Rumors that Ruined a Lady (The Armstrong Sisters) by Marguerite Kaye
Two people who really were soul mates but circumstances, duty and family kept them apart.
Caro, Lady Caroline Rider, always wanting evidence of her father's love, is used as a pawn in her father' larger game of Marital Chess for his daughters. (As her sister Cressida calls the whole debutante Marriage Mart process).
Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow, all his life rejected by his father, is conversely both a rake in society and a recluse when on his estate.
Both are shaped by their upbringing and need for approval.
With family estates adjoining, Caroline and Sebastian meet when sixteen year old Caro trespasses. An memorable time for both of them.
Eleven years after this initial meeting Sebastian finds Caro almost dead from ingesting opium at a society party.
Caro having left her husband and a farcical, abusive marriage, has been disowned by her father. Near destitution she has given up all hope.
Sebastian takes her back to his estate to recover.
The story develops from there. We are taken back in time to vignettes of significant instances, where over the years they have renewed their acquaintance prior to the present.
Would they overcome the very real obstacles before them, much less acknowledge how they felt about each other?
Would they bow to the very real pressures of their time and society?
I really liked both Sebastian and Caro as leading characters.
The gradual blossoming of their love over the years and more importantly over the last intensive months is beautifully told.
All does not flow smoothly. Their struggles and subsequent growth are poignant. Their sexual encounters are at once reasonably explicit, yet tasteful.
As the story unfolded I was captivated.
Keyes gives an insightful introduction into her writing process, how she shepherded the characters to where they now move from and what she is trying to achieve.
Issues surrounding woman as property in marriage, the difficulty of divorce both in terms of ecclesiastical and legal requirements, legal status and financial responsibilities, social stigma, divorce and children during Regency times are raised. Things that seem far away from todays perspective. We should remember that overall no-fault divorce has only been around from about 1968 to mid 70's. Not so very long ago.
This was an enjoyable read. So much so that the family nearly missed out on dinner. I was too engrossed to shop, let alone cook.
A NetGalley ARC