.”
“I don’t think so. We’ll get you out of here. More men are coming. We will lift this damned phaeton oﬀ you and—”
“No!” Spencer’s voice rose again. “I do not want to be saved.” He gave a slight huﬀ that might have been a laugh. “Never did.”
Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.
Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.