I got tired of Regencies, for a simple reason - no matter how good they are, they just blended in my mind. When I finished one, they soon faded into the "Regency Collective", sort of like the Borg on Star Trek! So, it's delightful to see one standing out from the crowd. And this one does. So a big hand for this first time writer - Janet Mullany.
Fabienne was a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old when she first saw rake Adam Ashworth. With the sparkling passion of first love, she gave him everything, her innocence...her heart, only to have both treated with little value. So when they meet again, twenty years later, Fabienne still feels the sting of Adam's betrayal.
Now widowed, Adam lives in the country, but is summoned to town because his ward has developed an obsession to a young female artist. Fabienne has become a patroness of the arts and is the sponsor for the young woman. She defends her protégé against Adam's slanders.
While Fabienne is very popular in society with her elite salons, she is a widow and feels very along. She finds solace in correspondence with a reclusive author, Mrs. Ravenswood. Through the letters, their friendship deepens to where Fabienne reveals her stinging pain of Adam's betrayal, how the pain of the young love still hurts her heart. Need a bond to another, Fabienne sets out to find the recluse. Instead, she finds Adam. She assumes Mrs. Ravenwood is Adam's mistress, so is destroyed to find the one person she has revealed her pain to is likely laughing at her. Her betrayal is receiving another turn of the screw and she is so hurt.
Adam is Mrs. Ravenwood, but he is not sure how to confess. He hoped to draw Fabienne to him through the charade, but now sees it as a mistake that could destroy any chance he hopes to have with Fabienne. Despite all this, Adam and Fabienne are pulled into a relationship.
Brava for Mullany eschewing the darling belle of the ton just coming out for giving us an older, more mature woman. Her writing is sexy, savvy and she has created a story of adults who have been hurt, who want love, but cannot see to get past the pain to the love still there. Adam and Fabienne are living,
breathing characters not Regency stereotypes. They have a full range of emotions and complexities that draw the reader and will keep this Regency living in your mind.
This book shows confidence way beyond a first time writer and should mark Mullany as an author to watch.
One of the best Regencies I have read in years.