Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation on October 3rd 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
From spirited young woman to reckless widow, the beautiful Marchioness of Hadley remains a force to be reckoned with. But beneath her antics lies a broken heart . . .
Since her husband's tragic death, Lady Charlotte Hadley has embarked on a path of careless behavior and dangerous hijinks from which no one can divert her . . . until suddenly, her first-and only-true love reenters her world. Their fiery romance was so scandalous Charlotte had no choice but to marry another, more suitable man. Surely now they are both free to pick up where they left off . . .
Julian West has returned to London a hero after making a name for himself in battle at Waterloo. Every woman is vying for his attention-except the one who stole his heart. No matter, Julian has other obligations. But when Charlotte's sister, Eleanor, charges him with protecting the widow from ruin, what ensues is another kind of battle-one that leads a chase from London's bars and brothels to the finest country estate as Julian and Charlotte untangle a host of secrets, regrets, and misunderstandings. For could it be that the love they've forced themselves to forget is exactly what they need to remember? . . .
~~Reviewed by Bonnie~~
We first met our protagonists, Charlotte and Julian, in LADY ELEANOR’S SEVENTH SUITOR, as secondary characters. The glimpses we had showed them falling in love, and then parting when Charlotte marries another and Julian leaves to become a soldier. Without knowing the details, I was very eager to read this story to find out exactly what went awry.
Charlotte Sutherland fell quickly and deeply in love with Julian West and didn’t hesitate in becoming intimate with him. When she learns that his seduction was part of an intricate plot of revenge on her family, she is devastated. Julian’s original intentions were totally dishonorable, but soon he found himself falling in love, and meaning every word he said to Charlotte. When she learns of his deception, she refuses all contact with him and is quick to marry Lord Hadley. Now a heartbroken Julian decides to purchase a commission and goes off to battle.
In the intervening year, both Julian and Charlotte have suffered trauma and pain – the kind that changes them forever. Julian has returned home after fighting in the battle of Waterloo and is considered a hero. Inside, he feels like anything but a hero. He has obvious signs of PTSD and suffers from nightmares and guilt. Charlotte’s husband died mere months after their wedding, and she returned to London only to engage in scandalous and shocking behavior. Her antics have left her teetering on the very edge of ruin, and her family is deeply concerned.
The last thing Julian wants is to have anything to do with Charlotte. Yet, his cousin, Cam, (who is Charlotte’s brother-in-law) begs for his help, as no one else can reach Charlotte, or convince her to curb her outrageous actions. Julian reluctantly agrees, and thus the two former lovers encounter each other for the first time in over a year. Yet, they may have been two strangers, for each of them has changed drastically.
Julian’s once sparkling eyes are flat and emotionless, and his charm replaced with a blunt and businesslike manner. As for Charlotte, she seems to need excitement in order to breathe. She varies between extreme gayety and vacant emptiness. Though she knows she’s hurting her family, and walking a dangerous path that could have her ostracized from society, she can’t seem to help herself.
Each encounter between this couple is hard to read. It’s obvious that both are in deep pain and are determined to bury it. They continually hurt each other, and I could feel Charlotte heading toward a disastrous end, and Julian to a placid and boring future that was totally wrong for him. Gradually, bit by bit, author Anna Bradley reveals the events that happened to Julian and Charlotte since their parting.
It was honestly hard for me to like these characters for most of the book. I understood that they were damaged, but Julian’s cruelty, and Charlotte’s surface disregard and flightiness made me want to just give up on them. Yet, I found my mind changing as tiny little pieces of their former selves made appearances. It’s not until near the very end that we learn the full extent of what happened in Charlotte’s world, and it’s a very painful story. LADY CHARLOTTE’S FIRST LOVE does eventually wind its way to a happy ending, though it’s a hard journey getting there. This is not a light or happy read – it’s dark and distressing. Yet, I have to admit to being totally captivated, engrossed, and emotionally involved. If you enjoy an intense read, along with themes of second chances and forgiveness, this is the book you’re looking for.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.