When Ms. Beard wrote to me and asked if I would read and review her new book, I was both honored and delighted. But little did I know that when I started to read the story, how much the characters would touch my heart.
For twenty years, Olivia, Duchess of Barndhurst, was subject to a cruel and domineering husband. She suffered a loveless marriage and lost her own self worth along the way. But that was over now. Her husband is dead, and he canít hurt her anymore. Now what will she do with the rest of her life? Will she ever be able to find happiness in her old age? (At forty-years old, sheís considered pretty much on the shelf in Victorian society.)
Fate takes Livie for a ride, when in a moonlit garden, she chances upon a young man. A man forbidden to her by Victorian society - he canít be more than 27 years old! But sheís attracted to him nonetheless. Does she dare to let herself fly free and enjoy one night of passion? Who will ever know?
Will Barnes, artist and son of the former Brandhurst head gardener, has been commissioned to create a garden for the late Duke of Brandhurst. Tight for money, Will accepts the job; never imaging that it will change the course of his life forever. While working in the garden late one night, he meets a beautiful woman; who surely must be a lady of quality, but to his artistic eye, is the most alluring creature heís ever seen. After introducing himself, she faints into his arms and he carries her off to the gardenerís cottage. After waking, his mystery lady begs him to make love to her and he cannot resist her temptation. What harm could one night in the arms of a beautiful woman do? Who is she?
When a few days later, Will returns to his slum apartment, he is summoned back to Brandhurst Hall for another commission. But by this time, he has learned who his mystery lady is, the Duchess herself. How can he ever face her again? What will she do? He soon learns that Livie has never forgotten their night of passion and that now someone is trying to blackmail her because of it. But, another danger may be lurking in the shadows, it has come out that the Duke didnít die of natural causes, as was believed. He was murdered, and now Will must face trying to protect Livie from harm or lose her forever.
I absolutely love the concept of an older woman falling in love with a younger man. Most romances have the ages the other way around, and sometimes I get tired of reading about the 35 year old Earl marrying the 17 year old heiress. Ms. Beard writes about the love affair between Olivia and Will with such sensitivity and love, that it will warm your heart. The torment that these two people go through to be together and those who are trying to keep them apart, will break your heart and make you wish you could somehow protect the fragile love that they have found in each otherís arms.
Julie Beard is one of the few writers who take the concept of love and passion right to the brink! Keep up the wonderful writing, Julie. Iím a fan for life!