STORY: He’s a fighter, not a lover.
But that’s about to change…
Lady Imogene Norwood lives a sheltered life of quiet respectability and routine…until she debuts at her first Season. There among London’s elite she meets the wild and broken Lord Atwood. And the very shy English rose suddenly realizes that a little chaos might just be what her heart desires.
Lord Nathaniel James Atwood doesn’t believe true love exists. Since scandal tore him away from his family at an early age, he has spent his life fighting for what he wants. That attitude has made him a rising star in bare-knuckle boxing, and now leads him back to London to reclaim the life that was stolen from him. But upon meeting the innocent Imogene, his beliefs are trounced…as guarding his heart against her proves to be the fight of his life.
REVIEW: And here we are…the end of the Rumor series and finally we have all the secrets out and honestly, I didn’t see this one coming. And for all of you that haven’t read the previous books in this series which starts off with Forever Mine novella, continuing with Forever and a Day and Forever a Lady, don’t fret as Delilah Marvelle makes sure this last one can stand alone, although, personally I advise you read them all.
Lord Nathaniel James Atwood had been kidnapped thirty years ago when he was only ten years old and after all these years is ready to face his father and the reasons behind his abduction. At last and with great anticipation, the readers who’ve followed this series are welcoming Nathaniel’s story.
We are finally faced with horrors of one boy’s captivity and life after it, and the picture Ms. Marvelle so painstakingly paints for us is heartbreaking for the reader as well as for the hero. After many years spent locked up in virtual darkness, entering the small cellar as a boy, emerges a young man with new name and new purpose in life: survive at any cost and never, ever go back to the life he was born to.
Years spent in the worst slums of New York teach our hero many skills, but bare knuckle boxing is what earns him respect from his new found gang and allows him to help those that are helpless and more lost than he. And then, out of the blue, the past catches up to him, and he is forced to face it, warts and all. At first, his decision to return to London is fueled with confronting his father and killing him in cold blood, but his sister’s family steps in to reason with him and make him see the error of that path, so Nathaniel changes course and decides to claim his name, yet humiliate his father by becoming the most feared boxer.
Lady Imogene Norwood is a sweet nineteen year old girl living with her dear brother and his unbearable wife, who they both know is cheating on him. Living with her brother who adores her, and watching him suffer in his marriage, she approaches him with a scheme they both think just might give them their freedom from the existence neither is willing to perpetuate any longer.
In order for the scheme to work, she’s willing to risk her inheritance, and for his part, her brother is now on the hunt for one man that can free them all by winning the English Boxing Championship. Enter `The Missing Heir’ as Nathaniel is being billed in the boxing circles. But before they hire the man, Imogene needs to make sure that she spells some of the rules to him, and he is invited to their home for the contract negotiations.
There are many reasons for Ms. Marvelle quickly becoming one of my favorite and treasured authors, but the first and foremost reason is the intensity of her writing. Every sentence, every action, from page to page, a reader is literally immersed into the world she carefully creates with her `pen’. If you’re lucky to enter that `world’, you’ll feel, smell and touch it, that’s how real it becomes!
Every character she creates, every emotion she conveys, touches one straight through the heart. This is the conclusion to a very dark yet still tender story that without a doubt deserves all of my five quills and I highly recommend you read all three books accompanied with the prequel, FOREVER MINE.
This part of the book will forever stay in my mind.
“Atwood tucked her head against his chest but said nothing. She still clung to him, unable to move. Pulling away from her, his large hands curved down the length of her arms with digging fingers until they dropped away completely.
He eyed her. `I didn’t force myself on you, did I?’
Her cheeks bloomed with heat. She brought a trembling hand to her hair, sweeping long sections of it away from the sides of her face. `No.’ Sweeping a hand over his mouth, he fisted that same hand and dug it against his teeth.
After a long moment of silence, he grated out past that fist, `You are inevitable, you know that?’
Why was he biting his hand?
`You don’t appear to be in the least bit pleased by my inevitability.’
He dropped his hand back to his side and gave her a sidelong glance of disbelief. `No. I’m not. And I’ll tell you why. Because I feel like I was put into a situation I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get out of. For Christ’s sake, the last thing I wanted was to be married again. And to you, no less. To you.’
She stiffened, her womanly pride prickling. To her, no less? What did that mean? What was so wrong with her that he felt a need to emphasize it aloud with so much vile annoyance? And after he had indulged himself to the brim? She knew she was odd and couldn’t speak well when it was needed most but did he really have to-
It stung. More than she wanted it to.
`Leave,’ she choked out. `My brother will- ‘ She wanted to add much, much more to the sentiment, but was too upset and her throat too tight with emotion. Her tongue was already feeling heavy and set to stutter.
He quirked a dark brow. `Your brother will what?’
She whipped a forefinger to the parlor entrance, knowing that if she spoke, it would only be in broken fragments that would make her look half-witted. And she was not going to be upstaged after that hip-grinding, breast-tweaking display her brother had to witness.
Nathaniel stared. `Why the devil are you so miffed?’
Oh, she would show him miffed, making her feel like a piece of fat he’d cut off the mutton when she was giving them all an opportunity of a lifetime. Just because she was naïve to the ways of men didn’t make her naive to the ways of being demeaned. Shaking her finger rigidly at the direction of the parlor entrance, she hoped to God he would just go and spare her the humiliation of having to use words.
Lines of concentration etched his brow. He angled toward her. `Is this about your stutter?’
Her eyes widened. Oh, God. He knew. Her own brother had tattled about her stuttering as if she were some medical aberration in need of pity.
His countenance notably softened. `Imogene. I’ve been through far too much to judge. Believe me. I don’t care what it sounds like. Say whatever you need to.’
He felt sorry for her. Henry had no doubt even asked the man to play governess to her until the championship. It was…humiliating. Like she was being passed from one set of panicked hands to another.
Nathaniel eyed her. `One of the boys in New York had a stutter.’
This just kept getting worse. She was now being compared to some American boy. Hardly a compliment.
Taking on a pensive look, he added, `I have an idea. Seeing we have four months of this ahead of us, why not deal with it now?’ He lifted his shaven chin and undid his cravat, tossing it aside. She scrambled back, her throat tightening all the more. What was he doing?
He casually undid the buttons on his waistcoat. `You and I are going to play Devil’s Dare. It’s a game men and women play in the Five Points. The idea is that I have to get you to take the Devil’s Dare through verbal bribes before all of my clothes are removed and I’m forced to walk into the street naked. The Devil’s Dare is this- you have to say something. So for each bribe I issue and each bribe you reject, a piece of my clothing is removed until I’m forced to walk into the streets in nothing but my goodwill. Now I know you like me well enough not to let me walk into the street naked. Or at least, I hope you do. Are you ready?’
She gaped. Was he being serious?
`Imogene, I will buy you a necklace made of rubies after I get my seven thousand.’
She swallowed, trying to steady her breathing. What was he doing?
`Clearly, you reject.’ He shrugged off his coat from each muscled arm and let it fall to the floor.
`Imogene, I’m not one for fawning, but I’ll take you into a garden and pick flowers for you. Would you like that?’
Mother of heaven. Why was he-
`Clearly, you reject.’ Holding her gaze, he shrugged off his waistcoat. It rustled to his booted feet.
`Imogene, I’ll dance with you on the rooftop of whatever house we move into during our four-month marriage.’
He didn’t expect her to play along, did he?
`Clearly, you reject.’ He yanked out his linen shirt from his trousers, letting it fall past his hips.
`Imogene, I will do something I have never done for a woman. I will take you shopping and hold all of your parcels.’
She clamped a trembling hand over her mouth.
`Clearly, you reject. I’m also running out of clothing, so you better take up the next offer.’ He yanked off the linen shirt with a ripple of solid movements that exposed the menacingly well-sculpted muscles of a broad chest and arms that visibly shifted and tightened against scars that bespoke years of fighting. He tossed the shirt.
She gasped, her heart pounding in disbelief, and glanced toward the opened doorway and back again at that bare chest, dreading Henry might come in and shoot them both.
`Imogene, I will always listen to whatever you have to say. No matter how you say it or why you say it.’ Holding her gaze, he dragged his hands down toward the front flap of his trousers, planning on doing away with them next.
Oh, dear God. She had to save him and herself.
`I accept!’ she choked out.”
Book won from the author.
Melanie for Romantic Crush Junkies reviews eZine.