IT'S ALWAYS BEEN YOU is a historical romance that's light on history and plot. It's got one significant strength: Adrian, the hero. He's absolutely besotted with the heroine, Katie, head-over-heels, no-shame, follow-her-to-the-ends-of-the-earth in love with her, but never seems weak or pathetic. That's a tough tightrope to walk; most guys who ooze depthless devotion the way that Adrian does end up seeming spineless, on the page, but Adrian is tough, no-nonsense, masculine, determined, organized...he's a convincing alpha male who has a weakness for this one girl, who means the world to him. That's sweet and touching and lovely.
I quite liked the heroine, as well. Her fear of being swallowed by her old life was palpable, her strength and determination to persevere on a new path believable. She managed to do some very foolish things without making me think less of her for it.
But, alas, I'm going to return to the original point: light on history and plot. Scenes where Katie does her own cooking and burns her sausages or where Adrian stops by to chat over a glass of wine felt too modern to me. Mostly, though, the plotting was weak; Katie is a widow who fled Ceylon, the scene of her unhappy marriage, before her husband's body was cold. She is constantly, deeply terrified of being held responsible for her husband's death and lives under a false name just in case a hint of suspicion followed her to England - but, despite her fear, we have to wait until the book is halfway over for her to seek out news from Ceylon to find out if she's actually in trouble or not. She doesn't turn to friends, family, or Adrian to avert disaster, once she sees it coming.
The whole murder/Gerard subplot really only existed to keep Katie frightened and give her an excuse to tell a lot of lies. The thing is, it's a pretty thin excuse & by the end it didn't hold water for me...and that's around when Gerard shows up to twirl his mustache.
Adrian is a total dreamboat and makes IT'S ALWAYS BEEN YOU a fun read, but if I were going to pick up another Victoria Dahl (and I'd be happy to), I'd probably look for a contemporary rather than a historical setting, having now read one of each from her pen.