Serena Donovan met Jonathan Dane 6 years ago when she first came to London. She was an impoverished Irish peer's daughter and he, the second son of a rich earl. Though they fell instantly in love with each other, his family didn't approve of the match and when they were caught in a compromising position, Jonathan chose to bend to his father's threats and cut her off instead of marrying her. Completely ruined, Serena left London with her twin sister Meg but while on board of the ship that was carrying them to their home in Antigua, Meg fell overboard. Serena's mother, rather than have the disgraced daughter alive, told everyone that it was Serena that died and Meg who lived.
Now, 6 years later, an offer of marriage from Meg's old love and suitor, Captain Langley, has arrived from London. The family's destitute, so Serena is to take Meg's place and marry Captain Langley in Meg's place, in order for her other sisters to later be introduced -and married- into London's high society. For the shake of her sisters Serena agrees with the plan, but finds it too difficult to go through with it when she finds out that Langley's closest friend and best man to be, is no other than Jonathan Dane, the current Earl of Stratford. Jonathan is surprised to find himself attracted to Serena's twin sister, which he had never noticed in the past, and feels ashamed for wanting his best friend's betrothed. But soon, he starts wondering if the woman he's lusting after isn't Serena after all, the woman he loved and thought he'd lost forever. Serena thought she was completely over Jonathan after his horrid betrayal, but being close to him, she can't deny that the old flame is still there. Still, can she forgive how he once betrayed her or forget what she must do for her sisters' shake?
-The writing was excellent, emotional and moving; the characters fully developed and even though I had trouble forgiving Jonathan in the beginning, I came to deeply sympathize with him, the more truths about the past incident came to light. Haymore obviously knows how to pull the reader's heartstrings and lovers of truly angsty, agonizing reads, will probably appreciate these lovers' stony path to happiness.
-I liked that Serena, realistically, didn't immediately forgive and forget Jonathan's behavior upon seeing him again, but it took her a long time to get over what he did to her.
-I also loved the fact that we 'saw' a big part of the story from Jonathan's eyes, this way actually seeing how sorry and ashamed he trully was for his old rejection. It's another thing to be told he was sorry, and another to actually see it from his POV. Plus, with what he did in the present to help Serena and what extra details we get for what happened 6 years ago, I'm happy to say, I was able to completely get over any grunge I held for him.
-There was a secondary romance between Serena's sister Phoebe and a young rake, that was too conveniently similar to what happened to Serena and Jonathan in the past, to be easily swallowed. Besides, the lack of depth in that story arc -and I'm glad the focus stayed on the main couple, mind you- made the young rake's turn of heart, a little too fast and sudden to be believable.
-My other problem were the last 30-40 pages. A lot of things I didn't like occured in them, all in once, thus somewhat diminishing my overall enjoyment of the book.
-For starters, it got too sweet and cheesy. I read more declarations of undying love in 2 pages than I usually read in an entire novel. Of course, since I'm not a fan of sweet romances and lovey-dovey phrases, that which threw me off, is probably a plus for most other romance readers.
-The way that the writer got rid of Serena's/Meg's betrothed was completely unfair to him and utterly unpalatable to my taste.The easy solution, is not in this case, the best one:(
-My last and most important peeve about the ending, is that by the number of times that Serena doubted Jonathan's love for her after their reconcialiation, I have much difficulty in imagining a real HEA for them, where each one is secure in the knowledge of the other's love. The author didn't manage to make me believe that the wound left by Jonathan in Serena's heart was finally healed by the book's end, a fact that made me put the book down with a sense of unfullfillment.
All in all, this was a very nice emotional, even angsty story of love between two people who have never stopped loving eacg other. I'll look forward to read other books by this author but I strongly wish the ending was different; it would then get a 4.5 rating from me. As it is though, I have to take a full star just for the ending, so I'd say it's a 3.5 leaning on 4 stars for me.