LAST NIGHT WITH THE EARL - Kelly Bowen
The Devils of Dover Series – Book 2
ISBN: 978-1-4789-1859-2 (mass market)
ISBN: 978-1-4789-1858-5 (ebook)
Dover, England, 1820
Eli Dawes, the fourteenth Earl of Rivers, was believed dead after the Battle of Waterloo, but now, years later, his father's solicitors have found him living in Belgium. Eli and best friend Andrew had left England together, both going against their fathers' wishes and demands, to join the effort to defeat Napoleon. Andrew did not survive the last terrible battle. Eli never talked to his father again, and now the man is dead. The battle and events that occurred have permanently marked Eli. He is no longer the handsome, careless, and entitled rogue he was when he left England. Half his face is scarred so badly he tries to avoid any public attention, which means avoiding London. Once in England, he goes to his family estate of Avondale in Dover. Needing to break into his own manor house, in the dark he trudges to his old bedroom only to be attacked by a woman once there. He meets Rose Haverhall again, the one woman he truly loved and could not court. She was Andrew's fiancée. Her rich merchant family has a summer rental lease on the manor for some select students from the Haverhall School for Young Ladies. The only positive thing is the damage to his face shocks her but doesn't faze Rose.
Rose has faced her own battle and doesn't trust Eli as she remembers his and Andrew's wild, womanizing ways. Andrew scarred her in another way that makes her avoid society ballrooms and entertainments. Her sister, Clara, administers the school while Rose teaches painting. Her masterful painting talent has let Rose support herself. Her portraits help damaged women see their special beauty. Husbands and lovers also hire Rose to paint their wives and lovers – her confidentiality about these paintings keeps her business thriving. She soon learns Eli had no part in her social disparagement. He wants to be friends again, and moreover, he loves her. While Rose comes to love Eli, she cannot marry him.
Today's knowledge of how traumatic events affect people give the reader special insight into this historical period's values. How Eli and Rose, who help each other, overcome their ordeals, makes this a special story. They are attracted to each other, but Rose's continual insistence they can only be friends puzzles Eli and inflicts new pain on him, and as he suffers, so does Rose. Characters from the first book take important positions as mentors to these two psychologically wounded characters. All of this makes the story good reading.