I've now come to look forward to Ms. James' books with a sort of nervous anticipation like a child looking forward to digging into its Christmas or Birthday gift. And what a gift it was!
Through her (dare I dub it Restoration Trilogy?!) she has introduced me to a period that before "Libertine's Kiss" I knew very little, and thanks to her wonderful writing, I now am eager to learn more about.
The hero of this tale is none other than Captain Sir Robert Nichols, who we've met in the previous book. In that story, I've thought him cool, subdued, calm and a bit opinionated. Oh, how I loved getting to know him better in this story. The author has allowed our heroine Hope Mathews to slowly peel off our heroes layers and as the last layer fell away, I found myself enchanted with the Captain.
This story opens in 1651 London as young but not so innocent to the world, Hope Mathews is rescued by a young soldier from being trampled by other soldiers who were in a parade. She feels that maybe, just maybe her dreams might come true and her knight in shining armor could rescue her from the life she's known all her life. Alas, it wouldn't be this man and until that day comes, she's destined to go back to the brothel and her mother who owns it. Little does she know of her mother's plan to auction her off.
It is now 1662 and Captain Sir Robert Nichols hasn't had a decent nights sleep in years. The reason behind this man's nightmares goes way back to his childhood and after years of seeking revenge for the wrong done to his family he is on the verge of finally getting the last man responsible for all his heartache.
Charles Stuart is about to marry his Portuguese bride, and our heroine Hope who against all odds has risen to the rank of Mistress to the King, knows that she needs to move on and that the time has come for her to leave the court. She knows the world is ruled by men, so she feels the pressing need to approach the King in regards to her future.
While Robert is baffled by King's decree to give up all of his wealth and properties one day, the summons to appear in court the next stuns him even more.
As she enjoys her May Day celebration, which Charles asked her to host with him, Hope is full of happiness and pride at her accomplishment. In her wildest dreams, or nightmares for that matter, she would have never imagined herself betrayed and married all at the same time.
Robert is given no choice by the King. In order for him to keep his home from his mortal enemy, who requested it from the King, he must marry the King's whore.
The relationship between these two was electrifying from the get-go. Both exuded sexuality and the attraction they felt for each other even when arguing, was palpable.
In Hope, Ms. James has created a character that's a mix of innocence, sexuality and charm. I was touched by this woman-child who managed to keep her identity and use her own perception of the world to her advantage.
Her life was not an easy one, yet she never lost her humanity. She stayed true to herself, and that is what our hero needed. He couldn't help but be drawn to her sweet and idealistic nature. His tormented soul craved her light and not even a King could stand in the way of these two lovers. The road to their happily ever after is paved with lust, arguments, intrigue, some more arguments, danger and then some more arguments...You get the picture!
Judith James can paint with her words the picture of Restoration period and bring to life King Charlie and his court for me any time! Reading her novels is the closest I can come to living them.
* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*