I’m wracking my brains to recall if I’ve ever read a Regency romance where the hero was both an aristocrat and a man with a Proper Job, soldiers and spies excepted, and I honestly can’t remember one. Yes, this is part of a series and all the other heroes in the series are soldiers and/or spies, but Lord Hadleigh is… a lawyer. A barrister, actually, a senior prosecutor for the Crown, and an extremely hard-working one.
The heroine is Penny, Lady Penhurst, or the former Lady Penhurst, I should say, because at the very beginning of this book her husband is attainted for treason, his titles and properties stripped away, and then killed off - I think the death actually happened in a previous book so it’s technically not a spoiler. Penny is definitely not grieving for her traitor husband, quite the opposite, because he was violent and abusive towards her. Anyone with triggers for domestic abuse may want to give this one a miss, because Penny’s not the only one who’s suffered.
Hadleigh feels sorry for Penny after she loses everything because of her husband’s treachery, and in typical high-handed male fashion, he takes it on himself to resolve her problems without consulting her at all. When she finds out who her mysterious benefactor is, there’s a confrontation where Hadleigh basically double-talks Penny out of being angry. Temporarily. Once she’s figured him out, she does a wonderful job of cutting him off at the knees and telling him exactly what she thinks of well-meaning men who do what they think is right without actually asking the women concerned what they want or need.
It’s a recurring theme in the book, because Hadleigh has deeply-ingrained instincts due to a tragic family history, and Penny’s very existence pushes pretty much all of his buttons. It’s very nearly painful to him not to be able to help her, but to his credit, he listens when she tells him he’s going about things wrong. He still gets things wrong, but he tries, and she gives him credit for that even while obviously feeling frustrated that he can’t conquer his instincts entirely.
I have to admit that I did find Penny somewhat frustrating. Who among us with money troubles hasn’t wished for a benefactor who asked nothing in return for their benevolence? With a small child to take care of and no source of income, Penny needed to accept that you can’t eat pride and maybe actually say thank you for wanting to help, at the very least. We saw Hadleigh get broken down to his core when Penny finally made him confront his deep-seated internal issues, but Penny’s moment at rock-bottom happened well before the events of the book, during her miserable marriage, so we didn’t actually get to see it, which I think is why the narrative felt a little unbalanced to me at times. I appreciated that she refused to allow anyone to see her as a victim, but she did come off very prickly because of it and a little hard for the reader to like at times.
I haven’t read all of this series, but it wasn’t a problem picking up the narrative. While other characters appear, the action is beautifully centred on Penny and Hadleigh, with lots of emotional tension and character growth rather than dramatic action as most of the rest of the series has featured. Because of this, though, it did feel a little bit deep and heavy-going at times, and I’m going to go with a final rating of four stars.
The Determined Lord Hadleigh is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through Rachel’s Random Resources.