As a boy of 10, Nathaniel, Viscount Ashcroft vanished from his room -- never to be seen or heard from. His sister, Augustine, never gave up her search for him and, when she died, her husband and son continued looking for the missing heir of the Earl of Sumner.
It has been thirty years and multiple identities and lives, but Nathaniel has never forgotten that night that changed his life forever and the father who abandoned him.
He is returning to London to fulfill a promise to his sister's family and to fulfill a promise he made to himself and confront his father about the past. He never expected the reunion to be warm and welcoming but he also didn't expect the overwhelming surge of emotion as he faces the ghosts of his past.
His one refuge comes in the form of a frail, young woman, who with her brother, trusts him with the last of their fortune in order to secure Nathaniel's place in the boxing match for the title of Champion of England.
Imogene suffers from a stutter and, many years ago, a governess attempted to cure her with an inhuman method, which did her more harm than good. Now at 19, she knows the burden her health has put on her brother's shoulders: with no funds of his own and with a wealthy, but indifferent wife, Weston is seeking to better his fortune -- and Gene wants to help. She gives her brother control of her inheritance and tasks him to find them a boxer that could take on the reigning Champion of England, counting on the pot money to secure their future.
Three lives in the hands of one man: with so much at stake, Nathaniel prepares for the fight of his life.
Full Circle: The series began with Nathaniel's disappearance in Forever Mine and now the series is completed with his reappearance in Forever a Lord.
It is interesting to see how one small decision (Nathaniel's that night he disappeared) affected the lives of so many people: Augustine's, Robinson/Roderick's, Matthew's, Georgia's -- and now, we see how it affects Imogene and her brother.
Redemption is the theme of Forever a Lord. Nathaniel has dwelled in the past for 30 years and has realized it is time to settle things and move forward. His decision is further galvanized when he meets Weston and his sister Imogene, who are also looking to secure their futures. The three of them are an unlikely group -- but they have a burning desire to better themselves and the situation they find themselves in.
He eyed her. "And what are you fighting for?"
The question was one she had never been asked aloud but one that she had answered so many times in her head. "I am fighting for a chance to be my own person. To be independent. I am also fighting for my brother's happiness. A chance he never got because of me. I think it time to reverse the clock and give him back what he not only deserves but wants and needs. Everyone deserves a second chance at happiness." She hesitated and added, "Even you."
- p. 182
Nathaniel is solid and stalwart with his friends but he isn't known to be trustworthy or reliable when it comes to doing business with other people. But Imogene and Weston are willing to take a chance on him -- and that blind faith inspires Nathaniel to step up and be a better person.
The love between Nathaniel and Imogene is very interesting. She's 19 and he's 40. But, in terms of traumatic experience, they are equal. They are kindred spirits, in that sense -- both carrying the burden of a secret that isn't theirs to bear, but isn't theirs to share either. I love the complementary nature of their relationship: to the world, Imogene is fragile and sickly -- but Nathaniel never treats her with kid gloves and always presumed she was capable of everything a person can do. I appreciated that about Nathaniel. I think he showed more respect for Imogene than anyone else in her life. (Read pp 276-282)
I also liked that Nathaniel didn't revert to a persona when he was with Imogene. He showed her the same rough, coarse, crude side as he does the rest of the world. But Imogene was also able to see past the thirty years of hardship that Nathaniel bore and saw the man that was born to nobility but not raised in it.
Imogene traced a finger across the thigh of her silk gown, still mesmerized by the image of those ice-blue eyes and that rugged face that had clearly seen so much of the world. Unlike her. If there was a future, she saw it in those haunting eyes that sought to seize the world as much as she did.
- p. 142
The gloves are off: the idiom came from boxing and means that the matter has become more serious. In Nathaniel's case, the gloves were never on. This story is about survival and it is about gaining it through any means necessary. The enterprise they embark on is not genteel or elegant -- it is boxing, the sweet science, the sport of gentlemen and the sport of brawlers. I loved when Nathaniel was training at Jackson's -- one would think that a boxing club would be the last place a man can learn how to be a gentleman but, ironically, it is where Nathaniel gains polish.
"Try to remember that whenever you step into my academy, you represent far more than yourself. You represent me. Training is different from the ring." Jackson pointed toward the windows. "You see that? Those there are windows that face out to the street. Any respectable soul, including women, can see you. You will therefore invest in appropriate boxing attire that will include a waistcoat. Is that understood, my lord?"
"... You will also shear off most of your hair. Otherwise, I am not letting you box with me or anyone else in London."
- Jackson to Nathaniel, p. 158
How the author resolves Nathaniel's family problems, which include the truth behind his disappearance was very emotional and tragic. It answered so many questions about Nathaniel's past. In a sense, Nathaniel's ending isn't completely happy -- but one tinged with bittersweetness and heartbreak. But there is also the promise of happiness as seen in the epilogue.
Forever a Lord was engrossing and enthralling, with characters that are multi-faceted and larger than life. With this book, Delilah Marvelle brings to a close one of the most intriguing and entertaining romance novel series that I have had the pleasure of reading.
To read more about Delilah Marvelle and her books, visit her website. She is also on Facebook and on Goodreads.