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Trouble is spelled D-A-R-I-U-S.
I am a big, big fan of Grace Burrowes, but it was a deliberate choice for me to skip the Lonely Lords series when it was released 2013 because I was daunted by the number of books in the series -- 12 in all. While I didn't read them, I bought the books as they were released or when they went on sale. A few weeks ago, I had just finished the A Year Without a Duke series, and I needed to follow it up with a good read, and Grace Burrowes has never disappointed me before, so I started reading Darius's book ...
And now I'm in deep. I've actually finished reading Darius, and Nicholas, and I'm currently reading Ethan (book 3). I am really trying to slow down my reading, because it means a greater review backlog for me -- I'm trying to stay away from the Lonely Lords by reading cookbooks and magazines, but I am totally and completely enthralled with all of them -- yes, even the ones I haven't read (because I've been reading the excerpts of their books).
So here I am, with Darius's review, so I can continue reading Ethan and proceed to Beckman -- and, yes, I'll probably binge-read the series this summer.
Darius is a complicated man who is about to enter into a very complicated situation: hired by the dying Lord William Longstreet, Darius must spend time with the viscount's young wife, Lady Vivian, and hope to get her with child in order to secure the Longstreet succession line, and to protect Vivian when she becomes a widow. Paid by discontented housewives to fulfill their sexual desires, Darius isn't a stranger to unusual sexual requests, and Lord Longstreet's offer of money would be enough to help Darius improve his estate, and, maybe, allow him to get out of his questionable choice of occupation. I think Darius expected this arrangement to be similar to his other arrangements, but Vivian's beauty, intelligence, and honesty disarm him.
Vivian is a surprise to both Darius to us, readers -- she's an incredibly strong and pragmatic woman who is a willing, but reluctant participant in her husband's plan. Vivian served as the companion to the first Lady Longstreet, and the viscount married her to protect her from her relatives, who see Vivian as a pawn to be sold off to the highest bidder. Now, she is about to be without her husband's protection, and William Longstreet is taking drastic measures to protect both her, and his family legacy. Vivian is that rare combination of vulnerability and strength -- she needs protection from the evil intentions of her brother, but she is not entirely helpless as well. When she encounters her brother (happens several times in the story), it isn't with fear or trepidation, but wariness. Vivian's love and loyalty to William puts her in a really difficult position: to fulfill her promise to him, she must break her marriage vows to him.
I love the contrast of business and pleasure in this story -- Darius and Vivian both believe they could separate their minds and their hearts, but William, who has lived longer than either of our hero and heroine, has very realistic expectations. William and Vivian both carefully selected Darius from a list of potential candidates, but it was William who did the final interview. Did he go into this arrangement expecting something more between Darius and Vivian? I think so, but he never pushed or manipulated, but allowed things to unfold in its own natural time. I really liked William, who seemed to stand from a seemingly omniscient perspective, and accepted the outcome of his life's choices with such admirable grace and dignity.
What unfolds between Darius and Vivian is both predictable and unpredictable: it begins, as expected, with a lot of hesitation, especially (and understandably) from Vivian -- and Darius is the expert who guides her into this strange new situation. Darius takes charge in the beginning, helping Vivian change her wardrobe, and guiding her to be more confident -- but the relationship starts to slowly equalize as Vivian also teaches Darius about what it means to love and be loved. There is no sizzle and there are no sparks in the beginning, because our heroine really tries her best to maintain her distance from Darius -- but, when the proverbial wall goes down -- this is where it becomes unpredictable: because what happens next isn't something that can be easily defined. It isn't a burning passion, but it isn't cold detachment either. There is just this pull between the two of them: like the moon and the earth -- essential to one another.
Beyond Vivian and Darius, Grace Burrowes explores family dynamics: Darius and his brother Trent, and the rest of the Lindsey clan, William Longstreet and his bastard son, etc. I really love how Burrowes expands her world in small, intimate increments -- Valentine Windham is in this novel, as well as Nicholas Haddonfield. I also love how she expands on the problems and complications that beset her hero and heroine in similarly small and incremental ways. Beyond the problem of the Longstreet succession, Darius must deal with her angry and vengeful clients, who seek to ruin Vivian out of spite. By the later part of the book, there seems to be so many tangled knots -- and Burrowes is never one to just allow the problems to magically disappear, but, instead, allows her characters to use their resources: their intellect, their friends, etc. to figure a way out of their problems.
This book is that rare mix of spellbinding storytelling, strong characters and challenging family drama. I really, really can't wait to read more of the Lonely Lords. (Now that I've completed this review, I can read Ethan's story! ... and write Nicholas's review.)
Darius is the first book in Grace Burrowes's The Lonely Lords series. To find out more about Grace Burrowes and her awesome books, click below: