She used light words that didn’t say what she was thinking. He was doing the same. They leaned on each other and everything important between them went unsaid.
While you absolutely could read this book without reading the rest in the series, you absolutely do not want to. The romance is a little weak, the mystery threads dominate and I had problems feeling like I "knew" Raoul. Do not look for really any movement in the romance front until after 50%.
“I understand. I’m not an innocent.”
“That’s not what I’m saying, Séverine. Not what I’m asking. I want to explain that this isn’t a game to me. I’m free. This is courtship.” He leaned to set his lips to her breast, through the fabric of her shift. “I thought you should know."
Now, just because I said the romance is weaker, it doesn't mean there isn't love in this story. Why I think you should read the preceding in the series is because Severine is the daughter (adopted) of the hero in "The Forbidden Rose" and sister-in-law to the hero in "The Black Hawk" and the love/relationship between the three is so worth reading. Also, Black Hawk has been my favorite of the series, so reading this, seemingly simple description of him: Hawker sat at the head of the table, his feet propped on one chair, evening coat and cravat thrown over another. His shirt was open at the collar, his cuffs rolled back, and his waistcoat unbuttoned. had me wanting to read his book all over again. What disappointed the heck out of me was that the wives/heroines of these two men were off page the whole time and I missed out seeing them together again.
Women saw that glint of reckless sensuality in him. The promise that he would not only please a woman in bed but make her laugh while he did it.
Severine's character did not disappoint and I loved her; I would be first in line for a novella about her time serving the Military Intelligence. The mystery plot of Raoul searching for his daughter, an amulet, and who/why killed his wife (a forced marriage, he hadn't even seen her in years) was really only interesting to me because of the strength of the characters (Severine, William Doyle, and Adrian Hawkhurst) and how real, nuanced, and wonderfully Bourne writes them.
Bourne's writing style is one of my favorites, its immersing, emotional, and at turns beautiful. I'm just a little worried that reader's new to the series wouldn't have the background attachment to stay with this, because of the slow burn, not always the focus romance.
The series is great though, so if you want to fall in love with Severine like I did, definitely start from the beginning. This was a very quietly and understated emotional story, which worked for me at times and didn't at others.
*In case any group members are reading, this series would be a great Buddy Read series ;)