This book is the latest in the Rules for the Reckless series, though it’s very easy to read as a stand alone. It is linked somewhat to Ms Duran’s debut book, The Duke of Shadows, which I read last year but completely forgot about for the most part until the end of this one. So whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure, take it as you will.
This is the tale of Liam Devaliant, Earl of Lockwood, who mysteriously disappeared on his wedding night to Lady Anna, a countess in her own right before their marriage due to her Scottish heritage. To begin with, it was more of a marriage of convenience for both of them – she needed a husband to secure land and he needed cash to restore his family fortunes. Such marriages were likely the norm at that time, but Anna felt they could have something more. Liam was charming, easy-going and devilishly handsome and their romantic encounters before the wedding left her breathless. So she was looking forward to the wedding night, only to have it fall apart due to a quarrel over money. Liam leaves the ship they were to sail away on, never to be heard from again.
Anna is convinced that he ran away, unable to face up to the responsibility of marriage. So she does nothing but run away herself to her home in Scotland. She doesn’t alert the authorities, she doesn’t do anything except keep to herself and manage both their properties in his absence. She also becomes extremely bitter and angry the longer he is gone, nursing the rage until that’s the only thing that sustains her. When she finally hears news that he has returned to London, some months previously without telling her, she immediately travels there to confront him.
Unbeknownst to her, Liam had not been merrily traveling the globe seducing women and drinking – he had been kidnapped and thrown onto a prison ship, where no one believed his true identity. He endured several years of torture and misfortune before he finally escaped, vowing to exact revenge on the man who plotted to get rid of him. He’s far from the pretty young man Anna remembers, and he suffers from what we know is PTSD, which he does his best to hide from everyone. The two of them are at odds constantly, and I kept shaking my head over her constant harping at him, thinking, “oh boy are you going to be sorry when you find out what really happened to him”.
She does want a baby, however, and when they finally consummate the marriage he insists on her wearing a blind fold and having her hands tied so she can’t see his scarred body, or touch him. While she thinks this is rather bizarre, she goes along with it. His refusal to let her have more than that from him continues to anger her, and even when he tells her what happened to him, she can’t believe him. It isn’t until he is ill and she has to care for him, that she discovers the truth, and her anger transfers from him to whoever kidnapped him. She becomes Liam’s biggest supporter, and wants to help him find his way back to happiness if at all possible.
It’s definitely an angst filled book, and as I said, I was often exasperated by Anna’s refusal to listen to him. Liam is probably the most tortured hero I’ve read about in quite some time, and Ms Duran did a good job of portraying his inner demons. The two of them together certainly deserved their happily ever after.