The diamond trade. A business seemingly corrupt from day one. Murder. Oppression. Bigotry. How can something so beautiful be born of things so ugly? Ms. Lofty takes us right into the heart of that question, straight to South Africa for a look at an enterprise that is far from a gentleman’s trade.
Flawless is the first of four books about the Christie siblings. Sir William Christie, a ruthless tycoon and self-made man, has died – and left for his children a strings-attached inheritance. Each must serve as manager of a different subsidiary company, all of them on the brink of collapse. In order for the respective sibling to receive a million dollar bonus, the company for which they work must be worth more than it was valued at the time of Sir William’s death.
Lady Viviene Bancroft has worked hard to achieve financial stability and societal respectability her whole life. Unlike her three siblings, she was adopted – her “adoption” serving to disguise the fact that she was actually the bastard daughter of Sir William and a French dancer. Growing up in the slums of France had given her a yearning for the easy lives led by those wealthy and secure. Her brilliant marriage to Miles Warren Durham, Viscount Bancroft, should have assured her the money and position she desired, but Miles’ endless gambling and constant breaking of the rules of decent society brought her nothing but grief instead. She has spent the last year separated from him by an ocean – she in New York while he remained in London. She was startled – and disappointed – to find him at the reading of her father’s will. Had he hoped for an instant handout from her inheritance to cover yet more gambling debts? Instead, the only inheritance she has received is a position at the Christie Diamond Brokerage House in Kimberly, Cape Colony, Africa. At least it will keep her far from Miles – and give her a chance to earn enough to be free of him forever.
Miles is amused and delighted by the terms of the will. Determined to show Viviene that she can not just ditch her inconvenient husband, he heads to Africa before her, establishing a home and learning the ways of the land while he waits for his errant bride. He is determined to make his disdainful wife long for his company and the rebuilding of their marriage. To that end he has sobered up, quit gambling, and learned the ways of the diamond trade. But can he and the aloof Viviene work together well enough so that they both come out of this venture a great deal richer? Or will the passion that overwhelmed and destroyed them before work its dark magic once again?
Miles and Viviene are the ideal “opposites attract” couple. She has had to work hard to develop a flawless veneer to cover her scandalous past. No one must think her any less than the perfect lady. Miles has a pedigree few can match, but poor financial management has left him if not destitute, at least in dire straits. Security in his social position has always given him the leeway to act as he damn well pleases, and he can’t understand why Viv won’t loosen up and live a little. As they work to face the difficulties the Christie Diamond Brokerage is mired in, Miles comes to appreciate the keen mind behind the proper facade Viv presents to the world. For her part, Viv has never seen Miles like this before – self-controlled, compassionate, commanding and heroic. They are finding these new aspects of each other far more irresistible than the images they had known in the glittering ballrooms of London.
I thoroughly enjoyed the pioneering aspects of this book, from the way hard work made more of a man of Miles to the way it brought out the business shark in Viviene. Africa really brought the best of each character to the forefront, teaching them to look out for others as well as sharpening their wits. It shows that the Europeans had brought some things with them to South Africa – inventions such as electricity, innovations in diamond mining, and industry – but the author did not flinch from the hard facts, and the abuse Africans faced from the colonists was brought to the forefront. The setting was beautifully and lovingly drawn and pulled you right in.
The relationship was well done also. There was a bit too much lust thought for my taste, but it was nicely balanced by the growing emotion between Miles and Viviene. The things that attracted them to each other before were well blended with what attracted them now. Watching them peel off the masks they had always worn for self-protection was good, though I did feel that it happened a tad close to the end, causing the closing pages to be rushed.
This is a wonderful, different historical. I hope everyone will at least give this “something new” a chance.