Fool Me Twice (The Rules for the Reckless Book 2) by Meredith Duran
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Olivia Johnson and Alastair de Grey live worlds apart: the former is a poor orphan who has had to make her own way in the world and the latter is a duke, who was on track to becoming Prime Minister. But they have something in common: Olivia was dealt a bad hand in life and Alastair discovered that his wife (and some close friends) have betrayed him.
But the similarity between them ends there: Olivia has refused to be defeated by the setbacks in her life. She has always chosen to move forward. It's actually quite heartbreaking to see how readily Olivia accepts the reality of her life, as though she has come to expect the misfortunes that come her way, but, at the same time, I can't help but admire her because she shows such resilience and determination to keep on living.
On the omnibus, she had been tallying sums in her head, calculating her options. It was time to consider what she'd most wanted to avoid: fleeing to the Continent, someplace far enough away that Bertram would never think to look for her there.
She glanced up at the drawings she'd tacked on the wall. They were benign prints clipped from magazines: an ivy-covered cottage with a lamp burning in the window. A village sleeping beneath the snow. Treacle dreams, but she could not scorn them -- or let go of them, no matter how hard she tried.
- page 11
Alastair, on the other hand, has locked himself in his bedroom for the past ten months since his wife died. He has lost his career, his friends, his brother -- and now people are calling him mad. He has even lost the respect of his own household and it is in disarray, giving Olivia the opportunity to "sneak in," accepting the position of housekeeper. Olivia's intent is really to recover letters, which she knows Alastair has -- letters that she would use as leverage against a man named Betram, who wants to get rid of Olivia.
When life deals you a terrible blow, how do you recover from it? It is easy to say that we need to brush the dust off and rise up, but quite difficult to do. Alastair has had ten months to sift through his feelings of betrayal, hurt and anger, but he hasn't recovered yet -- he has found a reason to leave his rooms and continue on living. I think Olivia is a wonderful addition to his household and to his life -- she is the perfect teacher to guide him through life. I think that, if anyone had the right to tell Alastair off, it is Olivia, who has experienced the worst and survived.
"You have every advantage." Her voice was fervent. "There is no reason you can't go back into the world, have everything you feel you've been denied. I tell you -- if I had your advantages, I would remake myself!"
- p. 192
It's beautiful and brave and funny reading how Olivia tries to coax Alastair back to the land of the living -- granted her reasons aren't all pure, but I really loved her tenacity (and her outrage over seeing all those beautiful books just piled on the floors) -- at the end of the day, Duran highlights that everyone, everyone -- duke, peasant, king, lady, housekeeper, maid -- sometimes just needs someone who will listen, someone who will show that they care. In a sense, there's a reversal that happens within Olivia has she gets to know Alastair even more: she was also out to fool him, to take from him -- Olivia becomes Alastair's fiercest advocate, even when she hadn't set out to be.
..."Very well, then, answer me: why were you crying?"
"Because I am not the person I hoped to be. And I dislike myself for it."
That told him nothing. "What do you mean? Who had you hoped to be?"
"Someone better. Someone who abided by her ideals."
- p. 192
There is no doubt that our hero and heroine are both passionate people: the degree of Alastair's emotions can be seen by how deeply he has been affected by his wife's adultery and treachery -- so, imagine what happens when that passion is directed at one another. All that desire, all that attraction, all that intensity, all that frustration -- what stops Alastair from opening his heart to Olivia is his fear of being betrayed again, and Olivia has never had a reason to trust anyone except herself. It's ironic that the two people who most deserve a chance at happiness are the same two people who are most suspicious of it. It was breathtaking to read as they struggled between giving in to the attraction and resisting it. (There's a beautifully poignant conversation between the two in Chapter 16, by a pond. Read it and feel your heart crumple and twist and sigh.)
The girl was beautiful. The garden was beautiful. He had kissed her once, and he could kiss her again. But he owed her better; he saw that, suddenly, for it was she who had drawn him out, her and only her whom he would have walked toward.
- p. 212
What stands between the two of them are letters that Alastair's wife wrote to her lovers (some were Alastair's political adversaries and others were Alastair's political allies) -- they were the breaking point for Alastair. To discover his wife's treachery and her true feelings for him destroyed him. But these same letters are the key to Olivia's safety. She needs a particular set of letters to ensure that Bertram never bothers her again. It's quite interesting how Duran lays out the stakes on a scale, and our hero and heroine have to choose between what matters most and what they need the most. I really can't talk much about this part (avoiding spoilers), but I will say that the author does a good job of developing on this part of the story.
No one in Scotland Yard knew of the letters Margaret had written, or of the lovers she had kept, or of the countless betrayals she had made in the dark, pressing her body to her lovers' bodies, speaking into their ears of her husband's plans, the schemes with which he sought to defeat them in Parliament. On that night, Alastair had not known yet, either. He had still been telling himself a story, believing it: their lives had been perfect until now.
- p. 19
It's difficult to put to words how amazing Meredith Duran's writing is. Admittedly, I don't read her books frequently, but, when I do, her stories always pack an emotional wallop that leaves me speechless. I've had this book for a while, but was worried about reading it because it's actually book 2 in a series -- but I had been very, very curious about it, so I decided to read it anyway, and I'm so glad I did.
Fool Me Twice is book 2 in Meredith Duran's The Rules for the Reckless series. To find out more about Meredith Duran, click below: