Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Forever a Lady by Delilah Marvelle

A reversal of fortune:

As a young man, Matthew Joseph Milton witnessed the decline of his father's life and career as their successful newspaper business goes bankrupt. On his first day in Five Dials, Matthew learns the difficult lesson that a different sort of law exists in the streets and side alleys of New York.

With the guidance of his new friend Edward Coleman, Matthew rises up to become leader of a group known as the Forty Thieves, dispensing their own version of justice and taking the law into their own hands when the magistrates and the hands of justice move too slowly.

Matthew's work has earned him many enemies who are finally organizing to get rid of Matthew permanently. He goes with Coleman to avoid the threat and for Coleman to see to unfinished family business.

Since the age of 18, Bernadette was shackled in a loveless marriage to an older man -- never imagining that, upon his death, he would gift her a chance at freedom by giving her his entire estate.

Both lived in New York City where they never met. It is in London, where neither one wanted to be, that fate steps in and drops them both in Rotten Row, at the same hour on the same day.

Another really good read, another late night -- this time, Delilah Marvelle is responsible for my lack of sleep. It's hard for me to put to words why I love this book so much -- but I do. I loved it so much that, at past midnight, after I finished reading it, instead of turning off the lights and going to bed, I ended up picking up my copy of Forever a Lord (the last book in the series) and started reading it until past 2 in the morning.

What I love about this story is that it didn't try to glamorize Matthew's thievery and work. When Bernadette first meets Matthew, she fancies him to be a real-life pirate and she begins to imagine fanciful thoughts. But Matthew quickly douses that candle of idealism by showing Bernadette the very real, very brusque, and very aggresive side of himself.

...The two clearly thought they had every right to be on this path. One man had silvering black hair that was in dire need of shearing, and the other --

She blinked as her startled gaze settled on wind-blown, sunlit, chestnut-colored hair, a bronzed rugged face set with a taut jaw, and a worn leather patch that had been tied over his left eye as if he were some sort of ... Pirate King.

She drew in an astonished soft breath. Oh, my, and imagine that. It was like meeting a phantom from her own mind. ...
- pp. 55-56

Matthew reminds me of Elizabeth Hoyt's Charming Mickey and of Lisa Kleypas's Derek Craven -- heroes who walk the fine line between being the good guy and being the bad guy -- the way Matthew dealt with the Forty Thieves and with Five Dials brings to mind the idiom, "honor among thieves" -- and Matthew's moral code is a bit bent but he always had the best intentions of his ragtag family at heart.

Bernadette and Matthew are both tarnished souls. Bernadette's marriage at such a young age and her father's "abandonment" of her left her cynical about love and selfish about her life. She never allowed herself to care for others but was only intent in pursuing her own pleasures using her late husband's money. Being with Matthew changed Bernadette's perception of the world and how she could use the money to gain greater pleasures.

"Not everything can be bought. Do you not understand that, Bernadette? I know you've been born unto a privilege few touch, but this is where your understanding of the world is that of a bloody child. Pride can't be bought. Honor can't be bought. Sweat can't be bought. I have to make a man of myself without pity or charity. Do you understand? I have to do this on my own, or I won't be able to live with myself as a man. And if that is something you can't understand, then you will never ever understand what I represent. Nor will you ever have my respect. Not when you think everything, including me, my pride and my soul, can be bought and controlled at the toss of a dollar. Because it can't. It can't."
- p. 210

Forever a Lady is eloquent in its depiction of how circumstances can change a man and how a man can change his circumstances -- and the role love plays in the making of a man. Love isn't a magic pill that makes everything instantly better with a grand romantic gesture and a bold declaration -- change involves time, hard work and determination. And it's wonderful that Matthew and Bernadette were both willing to find a way to be together, despite their circumstances.

This was a spectacular romance story -- I'm running out of superlatives because of all the excellent books I've been reading lately but Delilah Marvelle's Forever a Lady deserves a few dozen. Inspired storytelling, compelling characters, imaginative plot -- all the elements that will make the reader go "wow" at the end. Trust me, it will. ^_^

Forever a Lady is the second book in Delilah Marvelle's Rumors series. To find out more about Delilah Marvelle and her books, visit her website. She is also on Facebook and on Goodreads.



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