PUB. INFO: Avon, 1989
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1814
AUTHOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: A+
From Publisher: Lady Isabella St. Just is shocked to learn the identity of the daring champion who comes to her aid -- for the man who rescues her from desperate felons is none other than Alec Tyron, the notorious king of London's underworld. Now she is beholden to an outlaw who is respected and feared throughout the city and stunned by her own intense desire for this dark man of mystery. Fate has united these strangers from opposite lives -- the beautiful aristocrat and the brazen criminal outlaw. And now that the flame has been lit, no power on Earth will quench the fire of their passion...or destroy a love that society cannot allow.
SPOILER SUMMARY: Isabella is twenty-three and in a loveless marriage to Bernard. Her mother is dead and her father doesn't seem to liker her at all, especially after remarrying years before. She's out in her carriage one day and is kidnapped and held captive at an inn. The kidnappers plan to kill her. After escaping through the window she meets Alec and his friend Paddy. They help her hide out at a brothel Alec owns.
Alec (golden hair/golden eyes) grew up on the streets and doesn't know his parents. He's twenty-eight. He met Paddy and Pearl along the way and has maintained a lifelong friendship with both. Pearl has been his lover the whole time.
Pearl runs a brothel that Alec owns and ends up getting very jealous of Alec and Isabelle's relationship. There's an unrelated subplot of someone trying to kill Alec at the brothel. Alec discovers that Isabelle's husband is behind her kidnapping but she doesn't believe him. Alec won't take her home so, with Pearl's help, she leaves for home without Alec's knowledge. She can't get inside the house and Alec finds her at a restaurant and persuades her to come live with him at his home and help him become a gentleman by tutoring him.
After three months of Isabelle being away from her husband, Pearl's jealousy has reached it limit and she informs Bernard of where Isabelle is, knowing full well that he's already tried to kill Isabelle. She's out walking one day and is kidnapped by Bernard. They travel home and with her father and stepmother, travel to France and stay for awhile, in case there's any scandal caused Isabelle, a married woman, being away from her husband for three months.
Alec discovers what Pearl has done and tracks Isabelle down at a party in France. She tells him she has to stay with her husband and Alec leaves with his feelings hurt. He's already told Isabelle he loves her. Three months later, still in Paris, Bernard goes up to Isabelle outside and starts talking to her, telling her he poisoned his first wife Lydia and that's what killed her, not a 'weak heart'. He grabs her hand and tried to pull her toward the cliff but she resists. He smashes her in the head with a rock twice and Alec shows up and pulls a gun on him. Bernard asks him who he is then realizes he must be the one Isabelle was with for the three months she was away. He moves toward Alec and Alec shoots and kills him. Isabelle's father and stepmother happened to see what happened and now, after she was almost killed by Bernard again he believes her original story about Bernard trying to kill her.
Her father learns from Alec that for the whole three months she's been back with Bernard Alec has had men watching her and even had one working in the house because he was scared Bernard would try to kill her again. Alec leaves for England. Three months later Isabella shows up at the brothel. He's in the tub and she tells him she loves him and they decide to get married. She gets in the tub with him.
MY THOUGHTS: This is one of my top favorite books of all-time and is one of the author's favorites. I first read it around 1995/96 after buying it at K-Mart. I'd only been reading novels for two or three years at that point. In fact, most of my favorites were read around that time.
Isabella is very likeable. A little too meek and passive though. She should have gone back to England with Alec the first time, not hung around France for no reason. I'm a little surprised she cheated on her husband. She seems a little too straight and narrow to have done something like that.
Alec is just alpha enough for me. He's another child of the street who's made something of himself as a businessman. That's a common theme in these books, rags to riches.
Her father's a real piece of crap. When she first told him Bernard hired people to kill her he didn't believe her and even suggested to Bernard that he 'beat her' if he has to, anything to keep from getting divorced and having to deal with a scandal. He's sickening.
Adultery isn't extremely common in historical romances and I liked that about this one. The story was interesting from the very first page when Isabella was abducted at night on the highway. The plot was really good. I don't think I've ever read about a heroine almost getting murdered by her husband before in a historical romance. I like her first meeting with Alec when she escapes her captors. There's also an exciting part when they're staying at an inn after someone tries to kill Alec at the brothel and they're still after him. Turns out Alec bought a home from someone and he's angry that he lost his home in the first place, so he's out to kill Alec. That reason is lame but it's fun and interesting to read about his murder attempts and try to figure out the who and why of it.
There weren't any slow or boring parts to me in this story. Unlike in some romances, Alec and Isabella's love was believable but I don't like that she didn't go with him back to England after her murder attempt.