Publish Date: ARC fom the publisher
How I got this book: Out now
Honesty can be the deadliest policy of all.
Lady Serena Ravenshaw is one of London’s most prosperous women, but she’s never forgotten the misery that set her on the path to success. Nor has she forgotten the drunken young gentleman who gave her the means to start her long, tortuous climb out of the gutter. When he knocks on the door of the Ravenshaw Arms to ask her help in retrieving a stolen family heirloom, she readily agrees to help, and to let him stay rent-free. After all, Serena prefers debts to fall in her favor.
Still grieving the death of his twin brother, Solomon Hathaway just wants to be left alone in his dye-making shop—until his highborn uncle sends him to the infamous Lady Serena to scour London’s underworld for the missing bauble. He’s shocked to discover she’s the same bedraggled waif to whom he once gave his entire quarterly allowance. Yet as they delicately tread common ground, they must negotiate a treacherous world of crime, espionage and betrayal before they can learn to trust—and love—again.
Warning: Contains toasty warm pastries, scorching hot chemistry, and a web of treason that just might see England in flames.
This blurb came from the author’s website.
I had the opportunity to meet Lerner at one of the romance conventions I attended this year. I enjoyed the discussion, the sheer joy, and found the blurbs fascinating so I grabbed a couple of post cards to take a deeper look once I recovered from conference brain. As a result, the title and author caught my eye when I was perusing available review books so I had to request it. A Lily Among Thorns had some surprising depths and brought up some situations I found completely unexpected. I think I have found a new historical author whose page I will be frequently checking for information about releases.
The opening scene gave me a few hints into Solomon’s potential complexity but really didn’t provide me much of an idea about Serena. I thought Solomon was a sheltered young man who for whatever good reason had not developed the attitude that women, especially those who sold themselves were merely a thing to be used. As a combination of his own sense of guilt and a wish that the world was one without whorehouses he gave Serena all of his quarterly allowance and left without partaking in any activities. I wasn’t sure if Solomon was going to retain his more innocent view of the world or become corrupted in the intervening time before the story picked up again. I also wasn’t sure what Serena would do with the money or what her circumstances were so I was left with a lot of uncertainty and curiosity.
Some years later when the two met again, circumstances had changed. Serena owned a rather prosperous inn and also had some serious connections with the London underworld. So serious, she was known for being able to locate and potentially retrieve missing objects. Solomon, grieving for the loss of his twin brother was just beginning to re-find himself. He developed a sense of peace and purpose working in trade supporting his uncle’s business by creating the perfect dye to match any other fabric as well as the ability to design striking outfits for the discerning customer. He arrived on Serena’s doorstep, unaware of their previous encounter, asking for her assistance in retrieving an old family heirloom seized by highwaymen. Owing him a debt beyond measure, she agreed to help and also agreed to let him stay in one of her spare rooms during the investigation.
Lerner created two very unusual main characters for a historical. Solomon had education and connections but was happiest working with his chemicals and with fabric. He came from a strong loving family and was usually able to get what he was really set upon by being quietly stubborn. He wasn’t flashy and rarely took things for granted but at the same time he also wasn’t a pushover or unwilling to learn so watching him in action as he slowly got to know Serena was a real treat. Not that he was without his flaws but when the chips were down in the end, he did what he could so those he cared about had a chance at happiness.
Serena liked to be in control and she absolutely hated owing anyone anything. As the story progressed and I came to know her and how she was shaped by events and people from her past I completely understood why. Betrayed at a young age by those who should have protected her and then betrayed again by one whom she called a friend it was amazing she was able to grow to trust and love Solomon. I was very glad to see the romance was slow growing because of her very background and current struggles. It meant in the end I was able to believe Solomon and Serena had a future together.
I really enjoyed watching Serena and Solomon negotiate their attraction especially as real-world events kept interfering and Solomon’s family heirloom became the tie to several other things set in motion years previously. I thought the web Lerner wove as she connected various things together along with the history of the time and twisted some common historical romance tropes was very nicely done. Some key events and individuals she included shocked me but also really rounded out the story and added to complexity Serena and Solomon faced. I am not saying what those were because they are major spoilers and really need to be discovered through the story. I will say I had to reach for tissues a few times and really hoped things would workout for several different people in the best possible way.
A Lily Among Thorns was a very satisfying complex read. It took me through several emotional highs and lows while delivering a slow-growing intense romance. I am looking forward to reading more of Lerner’s work in hopes the magic is continued.
I give A Lily Among Thorns an A-