Publish Date: 24 Jul
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Two different classes, One common desire…
Bernadette Marie Burton may be the richest widow in England, but like her dreams of finding true passion, her reputation is deteriorating. Cruel gossip, loneliness and hoards of opportunistic suitors have her believing Society couldn’t be more vile….or dangerous. So when an attacker threatens her life, she finds safety in the most unseemly of places: the arms of a mysterious, Irish-American gang leader.
His fortune stolen, young Matthew Joseph Milton is done playing the respectable gentleman. In the slums of New York, only ruffians thrive. But from the moment he arrives in London and encounters the volumptious Lady Bernadette, he can’t help but wonder about the finer pleasures he’s missing. Or just how much he’s willing to risk — not only to bed her, but to prove his worth…
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
***POSSIBLE TRIGGER – attempted gang rape (no actual rape occurs)***
I was browsing Netgalley, familiar words I am sure, and saw this blurb. It intrigued me so I read the little bit extra they have on the website and decided to give this a try. Enough time had passed since I requested this book and when I read it that I had forgotten what the blurb said. Going back and reading it again I was almost tempted to ask if this was this for the same book I read. Not that the blurb is exactly wrong; it just doesn’t do justice to everything that was packed into the story. Yes, Bernadette is wealthy, widowed, and has a poor reputation. And yes, Matthew’s fortune was stolen and he did end up living in the slums of New York, and he did first encounter Lady Bernadette in London and they did share a rather intense sexual engagement. But it doesn’t really mention Matthew’s position in New York and how he came by it, and why Lady Bernadette was in London to begin with. She also lives in New York, and what made him decide he was willing to risk anything at all. Based on the amount of information left out of the blurb I am going to summarize more about at least the beginning of the story then I usually do in a review.
Matthew was Irish-American and the heir to a really prosperous newspaper when their accountant, a former friend, was caught embezzling all of their funds. In a few short days Matthew and his father found themselves living in the slums of New York. Matthew’s fiancée decided she needed to marry someone with money — not the man she professed to love when he lost his fortune. Not long after they arrived in the slums Matthew comes to the rescue of a young lad and as a result takes a few punches, one of which caused permanent blindness in one eye. Embittered by the change in life circumstances and the conditions in which people were forced to live along with the refusal of the Mayor to do anything about it, Matthew formed a gang to bring some law and order to his area of the slums and from there really grew into manhood. Of course bringing law and order also means making enemies so Matthew and his second in command, Coleman, leave New York until the heat dies down and head to London.
Meanwhile Lady Bernadette, who had decided to live life a little after being widowed, left England for the US and finally settled in New York as just Bernadette and as a wealthy widow. She was approached by one of her acquaintances who revealed that he knew about her past and basically blackmailed her into teaching and polishing his daughter to include an introduction to Polite Society for her upcoming marriage. Lady Bernadette agrees to do so and finds herself back in London.
Matthew and Bernadette spot each other while riding one morning but no words are initially exchanged. Shortly after that Matthew stops one of Lady Bernadette’s former lovers from beating her with his riding crop. Lady Bernadette gives him her card with instructions to call on her so she can reward him for his timely actions. During Matthew’s visit they end up indulging in smexytimes and decide that even though Bernadette really doesn’t want to get married again and Matthew is looking for a HEA that they will have an affair. However, Matthew’s temper and his thuggish ways get the best of him resulting in his arrest and trial at Scotland Yard. After Bernadette unwillingly comes to his rescue she kicks Matthew out of her life.
They meet again in New York when Matthew faces an uprising from his gang who has targeted Bernadette. This part of the story portrays men at their most bestial. Thankfully Matthew and a few of his men came to the rescue and were able to save Bernadette. That event shocks Matthew into deciding that he needs to change his life so he can be worth Bernadette. They strike a deal that she will fund the start-up costs of his father’s not defunct newspaper and he will repay her with interest. Matthew also says that she has to agree not to have any physical contact with him until he has repaid the debt in order to retain his pride.
When I first met Matthew I could see him as the hero, then when he reappeared on the page and let his temper get the best of him while in London I didn’t see how Ms Marvelle was going to redeem Matthew let alone convince me that he and Lady Bernadette would have a HEA. Watching him grow once he made the decision to change where his life was headed was pretty impressive. I decided that Matthew was firmly back on my hero side with his first meeting with Lady Bernadette after he finished repaying his debt.
Bernadette was also hit and miss for me. I didn’t really like her very intense drive to “have fun” even though she really wasn’t that happy, but I could see why she didn’t want to confirm to society’s rules anymore. I also didn’t like how she resisted going to speak on Matthew’s behalf after he was arrested given that his actions were done in a way to protect her. Her thoughts while her contact with Matthew was limited to letters only after their bargain were great. That redeemed her in my eyes. I also liked how she had an epiphany that she more then lusted after Matthew and finally proposed to him.
One thing that threw me entirely out of the book and made me wonder if I was reading one of the more erotic PNRs was the smex scene about 93% of the way in. Overall I wasn’t impressed by how they were written bit I was too engrossed in the story to care. This one basically read to me that if Bernadette really loved Matthew she would have anal sex with him. This would allow him to take her virginity, remember she is widowed and her husband could perform. Talk about a WTF moment especially since his spit alone was enough lube, he went from back to front without cleaning or wiping at a minimum, and this was their first sexual encounter in over eight months of frustration.
I liked the worldbuilding, the different historical facts and tidbits that were included. I also liked some of the subplots I just think that the romance theme was overshadowed. I also had some concerns and questions about how certain situations were worked out or started. They seemed a bit too coincidental. That combined with being completely thrown out of the story by a sex scene that was highly anticipated by both the hero and heroine made this one that I will not go back and re-read.
I give Forever a Lady a C-