(School of Gallantry #3)
Educating one’s self in the art of love takes time…
Lady Caroline Arabella Starling has been in love with her older brother’s best friend, Caldwell, since she was thirteen. Unfortunately, too many things keep getting in the way of proving her love. Her four younger sisters, her mother, her brother, all of society and the man she loves himself. But where there is a will, there is a way, and Caroline is about to redefine not only respectability but true love.
Ronan Henry Dearborn, the fourth Marquess of Caldwell, lives to see himself through Caroline’s eyes but knows he is leading a life unworthy of her or her dreams. He will do anything to keep her from learning the truth about himself and his past, including keeping her at a distance. But when he and Caroline get tangled in a situation neither of them can get out of, the only way to create a happily-ever-after between them is to take up the advice of a French courtesan who re-educates them both in the art of love.
LADY OF PLEASURE is very different in tone to the previous two books in the series, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE AND LORD OF PLEASURE. Whilst these two were uproariously funny, this book is much darker…a compelling and intensely emotional story of friendship, heartache, love, understanding, forgiveness and redemption. It’s a story that really drew me in and elicited so many emotions as I was reading it. Ms Marvelle is an author who isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of historical romance. I admire her for tackling not only the subject of male sexual abuse but also touching on racial prejudice.
How I Imagine Ronan…
“I have always known there was something special between us. From the very beginning. From the moment I met you. You changed my way of thinking in a way I never expected and made me want to be perfect. Even though I wasn’t. Even though I knew I could never be.”
Ronan was such a tortured hero. I wanted to comfort the lonely fourteen-year-old Ronan who was so betrayed by someone he trusted. He lost his pride, his innocence and his soul. His sense of shame and self-loathing is so great that he has never been able to talk about what happened to anyone, even to his best friend Hawksford. He keeps all his feelings locked up inside. I understand why his friendship with Caroline is so important to him. She is the only unsullied thing in his life and he clings to their friendship like a drowning man. When he finds that his feelings for Caroline are more than just friendship, he is determined to distance himself from her rather than see her tainted in any way.
How I Imagine Caroline…
Love was not meant to be shared with the world. It was a secret romantic language between two willing hearts and two willing souls that only needed each other to survive. And, one day, she would know of such love with Caldwell. One day.
Caroline is everything I would expect of a member of the unconventional Hawksford family; uninhibited, independent, proud, outspoken and passionate. The anger, hurt and humiliation she feels when it seems that Ronan has betrayed all they shared and the devastation she feels on learning the true nature of her parents’ marriage reveal just how vulnerable she really is beneath that confident exterior.
Ronan and Caroline’s journey is such an emotional roller-coaster. Ms Marvelle captures all the charming, heartrending, poignant and passionate moments so beautifully:
The special friendship…
She nestled her cheek against his embroidered waistcoat and achingly wished he could love her in the way she loved him. “Know that I will always love you. No matter how much or how little you have. No matter how hard you fall. I will be here for you. Always.”
The undeniable attraction…
The warmth of his breath fanned her throat in uneven takes. Still buried in the curve of her neck, his full lips slowly, slowly dragged leaving a moist trail that cooled against the fire of her skin. The tip of his hot tongue suddenly slid across her skin just above her necklace, causing her to sway.
The Broken Heart…
She had already turned toward him, tears still streaming down her face. And as those grief stricken blue-green eyes met his, he knew everything he had hoped to keep sacred between them was sacred no more.
The Desperate Plea…
“A sixteen-year-old girl once told me she would embrace me no matter how hard I had fallen. I need that girl right now. I need her back in my life. I need her to believe in me in the way she used to. The question is, can she? Will she?”
The Heartrending Truth…
For the first time since knowing Ronan, she felt as if she were touching more than his hand. She felt as if she were touching his soul.
His lips parted hers slowly as if unsure as to what he should do. Her tongue met his gently and together, they became one. Her fingers and her toes tingled and went numb. She was Anne Elliot. At long last, she was Anne Elliot.
It was everything she could have ever dreamed of… and more.
It was… delicious. Caroline’s lips were like all those strawberries he had dipped in cream. Her lips were moist and soft, yet firm. And her tongue was gentle, but playful, making him feel welcome and warm, yet in control. It was beautiful.
She was beautiful.
I love all the secondary characters, particularly the quirky Hawksford sisters who provide some lighter moments among the intensity of the romance. Here are two of my favourites.
“Aside from the braids, how do I look?”
Anne squinted up at her, crinkling her freckled nose. “Do you want our honest opinion? Because all those pimples make it very difficult to see your face.”
Anne sat up and glared at Mary. “How about I buy you a casket so you can sleep in it every night?”
Mary paused. “How much do you think one would cost? If I did want one for my room? Are they expensive? Do you know?”
Caroline groaned. “For heaven’s sake, Anne, don’t give her ideas.”
I like Ronan’s uncle who, despite their occasional spats, obviously loves his nephew as a son. I was conflicted about Lady Danbury whose meddling caused so much heartache, but I don’t see her as malicious, simply misguided. Lord Banfield, Lord Brayton and the Earl of Hawksford, the other ‘students’ at the School of Gallantry all make an appearance. The plots for this book and Lord of Pleasure (Hawksford’s story) run concurrently and it’s interesting to see the same events from a different perspective.
Delilah Marvelle proves once again why she is one of my top favourite authors with this moving love story. Definitely a keeper!
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 Stars
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Read July 2013
The School of Gallantry Series so far (click on the cover for more details)
My sincere thanks to Delilah Marvelle for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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