Published by Avon on March 28th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
In an unforgettable debut, Lisa Berne introduces you to the Penhallow Dynasty—men destined to marry, but hesitant to love.
Wealthy and arrogant, Gabriel Penhallow knows it’s time to fulfill his dynastic duty. All he must do is follow the 'Penhallow way': find a biddable bride, produce an heir and a spare, and then live separate lives. It’s worked so well for generations, certainly one kiss with the delectable Livia Stuart isn’t going to change things. Society dictates he marry her, and one chit is as good as another as long as she’s from a decent family.
But Livia’s transformation from an original to a mundane diamond of the first water makes Gabriel realize he desperately wants the woman who somehow provoked him into that kiss. And for all the ladies who’ve thrown themselves at him, it’s the one who wants to flee whom he now wants. But how will he keep this independent miss from flying away?
She had been dismissed. Livia rose and after dipping the briefest of curtsies in Lady Glanville’s direction, went to the door with long strides, so angry that she felt she had to get out of there or explode. Behind her she heard Aunt Bella saying in a soft little bleat, “Livia! No word of gratitude! Pray come back!” Instead, she closed the door with exaggerated gentleness and leaned against it for a moment.
By the bannister stood a maidservant with an armful of gowns. With a muttered sentence of thanks Livia took them and hurried upstairs to her room where with savage satisfaction she flung the gowns against the wall, leaving them to lie in a crumpled heap on the floor. She paced back and forth, back and forth, until the red haze of rage subsided. Then she went to her bed and dropped fulllength upon it with unladylike abandon, causing the old wood frame to creak alarmingly.
It was stupid of her, she knew, to react like that to the Orrs. But it was hard, so hard, when Cecily had every thing and she had so very little. No parents, no brothers or sisters; no money, no education, no prospects.
Your future must be thought of, too.
It was strange, now that she considered it, how little time she had spent thinking about her future. Possibly because there was no point to it. In her existence here she was like a great hoary tree, deeply, immovably, rooted into the earth.
She couldn’t even hang on to the morbid hope of inheriting anything from Uncle Charles when he died. He’d run through most of Aunt Bella’s money ages ago, and year by year everything had slowly declined, dwindled, faded away. Now there wasn’t much left; the estate barely brought in enough for Aunt Bella to pay for her cordial, and for Uncle Charles to spend his days hunting, drinking, and eating. Speaking of romantic marriages.
Well, it could be worse. At least she didn’t have a mother like that revolting Lady Glanville. Imagine having her breathing down one’s neck all day.
Still, this was only a small consolation. A very small consolation.
Livia thought about Cecily’s beautiful white gown and those elegant kid slippers with the dainty pink rosettes.
It was those rosettes that did it.
Envy, like a nasty little knife slipping easily into soft flesh, seemed to pierce her very soul.
Abruptly Livia twisted onto her side and stared at nothing.
She would not cry.
Crying never helped anything.
There came to her, suddenly, the memory of the first time she had met Cecily, some twelve years ago; they’d both been around six. Cecily and her mother had come to call. Livia, recently arrived from faraway India, desperately lonely, was so anxious to be friends with the lovely, beautifully dressed girl with the long shining curls. Shyly she had approached, trying to smile, and Cecily had responded by saying in a clear, carrying voice:
“Oh, you’re the little orfin girl. Your papa was sent away from here and he died. And your grandpapa was a runaway and he drownded. And your mama drownded, too. Why is your skin so brown? Are you dirty?” And she had backed away, to hide behind the skirts of her mother Lady Glanville, who had said to her, with that same cold smile that never reached her eyes, “Poor little Livia isn’t a native, my dear, she’s every bit as English as you and I. The sun shines quite fiercely in India, and she had no mama or papa to make sure she stayed under her parasol. Do you see?”
Livia had never forgotten the burning sense of shame from that day. Nor had Cecily made it any easier, for from time to time she would laughingly recall the occasion of their first meeting and how she had thought Livia to be unwashed, as if it was the funniest anecdote in all the world.
Livia did not like to remember, even if only hazily, how when she was four, the monsoon season struck Kanpur with devastating onslaughts of rain. Both her widowed mother and her grandfather had died in a great flood, and it was with grudging reluctance that Uncle Charles had sent money for his niece’s passage to England.
Upon arriving in Wiltshire, Livia was not so much welcomed into the home—if such the ancient, ram bling domicile known as Ealdor Abbey could be so termed—of Uncle Charles and Aunt Bella, as absorbed. Aside from grumbling within earshot about the expense of feeding her, Uncle Charles barely noticed her. Aunt Bella, childless, somnolent, always unwell, with interest in neither Society nor useful occupation, accepted Livia’s presence without a blink but also without care or concern for the little girl for whom she was, ostensibly, responsible.
Oh, you’re the little orfin girl.
Livia smiled without humor.
Yes indeed, Cecily certainly had a knack for getting to the heart of things.
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~~Reviewed by Lisa~~
A delightful debut, Lisa Berne has created a couple that we follow through their journey of self-discovery and learning what truly matters in life. While they share the loss of their parents and being orphaned that is where the similarities end. She is taken in grudgingly by an aunt and uncle and money is scarce and affection and attention are nonexistent. He becomes the ward of his grandmother who while she takes an interest in his life, it is to dictate and orchestrate.
Livia Stuart is the recipient of charity from one of the MOST annoyingly narcissistic girl I am very glad never to have met in person, the Honorable Miss Cecily Orr. She is talked down to and required to say thank you for the privilege of being treated poorly. She knows what she does not want, but doesn’t dare to dream. At 18 she knows that her prospects are all but non-existent and tries not to think about it too hard.
Gabriel Penhallow has enjoyed the carefree life of a man of leisure and was a member of the Diplomatic Corps. He views marriage as a duty and has allowed his grandmother to choose his bride. He is confident in his world, of his income and that everyone is thrilled to be seen by him and near him.
The first meeting of our couple brought a smile to my face. He is lost and assumes she is a simpleton servant and talks down to her. Livia has had enough of sanctimonious people so she plays along and sends him on a very merry chase with directions that take him a good two hours instead of the 20 minutes it would have taken had he used manners and not been a bit of a bully.
The bulk of the story revolved around Livia and Gabriel getting to know each other after they suffer a scandal and become betrothed. His grandmother runs roughshod over Livia trying to turn her into a vapid debutante. He avoids her because she makes him start to examine his long-held thought that Penhallow’s are superior and he is in charge in their relationship. Livia just wants to be loved and wanted for herself. She is happiest in the country and we see her become confident and start to dream of what could be.
I enjoyed the book, but am still not sure of Gabriel’s actual status, he is always addressed as Mr. Penhallow. It is never mentioned but he has substantial holdings, many tenants and other family members that he is responsible for. It is mentioned that “the Penhallows came to England with the Conqueror, you know, and it is said that the Conqueror bowed to them.” Also, there seemed to be some confusion with Cecily’s status- when we first met her she was the daughter of the Right Honorable Viscountess Glanville, then her status is elevated later in the book to daughter of an earl. Having read historical romances for a good while, this confusion and lack of information kept popping into my head as I was reading and it bothered me enough to subtract one (1) star from my rating.
The moments where we have Livia and Gabriel in the same room are pleasant, but too infrequent. There seem to be places where a conversation would have helped the story along instead of just “listening” to their thoughts on the situation. I enjoyed the times where we saw Livia taking Gabriel to task for his arrogance and sometimes lack of interest in their relationship. The very fact that he was willing to let his aging grandmother choose his life partner was alarming, arranged marriages of the times aside. He had opportunities to speak up for himself and to defend Livia but chose to remain silent.
The secondary characters are priceless. Grandmother, Mrs. Penhallow, is a piece of work; arrogant, rude and so incredibly full of her own self-importance that she sees nothing wrong in bullying Livia and talking down to her. Then we have the Right Honorable Lady Granville who reminds me of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. These women are an over the top example of the Ton and its belief that they are superior to everyone not within their circle.
Yes, the road to the HEA was at times arduous, but the whole was delightful. I look forward to Gabriel’s cousin Hugo’s story. He is charming, a bit clueless at times, but has a good grasp of what matters and doesn’t take life too seriously. I do not know who else is part of the Penhallow Dynasty however, I look forward to meeting them and watching them fall in love and find their “one.”
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.