Reggie is a consummate rake. Which means that he spends his days doing nothing but indulging himself with women, gambling and all-nighters. He also has the usual issues: difficult childhood, no one who really loved him after his family died when he was 8, plus the fact that his inherited rights have been denied to him. You must be asking yourself, how is he different from the truckload of Tormented Heroes around?
The difference is that he has a serious drinking problem. He is also suffering from depression: he realises that he has nothing to live for and at the age of 37 he cannot keep up with his younger mates. He is suffering from constant memory loss that usually follows a night of debauchery and it is not unusual that he wakes up feeling like the world is crumbling apart, full of bruises he does not know how he came about or money he does not remember he won. A voice keeps telling him that this way of life is going to kill him and he despairs.
So it is no surprise when he jumps at the chance life is giving him when his cousin, who recently inherited the family title, decides to give his mother's estate back to him. Strickland is where he was born and where he lived a happy life until he was 8, a estate that it should have been his for years but his eviiiiil uncle wouldn't allow it. I could not help but to think that Strickland was to Reggie what Tara was eventually to Scarlett O'Hara- a lifeline, a source of strength where he could go and try to change his life.
Alys is a 30 year old spinster who is also running from her past. She is capable, smart and has earned her living for years as a governess and later on as the steward of Strickland, a job she got based purely on her references. Reggie's uncle never interviewed her for the position and everyone in London just assumed she was a man. She is accepted and respected by everyone in the region and soon enough by Reggie too, who realises that she is brilliant at what she does.
On top of her brains, she also has a heart - she has 3 wards that she must raise by herself and she is the friend who provides Reggie with the support that he needs.
I loved Alys - she is a force to be reckoned with but to me, the book belongs to Reggie and his struggle to fight his inner demons, to stop drinking and to become a better man so that he could be with Alys.
I was very surprised to see how delicately and yet seriously, the author dealt with the issue of alcoholism in the book. But this is still a romance novel and there are also moments that there are silly, flirty and sensual and a few secondary plots there were also interesting. And of course, eventually we are granted with the happily ever after that these two deserve