(The London Trilogy, #1)
Genre: Historical Romance (Late Victorian)
Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is The Ideal Gentleman, a man all men want to be and all women want to possess. Felix himself almost believes this golden image. But underneath is a damaged soul soothed only by public adulation.
Louisa Cantwell needs to marry well to support her sisters. She does not, however, want Lord Wrenworth—though he seems inexplicably interested in her. She mistrusts his outward perfection and the praise he garners everywhere he goes. But when he is the only man to propose at the end of the London season, she reluctantly accepts.
Louisa does not understand her husband’s mysterious purposes, but she cannot deny the pleasure her body takes in his touch. Nor can she deny the pull this magnetic man exerts upon her. But does she dare to fall in love with a man so full of dark secrets, anyone of which could devastate her, if she were to get any closer?
I have been so lucky with the books I have read recently because they have all been worthy of 5 stars and The Luckiest Lady in London is no exception. The first book in Sherry Thomas’s The London Trilogy series, it is beautifully written with layered, complex characters and real emotional pull.
From an early age, Felix Rivendale realised that his mother didn’t love him. He was merely a pawn in her war of attrition against his father whom she hated and her machinations gradually drove a wedge between Felix and his father. When, at the age of seventeen, both his parents died, Felix decided to reshape his life, becoming “The Ideal Gentleman”. On the surface, he is everything that name implies – charming, handsome, gracious, amiable…but beneath, he is cunning, manipulative and unscrupulous. His childhood experiences have taught him that love makes you powerless but, in this new persona, he will be the one wielding all the power. At twenty-five, he knows that it his duty to marry but has no intention of doing so for at least another twenty years until he meets a certain young lady…
Her name was Louisa Cantwell, and she would be his undoing.
16-year-old Louisa had assumed responsibility for her four sisters, the youngest of whom suffers from epilepsy, and her widowed mother. They subsist on her mother’s annuity, but Louisa knows that when anything happens to her mother they will be in complete penury. She must make an advantageous marriage but is fully aware of all the impediments – the family’s financial state, a scandal attaching to the Cantwell name, her lack of accomplishments and, last but not least, her lack of beauty. So, over the years, Louisa schemes to turn herself into the perfect young lady and when she attends her first ball at the age of twenty-four, under the sponsorship of her mother’s cousin, her strategy proves a success. Society is quite taken with her, seeing her as warm, amiable and even beautiful, and there is no shortage of attentive gentlemen at her side. Only one man threatened her carefully laid plans – the Marquess of Wrenworth who looked at her…
As if he had already seen through her entire facade, from her lack of true beauty to her fundamentally scheming ways.
When these two first meet, they immediately see through each other’s pretences. Felix is intrigued by Louisa not only because she is aware of his subterfuge but, although clearly physically attracted to him, has rejected him. Louisa, while wary of trusting a man like Felix, is fiercely attracted to him.
The passion between these two fairly leaps off the page and I loved the witty and often risqué banter which only serves to heighten the sexual tension. Ms Thomas is brilliant at creating the most erotic moments without sex ever taking place, such as the scene involving Felix’s walking stick:
“Very fine specimen you have here,” she said, a little shocked at both her words and her action.
She was caressing the part of him that he had chosen to extend to her person, her fingertips exploring every nook and cranny of the handle. His gaze, intense and heavy lidded, traveled from her face to her uninhibited hand and back again.
“You like it?”
When Louisa declines to become his mistress, Felix takes the step he swore he never would…he asks her to marry him for reasons he is at a loss to explain himself. I love the answer he gives when a surprised Louisa asks…
But why would you marry me?”
“Because young ladies who confess to pornographic reveries ought to be rewarded with riches beyond their dreams?”
After so much sexual tension building, the wedding night is definitely explosive and, whilst the love scene is not overly explicit, it is certainly steamy and I love that Louisa fully embraces her sensuality.
But there is much more to the marriage than sex and it is the emotional journey Felix and Louisa travel and the difficulties they have to overcome that kept me turning the pages. It is Felix who undergoes the most significant changes. His fear of emotional involvement and losing control lead him to act like a complete jackass towards Louisa, understandably earning her distrust. Knowing he loves her, Felix is desperate to win her back. I loved the epiphany moment when he realises that the entire aim of his adult life has been about getting what he wanted, exactly the way he wanted it but now he must put Louisa’s needs before his own. The scene in the schoolroom where Louisa is aroused by Felix’s mathematical lessons is so brilliantly written and I liked that they share a mutual love of astronomy which helps create a closer bond between them. But of all the things Felix does, it is an unselfish act of kindness that reveals the true Felix to Louisa.
“No. I haven’t any misplaced sense of your nobility, Felix. I know exactly who you are and I love exactly who you are.”
MY VERDICT: A beautifully written, emotionally satisfying, character driven love story. Highly recommended.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read April 2016
The London Trilogy series (click on the book covers for more details):