(Dashing Widows, #3)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
All rakes are the same! Except when they’re not…
Spirited Helena, Countess of Crewe, knows all about profligate rakes; she was married to one for nine years and still bears the scars. Now this Dashing Widow plans a life of glorious freedom where she does just what she wishes – and nobody will ever hurt her again. So what is she to do when that handsome scoundrel Lord West sets out to make her his wife? Say no, of course. Which is fine, until West focuses all his sensual skills on changing her mind. And West’s sensual skills are renowned far and wide as utterly irresistible…
Vernon Grange, Lord West, has long been estranged from his headstrong first love, Helena Nash, but he’s always regretted that he didn’t step in to prevent her disastrous marriage. Now Helena is free, and this time, come hell or high water, West won’t let her escape him again. His weapon of choice is seduction, and in this particular game, he’s an acknowledged master. Now that he and Helena are under one roof at the year’s most glamorous house party, he intends to counter her every argument with breathtaking pleasure. Could it be that Lady Crewe’s dashing days are numbered?
“…why don’t we all leave our old, sad days behind? Why don’t we all become dashing widows?”
Anna Campbell’s charming Dashing Widows series features three, young, widowed friends – Caroline, Lady Beaumont, Fenella, Lady Deerham and Helena, Countess of Crewe – who decide they need a little adventure in their lives and this is Helena’s story.
I like how the novella is divided into three parts – The Challenge, Letters and The Wooing – each representing a stage in the developing romance between Helena and West.
To persuade Helena that he truly loves her and that he is nothing like her late degenerate rake of a husband – this is the challenge facing West. Not an easy task since he is the last person Helena would ever consider marrying!
Long ago she’d placed Vernon Grange in a box marked “hazardous.” And that was where she wanted him to stay.
As young sweethearts, Helena had imagined herself in love with West, until he went off to Oxford and promptly forgot her.
On a trip to visit his friend Silas, Helena’s brother, West brings an old school chum, Lord Crewe, whom Helena falls for and marries. But she soon discovers that her husband is a self-centred, deceitful rake and her nine miserable years of marriage leave her emotionally scarred. Helena blames her years of unhappiness on West for introducing her to Lord Crewe.
Helen sees West as another philandering rake just like her late husband.
I have lot of sympathy for Helena. West was her first love and it hurt when he went away without any explanation. I think she unfairly blamed him for all the years of unhappiness because she was unwilling to admit that she had been foolish and naive enough to be taken in by a blackguard’s wiles.
To be fair to West, at eighteen, he knew he was too young to commit to Helena and needed time to see the world and when he finally realised that Helena was the woman for him, it was too late. He has regretted it ever since, especially knowing just what Helena’s life with Crewe was like.
Before he can put his plans to win Helena over into action, he is sent on a diplomatic mission to Russia.
I LOVE the letters that West and Helena exchange while he is in Russia. They are hilariously funny! Here are a couple of snippets:
…I also wish you were here because I find myself missing you and all your prickles. I’ll think of you as my dear little hedgehog. There, does that not melt your heart?
Tomorrow the ambassador presents me to his Imperial Majesty, the Tsar. I’m sure you’ll want to hear about that, so I hope you won’t tear up the letter the moment arrives.
With my dearest wishes.
Kindly desist from writing to me. As I consign any correspondence from you to the drawing room fire, all you’re doing is supplying me with exotic kindling. Your activities are of no interest and I’d prefer that we returned to being polite strangers. That relationship has served us well since we both grew up. At least I grew up. Nothing I’ve seen indicates that you have.
Helena, Lady Crewe
Having returned from Russia, West and Helena are thrown together when they both attend Silas’s wedding to Caroline. It’s the perfect opportunity for West to woo Helena in earnest and I love the to and fro between them.
By God, she was a delight. Despite his maneuvering, she wasn’t near defeated. The dance would go on, and if he didn’t concentrate on every step, he’d stumble in a heap.
I adore West. He cares so much for Helena and wants to cherish and protect her and would give his right arm to see her experience real happiness, something she hasn’t known for such a long time. There is a very emotional scene where Helena reveals much about the physical side of her marriage and West’s reactions and words make her realise how much she has misjudged him; he is not at all like her husband. She decides that, although she has no intention of marrying, she wants to experience the sexual pleasure denied to her during her marriage and West is more than willing to oblige. At first, she’s afraid but comes to the realisation that she’s safe with hum. I loved seeing a bolder, more confident Helena testing her wiles on West and I enjoyed their delightful repartee. Ms Campbell always writes love scenes that are both emotional and sensual.
Helena’s continued refusal to consider marriage puts their happy ever after in jeopardy and it takes a life threatening situation to make her see how much West means to her.
But only now, when she battled alone against this enemy, did she understand that she might lose him.
Suddenly that seemed the worst blow fate could deal her. Crueler by far than an unhappy marriage. How precious he was. How precious he’d always been.
Just when I thought everything in the garden was rosy, Ms Campbell puts another stumbling block in their path but, as with all good romances, everything is resolved in a most satisfactory way with the added pleasure of reading a very enjoyable Epilogue.
I was pleased to see that there are to be further books in this series.
MY VERDICT: An absolutely delightful novella and definitely my favourite in the series so far.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read May 2016
Dashing Widows series so far (click on book covers for more details):
**My sincere thanks to Anna Campbell for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.**