I picked this one up based on Malin’s review. One nice thing about Cannonball Read is that with Malin, emmalita and Mrs. Julien, I had a nice list of go to authors handy when I finally decided to try romance. However, having worked my way through most historical romance novels by Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Julie Ann Long, and Sarah McLean among others, I am always excited when I notice a review for an author I had not noticed before.
This novel uses an estranged marriage plot, and due to the circumstances that led to the estrangement, it is easy to feel sympathy for both parties since neither is to blame. Of course, not both of them know this since Anna is very much in the dark about why her new husband disappeared on their wedding night over five years ago. His extravagant spending has alerted her of his return, leading her to leave her beloved island in Scotland and visit the despised city of London. While she is angry with her husband and wants nothing to do with him, she also needs an heir to prevent distant relatives from inheriting the island and her fortune when she dies.
Lord Lockwood did not purposely leave his wife behind. Though their marriage was a marriage of convenience, they were both developing unspoken feelings for each other and had an easy rapport and mutual attraction. Unfortunately, Lockwood left the ship that was to take them on their honeymoon journey to clear his head after an argument, and once on the dock, he was attacked and put onboard a convict ship bound for Australia.
Five years later, Lockwood is back in London, and in that time, he has discovered that he was not an accidental victim but the target of a villainous plot. Lockwood knows exactly who is behind the plot, and intends to get revenge. He did not expect his estranged wife to show up, and he does not intend to involve her in his plot, preferring to let her believe the front of excessive debauchery he is presenting to the rest of society. Lockwood’s experiences have left him marked physically and mentally, and he is not willing to reveal any vulnerability to Anna or receive her pity. While he agrees to her demands for an heir, he also sets conditions that will allow him to hide his scars.
Lockwood staffed his household with ex-convicts who survived Australia with him, and while they all kept each other alive, they very much credit Lockwood with their survival. Anna’s reactions to this untrained group of servants are both entertaining and expected. As she spends more time in the house, Anna starts to notice the irregularities about Lockwood’s household and his actions. She also fears he is depraved based the previously mentioned conditions, and a club she discovers in the basement, but once she discovers the truth, she is both supportive and wants part of the revenge scheme.
The novel also introduced another couple I am very interested to learn more about. I quite liked Anna and Lockwood, and Lockwood’s struggles with PTSD feel reasonable. However, this also means that their renewed relationship doesn’t magically fix everything, so that there is still some back and forth and figuring out how to be together even after Julia knows the truth. I have noticed I tend to like things wrapped up very neatly so I would have preferred things to become neat more quickly but it would not have been true to the characters and their past.