Wow. I'm on a roll. Love reading back-to-back 5-star reads! :D YAY! Devlin Kimball, Lord Strathmore
*sigh* What is it with me and black-haired blue eyed guys that just gets me all a flutter? Guh. And what? He has long hair? And
has a pierced ear? Excuse me...
Where to start? There was so much about this story I enjoyed. I don't even know where to begin. The characters, their back story, the never-ending plot full of twists and turns dealing with revenge, murder, secretes and oh yes a lovely love-triangle thrown in there too. Still with me? I truly think this is one of Gaelen's strongest works and it is kinda underrated I must say. This will forever be a favorite of mine. There is a serious dark heavy edge to the tone and story that had me glued to my seat. Devlin and the story kept circling around in my head when I wasn't reading. That's always a positive for me. And of course I was expecting a HEA but there were several moments that I had no idea what was going to happen next and was a little nervous, somewhat anxious to see what played out next. Devlin suffers an unimaginable loss at the age of seventeen, losing his parents and sister in an 'accidental fire'. He pretty much goes on a downward spiral of drinking, gambling and whoring as a rebellion after dropping out of school for a few years until he decides to uncover the real truth behind the accident.
As a hero Devlin had a lot of layers and substance that made him so relatable and 3 dimensional. I could picture him clearly in my head and felt his sorrow and loneliness like a tangible thing. Besides the fact that he's drop dead gorgeous *quivers* (I WANT), there is real true heart and a vulnerability and sorrow to his character that had me fascinated and had me wishing I could hold his head to my chest and go woo woo woo. He puts on a calculated air of a careless rakehell to fool certain people in this but what lies beneath is so much more and very endearing. He's got a big heart, is incredibly selfless and very honorable and has a playful mischievous personality that makes you wish this guy was real. I honestly was expecting to get an arrogant dandy Lordly alpha male who is reckless. Devlin proved me wrong a few chapters in.
Loved seeing the connection between him and Lizzie. I don't know any two characters more perfect for each other. Both so alone, outsiders looking in and wanting so badly to find a place they belong to, a family to call their own. Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Carlisle is everything that Devlin needed and vice versa. I utterly adored Lizzie, such a root-worthy relatable heroine. A bluestocking in her own right, who stands by her principles but has a compassionate generous kind gentle heart. She amazed me with her endless capacity to show Devlin the kindness and love he so desperately needed and was unfailingly patient with him. I love that she didn't judge or put on airs which sometimes comes with heroines who are written as virtuous bluestockings who are leery of men in HR set ups. Loved seeing Devlin slowly become enamored by his Aunt's lady companion. What started out for him as a simple 'seduction' game turned into something much more real and has him scared yet in awe of what she is to him and he goes through the greatest lengths to put her first and protect her.
"I can't believe I get to marry you." The words slipped from her in a soft tone of amazement.
He reached out and cradled her cheek in his palm. "I was just thinking the exact same thing."
I was seduced by them both. Their story, the trials they go through separately and together and the wonderful all-consuming love they find for each other. I'm sorry for sounding so damn sappy but there it is. This book is chalk-full of surprises which is something I generally love to discover while reading.
And I really enjoyed seeing the Knight's in this. Alec Knight plays his part in this and I'll be honest I was skeptical of him after the stunt he pulled with Lizzie but his earnest guilt and attempt at winning her back was really sweet and so much fun. There were moments were I was just as conflicted as Lizzie, just a *little*. :P That's the kind of love triangles that I love to see. It amused me to no end to see two well known gorgeous 'rakes' fighting for the quiet unassuming Lizzie, who the ton only viewed as Jacinda's best friend and nothing more. Ha. Go Lizzie! :P
And I have to truly applaud and praise Gaelen for her characterization of the villains in this. There are very few villains that stand out to me while reading HR, there are the typical haughty villains who cackle and throw feeble threats and then there are these guys. Lord Carstairs, Quint Randall and Tarquil were truly terrifying because they came off so real and would do absolutely anything
to hide their secretes. Gaelen actually gives them POV's and dives into their head and almost has readers sympathizing with them at certain points. That's certainly not easy to pull off. There were certain parts that had me fidgeting and almost scared to find out what happens next. Naturally I couldn't put this book down because of that. There so many faucets of this book that had me sitting with a numb ass, glued to my seat not wanting to put this down. The 3 leaders of the reckless Horse and Chariot Club are as menacing and vile as you could possibly imagine. You have a child molester who has a penchant for young attractive men, a rapist, a sharp shooter who happens to have an incestuous affair with his own sister (and fathered her child) and thinks nothing of killing someone to cover his secretes. Oh and one of the 'steps' to gaining entry into this freak show hell hole is to rape a virgin in front
of all the members. If that doesn't make your skin crawl and want to fidget I don't know what does. Gaelen seriously knows how to write dark gritty characters and she manages to write them so real and not in the least bit contrived or cartoonish, which is something HR villains generally suffer from. These guys have plenty of substance and are intelligent, cunning and predatory. There was nothing caricature-like about these three. The members of the club practice every form of debauchery imaginable and manage to hide their worst offenses because they happen to rub elbows with the ton and most of them have titles of their own.
I was amazed how even the villains were multi-layered and had their own inner demons to fight and each separately try to deal with the mounting guilt of what they did 12 years ago. Not many authors are willing to go that far. Bravo to Gaelen for going there. While I do think the final climax of the story took a *little* too long to draw to a final conclusion, it was wonderfully well written with so much drama and hair-ripping suspense. I almost felt like passing out after finally finishing it. There is so much that happens in this story that I can't describe or do it justice. I really wish this level of writing and edge comes back into Gaelen's recent work because it certainly is missing what is so present in her earlier works like this one.
Devlin and Lizzie made me melt, swoon, gush and get flustered a hundred times over like a little girl. I truly hope to see them in Alec's book which I will definitely read after reading this. I truly do hope he finds the right girl after seeing his 'Bits' find her HEA. ;)
I don't have anything negative to say about this. Only thing I did notice is the amount of odd typos I kept finding especially in the first half which did become distracting because there were quite a few and very obvious but other than that amazing read!
I highly recommend this to any Gaelen fans or even new readers. So much happens in this story and if you like drama, angst, suspense and romance then this is the perfect way to go!