Posts Tagged Julia London

SBR 2-for-1 Romance Saturday Special: London’s “Hadley Green” Novels

Previously, I reviewed Julia London’s THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN.  As that novel interested me a great deal — and because I knew it was book two of a trilogy called “The Secrets of Hadley Green” — I decided to hunt up both the prequel, THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY, and the sequel, THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X.  This review will cover the latter two books.

THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY starts in 1808 Ireland.  The heroine, fun-loving and frivolous Keira Hannigan, well-born but not part of the nobility, is asked by her friend and cousin, Lily Boudine (the heroine of book two, THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN), to please go to England and take care of the Ashwood estate.  The reason Lily asks this is because she was about to take a trip to Italy, something she’d always wanted to do, yet Lily had just become the Countess of Ashwood in her own right.  This may not sound plausible, but there’s a reason why Lily doesn’t want to go back to Hadley Green (where Ashwood is located, roughly); it seems that when she was younger, she mistakenly sent a good man to his death.  Lily has always felt terrible about this, even though she was only eight years old when this happened, and just isn’t up to returning to the Ashwood estate because of this. 

Keira leaves Ireland, but doesn’t tell her parents where she’s actually going (as she, too, was supposed to be going to Italy along with Lily).  Instead, Keira goes to Ashwood, pretends to be the Countess because she looks like Lily and many things need to get done that require the Countess’s signature, and runs into two people who know full well that she, Keira, isn’t the Countess at all — Declan O’Connor, the Irish Earl of Donnelly, and Tobin Scott, the Danish Lord Eberlin.  But neither of them unmask her for reasons of their own, though Declan urges Keira to admit who she is — a caretaker.  But Keira won’t do it, of course, which is fortunate or we’d have no story.

Keira takes part in several cultural events, including a horse race for charity and a charity ball for the local orphanage, which shows that she’s not a lightweight.  And as she adds depth to her fun-loving exterior, Declan falls inextricably in love with her, which is good because Keira always carried a torch for him.  Yet Declan isn’t the marrying kind, to say the least . . . whatever will Keira do about this?  (Much less about the fact that she’s not the Countess?)  And what will happen once she realizes that she’s pregnant?

All of this is for you to read, but if you enjoy English historical romance, you will enjoy THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY despite its quirks.

Now onto the third book of the “Secrets of Hadley Green” trilogy, THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X.  This novel is about steward Harrison Tolly, the latest heir to the Ashwood estate as he’s the illegitimate son of the late Earl of Ashwood.  (Lily Beaudine, who married Count Eberlin at the end of book two of the trilogy, has abdicated.)  Yet Harrison is in big trouble, as he’s in love with Lady Olivia Carey — the wife of his employer, the nasty Marquis of Carey — and he refuses to leave Everdon Court, the seat of the Carey family.

Yet that’s not all that’s going on in THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X, as Olivia’s sister, Alexa, is pregnant and won’t say by whom.  Harrison, being a decent sort at heart, has offered to marry Alexa even though he’s in love with Olivia (a well-guarded secret), which for the moment has kept the Marquis from sending Alexa to a convent.  This sets up many complications, some of them seeming insurmountable, until circumstances allow for Harrison to accept the Ashwood domain as his own.  Better yet — spoiler alert! — the Marquis of Carey meets his demise, which allows Harrison to finally court Olivia.  (Or does it?)

THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X is a diverting read about a cruel man, how awfully he treats his wife Olivia, Harrison the loyal steward who loves Olivia and does his best to protect her, and of course the added complication of Alexa and her unborn child.  As it’s a romance, a happy ending is all but assured, yet the trials and tribulations of Olivia, Alexa, and Harrison nearly eclipse that knowledge until about twenty-five pages from the end.

That being said, both books are good ones that held my interest until the very end, and had believable romances despite the unusual set-ups.  I enjoyed all three books of the “Secrets of Hadley Green” trilogy, and will look forward to whatever Julia London publishes next.

Grades:

THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY — A-minus.

THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X — B-plus

“Hadley Green” series — B-plus.

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Julia London’s “Eberlin:” Revenge, English-style

Julia London’s THE REVENGE OF COUNT EBERLIN is an English historical romance set in 1808, and is the second novel set in the “Secrets of Hadley Green” series.  The protagonists are the Danish Count Eberlin, born Tobin Scott of Hadley Green (his title was purchased), and Lily Beaudine of Hadley Green, now the Countess of Ashwood in her own right.  Years ago, Lily saw Tobin’s father leaving Ashwood Manor at a very late hour and didn’t understand the context; unfortunately for Tobin (and his father, Joseph Scott), that was the night the Ashwood jewelry went missing.  The elder Scott was quickly accused of theft and hanged even though he was innocent of that crime.  Even though Lily was only eight and Tobin thirteen when this happened, Tobin blames Lily for his father’s untimely death and is bent on revenge.

Lily’s feelings for Tobin are more complicated.  She remembers him as a childhood friend and companion, as Lily’s beloved Aunt Althea used to ask Tobin to watch over Lily due to her close companionship with Tobin’s father.  But since Tobin’s now bent on the complete ruination of the Ashwood estate — and because Tobin has a great deal of money due to being a self-made man (he made his money the old-fashioned way, as a privateer and gun-runner) — Lily feels she has no choice but to make some sort of deal with Tobin.

Of course, Tobin doesn’t want anything from Lily but her body (isn’t this always the way of things?), partly because Lily moves him but mostly because he wants to ruin her for a decent marriage to one of the Ton.  This is why Lily decides on a dangerous course; she will attempt to seduce Tobin (without giving up her virtue, or at least without giving it up too easily and to no purpose) while attempting to clear Joseph Scott’s name, as she figures one or the other things should lower Tobin’s defenses.

There’s a great deal of passion here between Tobin and Lily, so Lily’s stratagem quickly falls apart.  Yet the regret and guilt Lily feels about Tobin’s father (as now that she’s fully adult, she has a much better idea of what was probably going on between Aunt Althea and Joseph Scott that had nothing to do with the Ashwood jewels), much less the guilt Tobin feels later on (as he realizes Lily was only eight; why should he blame her for reporting what she saw under the circumstances?), can’t help but complicate this romance further.

So, do Lily and Tobin find out who carried off the Ashwood jewelry?  Will Tobin succeed in ruining Lily in every possible way?  And what will happen to this pair long-term?  All of these questions, and more, are answered in a thoroughly satisfying way.

As this is a romance, you can expect sparks to fly and the dialogue to sizzle, as it’s part of the genre.  But what’s particularly good about THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN is the strength of the characterization, as both Tobin and Lily could’ve easily become caricatures with less skillful treatment, yet are winningly brought to life by Ms. London.

The only minus here is the fact that Joseph Scott’s fate wasn’t ever in doubt.  From the beginning, I knew he was innocent and that Tobin’s anger over his father’s death was real.  The only real mystery about that is why Aunt Althea didn’t speak up to save Joseph from the gallows, but even there, Althea was married, albeit to a man who had many mistresses during the course of her marriage.  In that day and time, women didn’t admit to taking lovers unless they were independently wealthy widows, so it wasn’t at all surprising why Althea said nothing — and why Joseph, loving Althea, said nothing even though it meant his death. 

This one weakness is enough to keep this novel from getting the grade I’d wished to give, a solid A.  Still, THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN is a fine way to spend a few hours, and I enjoyed it very much indeed.

Grade: A-minus

–reviewed by Barb 

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