Okay Richard Armitage is so Sebastian Reyne in this book. I am like Hope. Sebastian is giving me the shivers. He is dark and brooding, and totally yummalicious. Why are so many of my favorite heroes named Sebastian? What a coinkidink!
This was a touching book. There are multiple scenes that made me tear up, and I don't typically do that while I'm reading. I just loved Sebastian. He was this big, brawny guy who was as soft as a marshmallow inside. His heart is so full of love, but he felt that he was condemned to loneliness because of the tragedy in his past. Hope was absolutely the right woman for him. She is full of light and joy, yet at the same time, she knew about the darker side of life, from the horrible abuse she endured from her evil, cruel grandfather. Although she is wary of large, powerful men, she instantly feels a connection to Sebastian and is unable to be afraid of him. Sebastian sees Hope and feels like he has seen his heart's desire. But he knows that he had to seek a wife who can be a good mother to his sister, and he thinks he's found her in older, plain, and practical Lady Elinore.
There is a social consciousness aspect of this book that I enjoyed. Sebastian in a mill-owner, but a conscientious one, since he had to work in the mills as a child to support his family. The book touches on child labor and abuse in the Regency England times, as well as the plight of orphaned children. But it is not done on a heavy-handed manner. Instead it is an integral part of the storyline, as Sebastian seeks a peaceful home for his sisters, and thus a wife, and we learn of their pasts as orphans. The woman he is courting, Lady Elinore, is a child crusader, so it plays heavily into the plot of the book.
It was nice to revisit the Merridew sisters and to see how life has progressed since Prudence's story The Perfect Rake. We also get to meet Sebastian's troubled younger sisters Cassie and Dorie, who have vivid and unique personalities of their own. My heart goes out to Sebastian and his sisters at the situation they faced, and Sebastian's anguish at his perceived inability to reach and to help his sisters. It's great that Hope is able to help them to grow closer together and to heal from their pasts. I really enjoyed the unlikely secondary romance between Lady Elinore, and Sebastian's outgoing, carefree friend Giles. I was rooting for them to end up together.
Once again, Anne Gracie has captivated me and touched me with another of her emotional, deeply-layered romances.