If Ever I Should Love You
If you’re like me, you turn to historical romances when you’re looking for a bit of light-hearted fun, and that’s exactly what I was seeking when I started If Ever I Should Love You, the first book in Cathy Maxwell’s Spinster Heiresses series. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Ms. Maxwell had crafted something totally different. Fortunately, I was able to put my expectations aside and was soon completely engrossed in the story.
Roman Gilchrist never wanted to be named Earl of Rochdale, but, when the old earl dies without a son, Roman inherits the title and a pile of debts to go with it. Since there’s no possible way for him to come up with the enormous sum his creditors are seeking, he grudgingly decides to marry. Surely it won’t be hard to find a reasonably pretty young heiress who will trade her great wealth for a title. A family friend suggests Roman consider wooing one of the ‘Spinster Heiresses’, a trio of wealthy women who are considered on the shelf. When Roman learns that Leonie Charnock, the woman he holds responsible for the destruction of his military career, is one of these heiresses, he knows without a doubt that she has to be his wife.
Leonie is determined to remain unmarried despite her father’s numerous attempts to find her a suitable husband. There was a time, several years before, when Leonie thought she had found the man of her dreams, and she was all set to promise herself to him, but her sweetheart was not someone of whom her father would have approved, so Leonie agreed to elope with him. Sadly, this did not end well, and Leonie vowed never to give her heart to another man. But then, Roman Gilchrist, the only living person who knows the truth about Leonie’s failed elopement, comes back into her life, and is determined to make her his, even though she swears it’s not what she wants.
Before I go any further, I need to point out that Roman and Leonie share a complicated past that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a quick summary. They are each carrying around a ton of baggage, and not all of it is obvious to the reader right away. Sure, I could lay it all out for you, but that would spoil the very best part of the story.
Roman is a persistent man who isn’t used to taking no for an answer. He doesn’t necessarily want to coerce Leonie into marrying him, but his knowledge of her past as well as his need to pay off the debts he has inherited drive him to go behind her back and ask her father for her hand. Mr. Charnock is thrilled at the prospect of finally marrying off his scandal-prone daughter to a titled gentleman, and immediately gives his blessing to the match, leaving Leonie no other choice but to agree. Still, she can’t bring herself to go along with the wishes of others without a bit of a fight, so she informs Roman that their marriage will be in name only. But once their vows have been said and they set up house on Roman’s country estate, Leonie becomes increasingly unable to stay away from the charismatic man she married.
The set-up of the story is not necessarily original, but Ms. Maxwell has managed to do something incredibly refreshing and new here. We’re all used to reading about damaged heroes who depend on the love of a good woman to help them turn their lives around, but that’s not the story she’s telling. Instead, it’s Leonie who is struggling with her demons, and Roman who helps her find the light at the end of the tunnel. Ms. Maxwell doesn’t just play lip service to the idea of a damaged heroine either. The story takes some incredibly dark turns, and a few parts were hard for me to read, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
If you’re looking for a heroine you can fully embrace, you might have some trouble with this book, and I’ll say now that I found Leonie difficult to warm up to. She has a lot of secrets, and while I can understand her reasons for keeping them, I found myself wanting to scream at her to just talk to Roman already – and when she finally does let her guard down with him, she does so in a grudging way that doesn’t feel completely authentic. I wanted to feel compassion for her, but I sometimes found myself frustrated by her behavior instead.
Roman is truly a hero to swoon over though. He’s not perfect, but his flaws weren’t dealbreakers either. He’s sometimes a bit too autocratic for my taste, but I was able to forgive that as the story progressed. His devotion to Leonie is truly remarkable, and I love that Ms. Maxwell was able to create a man with such a big heart and kind nature, even in the face of some really trying behavior on Leonie’s part.
If Ever I Should Love You might not have been the book I was looking for when I picked it up, but it was definitely a book I needed to read, and it’s one I urge all of you to pick up as well. Ms. Maxwell has chosen to tell an important story, even if it’s one that is difficult in places, and I for one, am glad she did. We need more historicals that focus on the darker aspects of life instead of the pretty clothes and fancy parties we so often read about.