In the second Blackshear novel, Grant shifts her focus to one of the unmarried brothers of the family, Will. A recently returned veteran, he is in need of money for several reasons he does not like to share. Having already sold his commission, he is currently gambling to get the rest of the amount he needs. While at a club, he notices Lydia, who is a kept woman currently being provided for by Roanoke. Lydia also has a goal in mind. While Roanoke may not be engaging company, her life as his mistress isn’t bad, but Lydia wants her independence and believes that two thousand pounds would be enough to finance her freedom. With interest, her yearly income would be pay for a small house, a maid and herself. Lydia is a genius with numbers, and after sitting across from Will at the tables a few times, she proposes to partner up with him since her gender limits her in how much she can gamble without drawing attention. With her memory and knowledge of odds, they should come out ahead even if a few hands go badly.
While the previous Blackshear novel was reminiscent of Austen (with sex), this novel takes a very different approach. Both protagonists are damaged people, blaming themselves for events earlier that may or may not have been in their control. As a result, this novel takes a much darker turn as it explores the psyche of two people that don’t think they deserve love or forgiveness (it sounds like a total cliché, but Grant adds enough complexity to her characters that she completely breaks past any clichés). Now, I wouldn’t mind running into a soldier in romance novel that isn’t suffering from undiagnosed PTSD but given how much more graphic and personal war was in those days, it can only be expected that returning soldiers would be plagued by their memories.
Grant uses this novel to create an intriguing and in depth character study of two people. Will and Lydia both challenge their surroundings and make dangerous and thoughtless decisions on occasion while also trying to provide for the people towards whom they think they have responsibilities. The build up and chemistry between Lydia and Will really drew me in, even if there was one minor plot point I could have skipped.