Monday, March 3, 2014

ARC Review: Sapphires are an Earl's Best Friend by Shana Galen


Click here to order the book on Amazon, release date: March 4, 2014
Click here to order the book at The Book Depository

I have been waiting for Lily's story with the Earl of Darlington and, finally, it is here. The Countess of Charm has loved the Darling of the Ton from the first moment, but he has only had eyes for her friend and fellow courtesan, Juliette. Now Juliette is married and so is Fallon, and Lily is the last remaining Jewel left unattached. But Lily was never a real courtesan -- she only pretended to be one in order to accomplish her real work gathering intelligence as an agent of the Crown. Now Lily is tasked to do her most dangerous assignment: to prove the treachery of the Duke of Ravenscroft, who happens to be Darlington's father. Lily must win the trust and affections of the Duke if she is to discover his secrets, but Darlington's presence proves to be a complication.

As the final instalment of the Jewels of the Ton series, it falls unto this book to resolve the Lucifer plot -- which makes Lily's story the most action-packed of the three books. The previous instalments featured a binary opposition between the hero and heroine, but, in Sapphires are an Earl's Best Friend, Darlington and Lily are frighteningly similar: both are social creatures and known for their charm (hence, Lily's moniker as The Countess of Charm) -- but, as we all know, like repels like -- and both our hero and heroine are wary of the other's intentions.

Lily saw how ardently Darlington pursued Juliette, so she is suspicious of his sudden desire for her -- she knows it isn't love and she won't settle for anything less. I was holding my breath when Lily admitted her past feelings for Darlington and felt the same soul-crushing rejection she must have felt when Darlington could not reciprocate the feeling. Darlington isn't certain about his attraction to Lily and tries his best to rationalise it. He struggles with his emotions throughout the novel, and poor Lily had to endure as he flip-flopped.

"How do you like it?" she asked, breaking the kiss. "How do you like being the one taken?"

He glared at her. She could see he hated her -- no, he hated his desire for her. He wanted her, and he hated himself for that.
- loc 947

I would have liked to read more of Lily and Darlington working through their confusion (his, mainly) -- but their love story takes a back seat to the pursuit of Lucifer, who is at the Duke's estate -- seemingly setting the stage for something. What seemed a bit fuzzy in the previous stories suddenly becomes very clear and I enjoyed reading about Lucifer and the Diamonds in the Rough (Very curious about the Diamonds ... maybe a series spin-off? ^_^). There have always been hints of how adept Lily is at defending herself but it was glorious to see her in full action. (And this is the point where I will say, Shana Galen writes action sequences very well, managing to convey gracefulness, agility and efficiency as Lily fended for herself. (Read about Lily's encounter with Lord Kwirley in Chapter 6.)

"I can take care of myself..." Lily says this quite a bit in the novel, insisting on her independence -- but I also saw it as the sad result of Lily's interrupted childhood. She's had to look after herself because she had no one to turn to and no where else to go. Lily has known desperation and refuses to go down that path again.

"I wasn't always a courtesan. I was innocent and full of questions and wonder once."
- loc 741

My final thought after reading this book was which of the three Jewels had the most interesting (read: saddest) backstory and I really can't decide, but, upon further reflection, I think it doesn't matter where they came from, but where they have gone. I love the strength of the women in these stories, Lily's, especially. From the beginning, she knew what she wanted and never compromised or settled for anything less. Her character didn't undergo much transformation as the novel progressed, but that's because she was already perfect from the beginning. She really just needed to wait for Darlington to come to his senses -- and I'm glad he finally experienced his epiphany and realised what a gem Lily was.

With Sapphires are an Earl's Best Friend, Shana Galen brings to a triumphant close a truly amazing series of stories about an incredible group of women. This lovely book will be released on March 4, 2014.

To find out more about Shana Galen, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this ARC through Netgalley. Thank you to Shana Galen and to Sourcebooks for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.


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