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Obsession Wears Opals

(Jaded Gentlemen, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Darius Thorne has learned to use his wit and intelligence to strategize a better life for himself. He is the White Knight amidst the small secret circle of gentlemen known only as The Jaded. The handsome scholar shields his heart by keeping a studied distance from the world…until he rescues a beautiful woman.

Isabel Netherton isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A highborn lady of quality unwilling to be a pawn, she is defiantly escaping an abusive husband. But under Darius’s protection she discovers an unexpected champion–a man who teaches her the power of true desire and what it means to be treated like a queen.

However, the law of the land supports her husband’s cruel claim. It will take all of Darius’s cunning to keep one step ahead of their enemies and protect Isabel. In a deadly game of chess, Darius must defeat the Black Knight and sacrifice himself for his Ivory Queen or forfeit all.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fifth book in Renee Bernard’s highly addictive Jaded Gentleman series.

Darius Thorne is the second son of a dockworker and a fishmonger’s daughter whose drunkard of a father regularly beat his wife and children. Believing he is cursed to become just like his father, Darius pursues an entirely different life, totally immersing himself in scholarly pursuits. He has never let anyone get too close because he’s always been afraid that ‘blood will tell’ and he will hurt someone. His resolve is to be tested when he discovers a half-frozen woman lying in his garden, who obviously needs his help and protection.

After a whirlwind courtship, Lady Isabel, daughter of the Marquis of Penleigh, had fallen in love with the handsome Earl of Netherton. He swept her off her feet with his tender and romantic gestures and her wedding day is filled with thoughts of their future happiness. Those thoughts are soon dispelled on her wedding night when she discovers her husband’s true depraved and sadistic nature. With no-one to help her and fearing for her life, she seizes the opportunity to escape on her beloved horse, Samson, with no money and only the clothes she is wearing. Riding until her horse becomes lame, she collapses from exhaustion, to be rescued by a man who offers her both his help and protection.

I totally fell for the shy, bespectacled, thoughtful, intelligent, scholarly Darius. I love how he cares for Isabel without knowing anything about her, not even her name. He recognises the signs of abuse and, seeing her wedding ring, knows exactly who is responsible and vows to protect her from harm.

Every fiber of his being felt protective of her, unwilling to think too far ahead of his improvised plan to simply provide her a haven until she’d recovered and a better solution could be found.

I really felt all Isabel’s pain and humiliation and understood why, however foolhardy it might seem, escape was her only option. The law provided little or no protection for a married woman and she was at the mercy of her husband, and his threats to have her committed to an asylum or worse were only too real. I like how Ms. Bernard highlights the plight of women during that time and it makes me realise just how lucky we are today.

Although a stranger, Darius’ sincerity and kindness make Isabel feel safe for the first time in months and instinctively she knows that she can trust him.

He’d said he’d not hurt her for all the world and it made no sense in the world she’d experienced to believe him. But there she was, sitting in front of his fire with her bare feet tucked into his lap, half frozen and miserable— and inexplicably feeling safe for the first time in months.

Gradually in the compassionate care of Darius and his housekeeper, Mrs MacFadden, Isabel’s physical and emotions scars heal but she is still lives in fear of her husband finding her. I love how Darius uses the game of chess to convince Isabel that she can be strong and command power, just like the White Queen on his chess board. I enjoyed the fanciful stories they both create around chess pieces as Darius teaches Isabel the intricacies of the game, but also the sense of the growing attraction between them.

“And you?” he asked, still holding her hand across the board. His gaze was steady, the green in his eyes deepening as the contact between them lingered.
M-me?” Isabel tried to regain her mental footing and ignore the sweet fire curling up inside of her.

If there were ever two people who were meant to be together, it is these two. They complement each other in so many ways but there seems an insurmountable obstacle in their way… Isabel’s husband. I love how Darius uses his intellectual prowess and puzzle solving skills to outmanoeuvre Netherton and achieve Isabel’s freedom. However, his plan takes him into dark underbelly of London and he is sickened by the vile things he discovers about Netherton. I love how Isabel helps to dispel his despair in a rather unusual way.

Darius has never allowed himself to fall in love fearing that he could turn out to be a monster just like his father and he would never subject Isabel to such a fate. He also believes that, as a lady of quality, she will be repelled by his humble origins. I love how Isabel makes him realise that his origins do not matter to her; she fell in love with the gentle, caring and intelligent man he is, and he could never be like his father.

I adore Darius’ housekeeper, Ms MacFadden, who is ‘like a kitten that spits and hisses but has no claws’, to quote Darius. In public, she and Darius’ driver and houseman, Hamish, are constantly at each other’s throats, but secretly they are carrying on a clandestine affair which Darius swears is like watching ‘the courtship of porcupines.’

The other members of the Jaded Gentleman make an appearance and I always enjoy seeing the close bond between them, forged during their imprisonment in India.  I also like the genuine friendship that develops between Isabel and Caroline Blackwell, Ashe’s unconventional, American wife (Seduction Wears Sapphires).

The mystery surrounding the identity of their nemesis, the Jackal, and the exact nature of the sacred treasure is very much overshadowed by the romance in this book. I’m sure all will be revealed when I read Desire Wears Diamonds, the final book in the series.

MY VERDICT: Ms. Bernard pens an entertaining, romantic and sensual love story.  With only one more book to go, I will be sorry to say goodbye to the Jaded Gentlemen.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Jaded Gentlemen series (click on the book covers for more details):

Revenge Wears Rubies (Jaded Gentleman, #1) by Renee Bernard Seduction Wears Sapphires (Jaded Gentleman, #2) by Renee Bernard Ecstasy Wears Emeralds (Jaded Gentleman, #3) by Renee Bernard Passion Wears Pearls (Jaded Gentleman, #4) by Renee Bernard Obsession Wears Opals (Jaded Gentleman, #5) by Renee Bernard Desire Wears Diamonds (Jaded Gentleman, #6) by Renee Bernard

 

 

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(Jaded Gentlemen, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

After the darkness of a dungeon in India, artist Josiah Hastings dreamt of returning to a world lush with color—only to discover that years of imprisonment left his eyesight weak and failing. So when the fiery beauty of Miss Eleanor Beckett appears in his vision amidst the bleak grays of a London winter, he knows he’s found his muse and one last chance at a masterpiece.

Once a spoiled and exultant girl, Eleanor is struggling to survive in a city where men prey upon her. Saving her from assault and ruin, Josiah will pay her a fortune to sit for a painting. To restore her life, Eleanor must risk her reputation modeling for an artist without a chaperone—and try not to lose her heart to a man with dark secrets and unseen enemies…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fourth book in the Jaded Gentlemen series and, as always, Ms Bernard captivated me with her authentic story, intriguing characters, witty dialogue and sensual romance.

Josiah Hastings has one wish before his eyesight finally fails – to paint a masterpiece that will bring him immortality – but he has found “nothing to stir his soul” and give him the impetus to paint. He has become guarded and reclusive and his pride prevents him from admitting that his eyesight is failing even to his closest friends, the fellow Jaded. Only Dr. Rowan West manages to wheedle the truth out of him but, as a physician, he is sworn to secrecy. When Josiah rescues Miss Eleanor Beckett from being kidnapped and worse, he knows he has found his muse.

In a world of fog and fleeting shadows that haunted his vision, she was color. A living, breathing pillar of all his senses longed for – a muse of beauty that defied science and logic.

Orphaned and penniless, Eleanor Beckett is forced to take a job as a seamstress in Madame Claremont’s dress shop. She suffers the harsh conditions and long hours because the work is at least considered respectable for someone in her position. Respectability is the one thing she values above all else. However, events threaten that very respectability when she is rescued from a would-be kidnapping and assault by Josiah Hastings – a painter who offers her a huge amount of money if she will sit for a painting. It means a life she once knew…one of security and comfort…too tempting to refuse but Eleanor will have the last word.

“I’m not taking off my…” She swallowed hard, unsure of how a person delicately addressed the subject of nudity with such a man. “I won’t pose without…”
“I’ll not ask you to remove a thing against your will.” His brown eyes blazed hotter than the embers of a fire. “And if that is you last objection, I take it that your answer is…”
“Yes.”
God help me. Yes.

I felt that Ms Bernard’s portrayal of Josiah’s impending blindness was realistic. I could see the grey and black clouds that swirled across his vision and I could feel his anger and humiliation each time he stumbles or falls. He is a complex man, trying to come to terms with the reality of his situation but still clinging to the last vestiges of his pride.

“It’s pride. I’m too proud and it’s a sin, but I want to stand as an equal in the eyes of the Jaded for as long as I can. I don’t want pit. I just want to be myself and paint and enjoy what’s left to me. I walk about London each afternoon and I am my own man, Rowan.”

I love how the main focus of the book is on the developing relationship between Josiah and Eleanor. Watching the prim and proper Eleanor letting go of her inhibitions was delightful.

“I have but one question, Mr Hastings.”
He warily opened one eye. “And what is that?”
“As to etiquette – how soon can a person reasonably request you do that again?”
It was his turn to laugh before he kissed her, a gentle, reverent gesture that reignited and renewed the bonds between them. “Give me a few minutes to rest my eyes and I’ll see if I can’t demonstrate a satisfactory answer, Miss Beckett.”

I sometimes wanted to knock some sense into Josiah for keeping the truth about his blindness from Eleanor for so long because he doesn’t want to be a burden to her. This causes some misunderstandings between them but, of course, love will always find a way.

He loved her. She loved him. Where was the problem? The path looked crystal clear.

The love scenes are highly sensual but written with tenderness and humour as well. My only criticisms are that the occasional purple prose creeps in and one of the scenes came as a total surprise and seemed very out of character.

Ms Bernard gathers together some memorable secondary characters.

~~ despicable Madame Claremont who is well and truly humiliated by Josiah.
~~ Mrs Clay, the owner of The Grove guest house where Eleanor rooms, who is like “ a large, benevolent fairy godmother”.
~~ deaf, mute Tally, Mrs Clay’s “adopted son” who is a real sweetheart.
~~ Josiah’s loyal, elderly servants, the creaky-boned Mr Escher and his gruff wife who, according to Josiah, is “…as sweet as a kitten when you get to know her.”

The other Jaded Gentlemen make an appearance as they complete plans to flush out their enemy, the Jackal, but the mystery very much takes a back seat to the romance in this book. There are some dramatic events towards the end of the book and the Jaded discover that the Jackal may not be their only enemy.

My verdict: Captivating, romantic, witty and lusciously sensual!

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read April 2015

The Jaded Gentlemen series (click on the book covers for more details):

Revenge Wears Rubies (Jaded Gentleman, #1) Seduction Wears Sapphires (Jaded Gentleman, #2) Ecstasy Wears Emeralds (Jaded Gentleman, #3) Passion Wears Pearls (Jaded Gentleman, #4) Obsession Wears Opals (Jaded Gentleman, #5) Desire Wears Diamonds (Jaded Gentleman, #6)

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