Desert Isle Keeper
With French Leave, Sheri Cobb South wins, places and shows. She makes the hat trick, achieves the trifecta, threepeats. This book brings her Weaver trilogy to a delightful close, and I was charmed from the very first word.
Lord Waverly (the villain in The Weaver Takes A Wife) has fallen on hard times. His debts have forced him to sell everything that was not entailed and flee to France where he ekes out a living at gambling hells. One evening as he prepares go back to his two small rooms, he passes a convent where a young novice is escaping by climbing down via a rope of bedsheets.
The young woman, Lisette Colling, was given a choice by her uncle – either marry her odious cousin or take the veil. Lisette chooses the convent, but she can’t force herself to take final vows. She asks Lord Waverly to escort her to England, to her estranged grandfather where he will be richly rewarded. Lord Waverly agrees (he’s really drunk). When he wakes up and remembers his promise, he and Lisette cross the channel. But when they get to her grandfather’s home, he has died. So Waverly goes to the first place he can think of, the home of Ethan and Lady Helen Brundy.
Waverly realizes that Lisette is totally compromised, so he arranges for a marriage, but a marriage of convenience. Lisette is very much the innocent and agrees, for what choice does she have?. As for the Brundys, their relationship has sailed into turbulent waters. Helen and Ethan (who is now Sir Ethan) have been married 4 years and have 4 children, twin boys and two girls. The last childbirth was very hard on Helen and Ethan has not come to her bed in months. Helen thinks Ethan is rejecting her, and when she sees him coming out of the home of a madame, she decides that it’s payback time. Now that Waverly is in town, she’ll become his lover.
Ethan’s real reason for visiting the madame is quite legitimate and grew out of his wish to protect his wife, to whom he has not been unfaithful. Indeed, he believes her cold demeanor has arisen because he plans to stand for Parliament as a Whig candidate and Helen’s family are all staunch Tories. As for Lisette, she has fallen in love with Waverly and means to change his mind about this marriage of convenience. Helen is having second thoughts about taking a lover while Waverly is beginning to notice how sweet Lisette is. And then Lisette’s horrid cousin Raoul shows up, with secrets and a plot of his own.
French Leave is full of little misunderstandings and they propel the plot along with all the speed and charm of an English comedy, or, if you prefer, a French farce. It is all as light, frothy and delicious as a perfect souffle. Helen and Ethan are as delightful as ever, and I loved their children. Lisette is the perfect gamine. She is sweet, innocent and playful and brings out all the tenderness and urge to protect that Waverly has supressed for so long. He finds more happiness sitting on the bed and playing piquet with her than he ever found winning mega-guineas at his club.
The epilogue at Sir Ethan and Lady Helen’s 25th wedding anniversary brings the story full circle, and left me with a big happy smile on my face. What a wonderful book this is, the perfect story to read to make you smile, chuckle and laugh out loud. This one is going on my extra-special keeper shelf, along with The Weaver Takes A Wife and Brighton Honeymoon. I’ve found my favorite Regency series.