After the tragic death of her beloved, Hester Aspinall vowed never to be ruled by her passions again. Still, she is drawn to her landlord, handsome adventurer Thomas Ramsay-but she doesn’t fool herself that a man of his station would look twice at a poor tailor’s sister.
With the sea for a mistress, Thomas has no intention of entering into matrimony. And yet, he can’t get the plain-spoken and desirable Hester out of his mind, even though she’s never tried to secure his attentions as other women do.
Everything changes the night Hester’s brother is arrested during a raid on a gay brothel, the infamous White Swan. With no one else to turn to, and terrified Robert will hang for his crime, Hester accepts Thomas’s offer to bear the cost of the defense. A true gentleman, Thomas expects nothing in return-but Hester can no longer deny her own desires…
She may offer her body eagerly, but can she protect her heart?
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I was browsing on Netgalley a while back and came across the blurb which looked interesting so I went ahead and requested a copy to review. The hero and heroine seemed like they would be interesting since they did not fit the stereotypical mold of lord and lady/governess. I was curious to see how a combination of slightly more ordinary or dare I say common lead characters would see life. I also found the set up for Hester’s dire straits intriguing. While I enjoyed reading this book overall some parts made me glad to see how far we have come in terms of equal rights but also sad to see that it really isn’t far enough.
Hester has always intrigued Thomas, but between his lust for adventure and Hester’s proper and retiring manner he decided to just admire from afar. Then Hester’s brother doesn’t return home one night and Thomas happens to run into Hester as she is looking for him. He decides that he will help discover what happened to Robert. They are able to discover that he was arrested during a raid and charged with sodomy. In that time and location the punishment was usually death by hanging. In her utter distress Hester says some rather not nice things and succeeds in getting rid of Thomas. Then she discovers exactly how mean people can be when given an excuse. She is rescued by Thomas once more and then reluctantly agrees to accept his assistance.
Thomas is pretty straightforward. He has rebelled from what his family wanted as the third son and makes his living as a partner in a shipping/trading company. Not a silent partner but one who spends half his time exploring and finding new goods and markets and the other half dealing with the administrative side of things in London. Despite having separated from his family he still retained the sense of decency and almost noblesse oblige that he was raised with. I really liked how once Hester made it plain that she was willing that he still took his time and knew what he wanted for his ultimate goal. He also spared no efforts or money in trying to get the best possible result for Robert despite Robert’s behavior towards them.
Hester was a contradiction. She clearly loved and though no wrong of her brother despite how he treated her at times. Even when he said some pretty cruel things in the warden’s office, Hester continued to work on getting a defense lawyer for Robert. In her dress and manner she was extremely quiet and retiring but when she relaxed around Thomas her true self came out and she became much more then the meek sister. Hester also had a past that she slowly revealed to Thomas, which explained a lot about her relationship with Robert. On the other hand I thought Robert was an ass. Some of his behavior was caused by jealousy, some by shame, and some I just don’t know. Thankfully his time in prison knocked the stuffy, officious, holier then thou out of him.
There is so much more I could say about the “lawyers,” the jury, the prison conditions but even though those were elements in the world the focus was on Hester and Thomas’ growth together. Hester came into her own, used common sense, and refused to do what she thought was morally wrong. Thomas decided that he was going to go for happiness regardless of what society deemed as acceptable. He also refused to go along with popular belief regarding homosexuality as he proved time and time again.
The White Swan Affair was a good, though provoking, not exactly comfortable read. As I said earlier it made me glad I live in the world where I do in the time that I do but I think we still have a ways to go.
I give The White Swan Affair a B
Links to purchase
The White Swan Affair