In this historical romance, Julia Ross turns the theme of rake reformed by a virtuous woman on its head.
Briefly, here's the premise. On his way home from a rejected marriage proposal, Lord Ryderbourne (known as "Ryder"), eldest son and heir to the powerful Duke of Blackdown, is in a foul mood. Riding along the coast, he spots a dinghy caught in the currents and headed for the rocks. He's shocked to see an unconscious person apparently in the oarless dinghy and dives in to rescue her. She's a beautiful, scantily clothed woman who has obviously been badly beaten. When questioned about who did this to her, she lies and he assumes she's been beaten by her husband.
Feeling a great deal of compassion for her, he wraps her in his cloak and takes her to a local inn where he orders a room and a hot bath for her followed by a nice dinner in her room. She persuades him to share dinner. He intends to leave afterward, but she seduces him and they share a passionate night together. After much pressuring from him, she agrees that in the morning she'll either allow him to help her or reveal her identity to him. She's gone when he awakes, having ordered a horse, saddle, clothes and sundry personal supplies from the Innkeeper and having told him to charge them to Ryder's account. She's left him a note stating her unusual name (Miracle Heather), that she's London's most notorious harlot, that she had murdered a man when he found her and thanks for his help, but he's well rid of her.
Ryder can't get the mystery woman out of his mind and, driven by protective instincts and lust, he searches for and finds her, attempting to persuade her to accept his help. Although she reluctantly agrees to accept help, she repeatedly slips away from him in order to "spare" him from her corrupting influence. In this story, Ryder, while not a virgin, has limited experience as opposed to Miracle, a skilled courtesan, and he's completely besotted with her, not only because of her physical attributes and skills, but also because he respects and admires her integrity and will to survive despite the poverty and degradation to which she was born, having been basically "sold" by her alcoholic widowed father at the age of 6 when she was apprenticed to a mill, facing a probable life of back-breaking work in a sweatshop, deafness and loss of limb. He admires her will to survive and how she's been resourceful and self-sufficient enough to rise above her circumstances. He wants nothing but to protect her and keep her from harm for the rest of her days. As His mother says, Ryder is "pure gold at the core," though both of them know that nothing can come of a relationship between a future Duke and a courtesan, which lends the story a bittersweet quality.
What I loved about this story is the unusual premise, the interesting, flawed characters and the great character development. I grew to truly believe that these characters were in love. Julia Ross' prose is so lush and beautiful at times that some passages have a near lyrical quality combined with a smoldering sensuality that I've only seen in a few other authors(among them Jo Beverly and Elizabeth Lowell's medieval historicals).
It was a good story with good character development; I even enjoyed some of the supporting characters like the Duchess, who was a strong, overbearing character, but effectively done. What kept it from being a "keeper" for me was the heroine's repeated "I'm not worthy" refrain, which grew a little annoying after a while. Also, the story behind the murder was a little convoluted and hard to follow.
Overall, a very worthwhile read, while not quite a keeper for me.
This is the second book in a triology. Ryder, Lord Ryderbourne, heir to the Duke of Blackdown and one of the greatest estates in England, reared to be responsible and dutiful, was supposed to choose an appropriate bride from among the aristocracy and produce an heir. Riding home after an unbelievable rebuffed marriage proposal to an appropriate young lady, he sees a small boat drifting to the shore. He rescues the half-naked woman who has bruises on her face and neck, a young woman clad only in a corset and a chemise. He takes this beautiful girl to his home where he and his servants give her sustenance and comfort. He assumes that she is married and believes that her husband has tried to kill her. He is inexplicably attracted to her even though he doesn't know who she is or what her story is. They end up spending a passiionate night together. It was much more than lust; it was as though their souls had bonded. She left him before he awoke the next morning, but, later, he discovered her note she'd left for him. The words she wrote burned into his heart: "My name is Miracle Heather. I am London's most notorious harlot." Nevertheless, he was determined to find her...........
There's ingrigue, suspense, passion in this wonderful story. Julia Ross, who also wrote as Jean Ross Ewing, is a superb story-teller. The first page grabs your attention and holds it throughout the story. I didn't want this story to end.
The first book in this triology is NIGHT OF SIN, which is about Ryder's younger brother, Jack. The final book is CLANDESTINE, featuring the cousin who appears in the first two books.
I highly recommend this book because it is not a typical piece of "fluff," it's intense, provacative, passionate. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I love this author. The story (plot), character development, intrigue, sex, romance, etc. - it was all good. But a future duke marrying a courtesan? And he knows all of her lovers? that's just not in any way believeable, and the only hitch in an otherwise good book.