Finally a genuinely good book with a solid story
"...Let me sleep with you in my arms and wake you with my kisses. Only with you can I truly be the man I want to be. You fill all the places inside me that have been empty for so long and you take away the pain of who I once was and the people I hurt.”" - Lord William Ryder
Olivia Langley is the eldest of three sisters who have lost both of their parents in a short span of time and were left penniless and alone. Olivia shoulders most of the responsibilities now although her sisters help in everything and are equally involved in the house affairs. She has accepted the fact that she will never have a season in London and therefore will remain unwed just so all of the funds could be given to her second sister Phoebe's season and her third sister Bella's health requirements.
The funds that they don't have at the moment. So they turn to highwaymen robberies. And as luck would have it, the first person to fall as a victim to them is Olivia's first love, Lord William Ryder, a man who left 5 years ago without telling anyone and hasn't contacted anyone since then.
Atop of all of that, there is a looming threat of the sisters' being evicted from their home by their cousin, the new Lord Langley, who doesn't want to support them at all but he does have a more sinister plot in mind for all of the sisters.
“Only a strong woman could have done what you did, love, and no matter how I feel about the choices you’ve made, I cannot blame you for them. You did what you thought was necessary to keep your family safe.” - Lord William Ryder
Olivia Langley is a strong heroine for her time. She stepped up to being in charge of the household, of her sisters' affairs, of preserving the fake facade in front of the rest of the town and of sacrificing her own happiness for her sisters'. She also rides in a Derby and robs people with her sister Phoebe, holding people at gunpoint and taking their money which is an offence punishable by death. But she isn't portrayed like a 'mary sue', a flawless super heroine that nothing can get to, no, she is portrayed as a multi-layered person who has her moments of weakness but does her best for her sisters' sake.
"Yet, how could you prepare yourself to see the man you loved while pointing a gun at his head?"
"...to my mind, anyone who buys me a cinnamon bun is someone worth my time.”" - Olivia Langley
Lord William Ryder is a man who was born with a title and into huge wealth. He, as the second son, did not bear the weight of responsibility from an early age as his brother did so he grew up spoiled. William was one of those men who knew they had money for life and little responsibility and so they went around living in debauchery and only cared about their bad company and their appearances. He was arrogant and irresponsible. That is why his brother could not stand him and they continuously clashed. In a moment of clarity, William saw that his life will not improve with the current circumstances so he left. He left without one word. He left to build his own life and himself in his own way and on his own terms. And for that I have huge respect for this character. And yes, not even sending one letter later was not good but I can understand it. He wanted to achieve something on his own before he comes back to this life he left behind.
"“I couldn’t possibly leave without going into the church; after all, I could walk out a better man.” “To the best of my knowledge, my lord, the last miracle performed here was two hundred years ago,” Olivia muttered." - William and Olivia
"I do not tolerate men who threaten women, especially not a woman whom I count as my friend.” - Lord William Ryder
Writing is extremely smart if I can put it like that. The author is very skilled with her words. There is subtle foreshadowing presented, an interesting story, multi-layered characters that we immediately connect with, plenty of witty humour, nicely presented era, slow building emotions and tension... almost everything I deem perfect in a book like this one.
“There are plenty who will say they are your friend but only a few who actually mean it.” - Lord William Ryder
What didn't work for me.
I would have to go into spoiler territory to fully explain but I won't do that. I'll just keep it simple. Sisters have lost their parents and were left with no money. The youngest sister needs medical remedies. They need money to keep appearances so they will have at least some prospect of marriage, or at least one of them. All of that is pressuring them into desperate actions to get the money. And here is where it doesn't fully work for me.
So, the sisters would rather risk highway robbery and being sentenced to death if found out or even risking death at the robbery itself rather than ask for help. Especially from the Duke. I understand one has pride. And ego. And doesn't want to spoil the good name of their family. But you cannot tell me you'd rather risk death and hold people at gunpoint (people who could be struggling for money themselves) rather than explain the situation to the Duke whose family has always had connections with their family and all of them grew up together and they knew the Duke's character. And since this is a very big part of the story, it always ate at me because I could not understand it.
The author could have made it more difficult for them to ask the Duke for help, like for instance their late father offending him or them already owing money to him or a refusal of some sort in his youth from one of the sisters... anything that would explain it better.
All in all.
Wonderful read in almost all aspects. It is truly a page turner. You want desperately to see what happens next and what other things will surface and make everything extra complicated.
"...“You love me, Olivia Langley, otherwise last night would never have happened.” “No, you are mistaken, my lord, I—I love no one.” “Your eyes say the opposite to your lips, my love. When I return to Willow Hall tomorrow we will talk, Livvy, and you will tell me what troubles you. And while you lay in your cold bed tonight remember one thing. You are mine now and I will never let you go.”" - Lord William Ryder