Have always loved romance fiction, especially historical romances, and now have discovered paranormal and all kinds of different scenarios. After all, romance told against any background and in any configuration is grand!
Lady Aline Marsden was brought up for one reason: to make an advantageous marriage to a member of her own class. Instead, she willingly gave her innocence to John McKenna, a servant on her father's estate. Their passionate transgression was unforgivable--John was sent away and Aline was left to live in the countryside, an exile from London society.
Now McKenna has made his fortune and he has returned, more boldly handsome and more mesmerizing than before. His ruthless plan is to take revenge on the woman who shattered his dreams of love. But the magic between them burns as bright as ever. And now he must decided whether to let vengence take its toll, or risk everything for his first, and only, love.
I have to acknowledge that I have read this book "out of order" with the other Westfield stories that were written after this one. Aline Marsden is the oldest sister of Marcus Marsden, Earl of Westfield and subject of one of Kleypas' "Wallflower Series." It bears the unmistakable mark of Lisa Kleypas' writing style, her faultless research and deep understanding of this historical time period in English history, and her rather adventurous spirit that brings "the Americans" into the context of the story.
This story is about class--the unbending separation between peoples because of parentage and birth that was much more a part of English society than many contemporary readers realize. We hear lots about the caste system in India. Don't kid yourself--the same prejudices were alive and well in English history for hundreds of years. John McKenna was a bastard who didn't know the identity of his father, who was brought to Aline's estate as a stable boy when he was 8 years old, whose only maternal memories were because of the mothering he received from the housekeeper, and who was Aline's childhood playmate for years.
Now they are grown, and while this story takes place over a period of 13 years, Kleypas takes the time and pages to fill in the blanks about McKenna's and Aline's personal history. Lifelong friends, now grown adults whose friendship has blossomed into love, and all between two people who can never be together within the confines of aristocratic English society. They are very careful to plan their private moments, but in an unguarded moment, another person on the estate sees their embrace and reports it to Aline's father. While Aline's virtue was not compromised, she has ruined her reputation in her father's eyes. McKenna is sent away, but he will not truly leave unless Aline convinces him that she no longer wants him in her life. Her heart breaks as she pushes him away with cruel words that shatter his caring and gentle soul.
This is a 5 tissue story--and Kleypas has the writing skills to keep the reader entranced and enthralled until almost the last minute. The tension becomes almost unbearable -- what will really be the outcome for McKenna and Aline--is there truly any future possible for them after 12 years of hurt, disillusionment, and sorrow hidden under years of pride?
I really really liked this book -- but then, I haven't read a Kleypas story that I didn't like. I loved her Wallflower Series so this book was a real "find" even though it is set in a time prior to that series. If, like me, you haven't read this book, you owe it to yourself to do so. It is another one of those historicals that seem to define all others. I give this book a 4.75 out 5 rating.