Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Charis Michaels - The Virgin and the Viscount

Lady Elisabeth Hamilton-Baythes has a painful secret. At fifteen, she was abducted by highwaymen and sold to a brothel. But two days later, she was rescued by a young lord, a man she’s never forgotten. Now, she’s devoted herself to save other innocents from a similar fate. 
Bryson Courtland, Viscount Rainsleigh never breaks the rules. Well, once, but that was a long time ago. He’s finally escaped his unhappy past to become one of the wealthiest nobleman in Britain. The last thing he needs to complete his ideal life? A perfectly proper wife.
When Bryson and Elisabeth meet, he sees only a flawless candidate for his future wife. But a distant memory calls to him every time he’s with her. Elisabeth knows she’s not the wife Bryson needs, and he is the only person who has the power to reveal her secret. But neither can resist the devastating pull of attraction and as the truth comes to light, they must discover that an improper love is the truest of all

Comment: I've gotten interested in this boo after a positive review. Quite a repetitive reason, but it's still one of the best ways to feel confident in trying something by a new author, such as it was the case here.

In this book we meet Bryson, viscount Rainsleigh, a very proper man who made his life goals to be as different from his dissolute father as he could and now his title and his work are synonyms of consistency and trust, and he plans to extend that to his future bride as well, thus making everyone else forget about his parents' shameful behavior. He sets his sight on miss Elisabeth, a seemingly mature woman who although not as young as usually prospective innocent brides tend to be, feels right to him, someone steady and proper and who will help him achieve that notion of dependability he aims for. 
However, Elisabeth has a secret, she was at a brothel for two days until Bryson himself rescued her when she finally got a chance to escape. She now does her best to help other young girls and women escape the same fate as hers: forcibly abducted into such a life. He doesn't seem to remember her and while it's true fifteen years have passed, she believes perhaps it is possible they can have a real relationship and affection but will she be able to trust him with her secret before all is lost for them?

I must say the cover of this book does lead to a certain idea of what this story will be about and I confess I expected, because of that, a slightly "lighter" story in terms of content. Then, to help with the idea, the choice of title, obviously to abuse the alliteration, is as inadequate as it could be and I must say what a pity is is that this book was saddled with both, for I found the story to be the opposite, meaning something rich and serious and more appealing than what it seemed.

Bryson is a man who has had a terrible childhood, lack of affection and structure and he has always been embarrassed by his parent's behavior and all the gossip about them. When he became the viscount he did his best to turn things around at all levels and I did like this part of his personality, he is ambitious but not because he wants to be powerful, instead he wants stability, he wants to be in control of his life and feel he isn't the same kind of person his parents were. I could root for him for wanting something different for himself and so unlike many other men of the time.

Of course he was just a bit too strict in his views, no room for enjoyment and close relationships, except his brother, who preferred a different life. It was more than obvious as well that meeting the heroine would change him and I hoped it would be one of those cases where interacting with a person who would challenge him would prove to be romantic and uplifting too! In a way it was so because for me the best element in this novel is, indeed, the relationship between them and how they slowly get to trust one another and rely on each other when possible problems go their way.

The heroine, Elisabeth, is original in the sense she cares for the fate of women forced to be prostitutes, a subject rarely seen in historical romances, and she does her best to help others who had similar issues as she did. Along with this is her mourning, for her parents were killed in the attack which resulted in her abduction, and I could see how ahead of her time she was, doing something others would not see well and she still tried her best, even if that meant she would not be a popular lady.

I think the romance worked out pretty well, these two sort of complemented one another but the best thing for me was how slow paced the evolution of their relationship was, how they were able to talk, to discuss things... not all is perfect, after all the plot has to have drama, but in general I found the story to be very appealing and captivating to read. There were a few times I had to stop reading and as eager to return to it so I could find what happened next.

It's the first book I try by this author and I liked the writing style, the "voice" and the (for me) right balance between drama and romance. It's also true, though, that some scenes felt took too long, there was some repetitiveness and some extra melodrama near the end which I think could be avoided... I understand the author's tactic and idea but if that last element of the plot wasn't there, the overall story would not be lacking.

It's not a perfect read but I was quite happy with the result. I see there is another book in the series before this one but I don't feel I have to read it. There's a sequel...perhaps I'll try that one some day. I did like the writing, the consistency of what was happening, the character development... much better than what I imagined, to be honest.
Grade: 8/10

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