Received from publisher via NetGalley for an honest review
This is the sixth book in the series Secrets and Scandals. I didn't think it would matter that I hadn't read the others; just thought I could pick this up and enjoy a nice regency romance story. I was wrong; it mattered, it mattered a little, and it matters a lot. A little because it's obvious this book picks up where the previous book must have ended and it took about 30-40% in before I got the hang, flow, and felt connected with the characters. A lot because I am dying to know the previous stories of the couples that were mentioned in this story.
Ethan is the bastard son of a viscount, who after his father and mother dies, finds himself fending for his very survival in London's rookeries. There, he is taken under the wing of Gin Jimmy, a crime lord, and subsequently rises up in the ranks. Ethan is a compelling shades of grey character, who through circumstance and a strong will to survive, commits many objectionable acts. Through trying to connect with his legitimized half brother, it is reminisced Ethan met a lady named Audrey who secretly is giving him dance lessons to learn the waltz. Audrey is your regency wallflower who is constantly overlooked, except by our hero who glances, sees a little spark, and sticks around to discover the flame that's inside her. There is heartbreaking tension between our couple as Audrey questions, fears, and misunderstands Ethan's ways and Ethan struggles to fully trust, accept his feelings, and learn what love is. This is a still waters run deep couple, with their emotions bubbling just under the surface.
The main plot of this story starts when Ethan, about to flee London (he is wanted for murder by Bow Street and wanted by Gin Jimmy for double crossing) goes to collect a bag of hidden money in a tree, conveniently, in our heroine's yard and finds Gin Jimmy's men trying to capture Audrey because he thinks she is important to Ethan. Oops, guess those secret waltzing lessons weren't so secret after all. Audrey flees with Ethan and they end up traversing the countryside as Ethan tries to find a safe place to leave Audrey.
Like I said, if you haven't read the previous book in the series, you're going to feel thrust into the story at first. Even though it took me awhile to catch up, I enjoyed the quick pace. It was when the couple makes it to their final northern destination that the story dragged a little as Ethan's struggle to keep himself separate from Audrey and Audrey's back and forth if she should trust Ethan, felt repetitive. It was also a tad annoying and off putting when Audrey had knowledge (has to do with that inner flame of hers I mentioned earlier) that could have set Ethan free from Bow Street if they had shared information or just talked to each other. This was supposed to be The Big Misunderstanding, I guess. It ended up just feeling like a forced, overly contrived, and added on part to the story however.
Even with those few complaints, I still very much enjoyed this story. The last part of the book involves, what I imagine are, past characters/couples who come together to help Ethan and Audrey. If you had read the previous books, I predict you will love how they all come together to save Ethan and, what I speculate, complete his redemption. It's a payoff no reader wants to miss and I am definitely going back to book one to see how it all came about.