Originally published on Tales to Tide You Over
I enjoy historical romance. It's been a favorite genre of mine for a very long while. This book, however, takes the genre to another level. It is truly, beyond all others, about mature love. Beyond the fun glimpse into the period through the eyes of the various characters, including a look at the cross-continent trading as well as the lives of the ton, the novel is filled with characters who are complex and compelling, who have stories of their own to tell even if they're not the focus of this book. And Nick and Ellie are definitely among those complex characters.
The story looks at the consequences of two soul mates who found each other when they were too young and still under control, actual and manipulation, of her father. Torn apart by this, neither has been able to move beyond that young love despite the passage of ten years and a lot of maturing. The "coming home" theme in contemporary romance is one I enjoy because there's time for their emotions to mature. I just never expected to find it in a historical romance.
At first, Nick is bent on revenge for how Ellie broke his heart, and she's determined never to let herself be that vulnerable again. They have very real reasons for their attitudes, and both are guilty at least in part, but the book is about how they move past old pains and open themselves to a new future. It's not simply explaining what happened, or even taking responsibility for each of their choices. It's complicated both by the need for self-preservation and by wounds that stab deeper than rational thought.
The Marquess Who Loved Me has the sensual/sexual content people have come to expect, but maybe not in the way they expect. Unlike the latest trends, the initial encounters are all about dominance as in Nick taking the control over Ellie that he thought she had taken over him when she dismissed him as unworthy of her hand. There's a lot more to that particular story, of course, but Nick saw only her cruel cut and comes back determined to own her in every way. It could have gone very dark. Instead, love rears its ugly (to both of them) head and undermines both of their plans to stay untouched and safe.
On top of all of the witty dialogue mixed with social commentary and deep soul searching, there's also a murderer afoot, the need to keep it secret, and the possibility of betrayal from all sides.
It might sound a bit crowded, and in another's hands, it might have been, but every piece from Nick's revenge to Ellie's paintings fit together smoothly. Where something might come from the outside such as the murderer, it is even more likely a result of the blend of relationships and hatreds in their inner circle. Every phrase has a double meaning, and every meaning only serves to offer a plausible, if unwanted, answer to the questions stewing in the minds of the characters.
I started reading another title I'd received through NetGalley and found myself unable to finish for reasons other than craft. Though Sara Ramsey's novel was not next on the list, I thought it might serve as, shall we say, a pallet cleanser. It did that and more. I found myself making excuses to extend my reading time just that bit further, and even got back on the elliptical to capture ten more reading minutes. While I enjoy much of what I read, I don't always seek out other books by the author immediately. In this case, I'm planning to pick up the rest of this series which, I hope, will offer the rest of the tale for certain of the other characters I met and enjoyed.
P.S. NetGalley provided this title in return for an honest review.