Desiring Lady Caro (The Marriage Game #4) by Ella Quinn
This time it's Lady Caroline Martindale and the rake Huntley who fall into true love.
Gervaise, Earl of Huntley, heir to the Marquis of Huntingdon, is a man of infinite patience and strength once having decided that it is Caroline whom he wants as his Countess.
This Marriage Game begins with a marriage of convenience that slowly grows to something more, defying Caro's tragic past. The ravishment and rape of young women by scoundrels is a danger that one doesn't think about. I suspect us readers have been anaesthetized by Jane Austen. This is Caroline's darkest secret and deepest nightmare. A nightmare she constantly relives with fear and loathing.
Fleeing Vemice and the unwanted attentions of the deranged Marchese di Venier,
Caroline and Huntley are thrown together by Huntley's aunt and Caro's godmother, Lady Horatia Laughton in an effort to protect Caroline. Lady Horatia will leave Venice duplicately and meet them in Nancy, France. Nearly caught travelling together by gossips, Huntley fortuitously runs into his cousin, the Reverend Bishop Everard Wingate who marries Caroline and Huntley in a trice. Attracted to Caro, Huntley initially found himself, wondering what it was that drew him. Perhaps it was the vulnerability he spied beneath the prickly exterior? Huntley finds himself falling in love with her. He learns her secret. Wooing her is like trying to tame a startled fawn. It takes weeks with Huntley doing all that he can, including using his greatest weapon, his ability to discover all sorts of chocolate treats, to Caroline's unending delight. She, like me is totally enamoured by all things 'chocolat.'
Mind you as Huntley seduces her with careful food delights, I too am well on the way to swooning from the delicacies he sets before the fair and timid Caroline.
I am much taken by the couple's servants, Huntley's valet Maufe, and Caro's once nursemaid and now dresser, Nugent. Both are strong secondary characters and play their parts to perfection in the growing trust and love that develops between Caro and Huntley, as long time retainers often do.
A torrid race through Italy over the alps en route to Nancy via Austria pursued by the wicked Marchese makes for a different turn of events. I must admit, I know that Caroline has been abused and suffers and I appreciate Gervaise's gentle wooing, his bringing her back from horror to wonder at intimacy. For me however, the strength of Lady Horatia and her finding love in an unexpected place actually entranced me, and nearly eclipsed the romance between Caroline and Gervaise. I did enjoy Horatia and Captain John's repartee and interaction. Theirs is a whirlwind romance, witty and amusing. I found it very satisfying that this wonderful widow found the love and companionship she deserves.
A NetGalley ARC