Olivia "Livie" had been very young when she married Quinton Thorpe and became the Duchess of Brandhurst. For almost twenty-five years she lived with her husband's cruelty by shutting off all emotions. As the book opened, I learned Quinton had been murdered, stabbed in the back with a letter opener by an unknown person (while trying to kill Olivia), and Livie was still in shock.
Few knew the Duke had been murdered. Those few, which included Olivia, felt the Duke had gotten what he deserved. So the murder was covered up and kept quiet. The title fell to Andrew Thorpe, an American. Until he could settle his affairs and get to England, Livia was to be in charge.
Neville Thorpe, second in line for the title, was jealous. He stayed by his Aunt Olivia's side and took charge of everything in her for her. He used his time to plot and scheme ways of obtaining the title he so coveted. He was aided by Quinton's wicked valet, Antonio. Neville found Olivia to be easily controlled until ...
Clara Peabody was an advocate with the Ladies' National Association. She approached Olivia, a year after the Duke's death, about helping fight to help the suffering of the match factory ladies. Olivia's eyes opened to possibilities and she developed a backbone.
Willoughby Barnes was an unknown artist. Since his deceased father had worked in the Duke's garden, Will had grown up learning the trade. He was asked to design the garden around the Duke's burial plot. Out of money for paints, he agreed. There, Olivia and Will met and fell in love. Olivia felt true love for the first time. However, Livie was forty and a duchess while Will was in his twenties and a gardner. It could never work.
***** The author, Julie Beard, keeps the reader guessing as to who really murdered the Duke. At the same time, she succeeds in keeping romance, betrayal, compassion, and several wonderful sub-plots going in the story. Normally this would not work. However, Julie Beard MADE it work! It all blends smoothly together and becomes as beautiful as Will's painting of Olivia! An enlightening and graceful story that I highly recommend to one and all! *****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.