Lady Folbroke's Delicious Deception
Are you familiar with the Jimmy Buffett song “If You Like Pina Coladas”? I’ve always thought it was a fun song, especially since I do like pina coladas. I’m not that fond of what the song is about, though. Looking for another lover and finding your perfect love in the one you have creeps me out more than it warms my heart. This book exemplifies why that is.
Emily Longesley waited patiently for her intended to return from the war and has been waiting patiently for him ever since. Yes, there was a wedding but since he left her just weeks after their nuptials, it is almost like the ceremony never occurred. She would have been content to go on waiting for him indefinitely, but his heir apparent, Rupbert, comes by and reminds Emily that the estate she has run with such consummate skill is not really hers; it is her husband’s. And if she doesn’t produce said husband soon Rupbert will presume he is dead and act accordingly. Emily heads to London. She has no intention of letting her husband’s disinterest in their marriage cost her the home she has worked so hard for.
Adrian, Earl of Folbroke, would rather be dead than blind. Since he is still living but rapidly losing his sight, he works at changing the situation. He spends his time in London drinking and gambling at the worst dives imaginable, hoping someone will eventually slit his throat for his coin. Then he meets a mysterious lady who stirs his blood and brings out the noble side of his character which has long lain dormant. Can he hope for a bit of light before the darkness completely consumes him?
Emily tracks Adrian to a truly wretched dive, where she proceeds to capture his attention. However, that attention is only to the physical her since he doesn’t recognize his own wife. She proceeds to seduce him, determined to have him in her bed if nowhere else. As the two begin their affair it becomes apparent just how much they can mean to each other. Can their relationship withstand the blow of Emily’s secret?
One of the things I really enjoyed about this novel was the character of Emily. She is intelligent and runs her estate well. She is a practical, patient and caring person. I loved that in one of her initial conversations with Adrian she says, “Now that the moment grows close, I can not pretend to a facade of sophistication. While I might wish to pretend otherwise to be with you like this frightens me.” I found that charmingly realistic. The early portions of the novel make clear that Emily is no practiced Femme Fatale, so it makes sense that she would be unable to pretend to be one. While she knows the three years since her wedding have seen her grow into a true beauty, lack of experience in flirting or other seductive arts has kept her at the level of a young innocent. She plays to her own strengths in luring Adrian to her – honesty, kindness and her own attractiveness. While Adrian can’t see she lets him get a good feel for her charms and that is enough to entice his interest. While her motives for seducing Adrian as a secret lover were a touch on the silly side, seduction for any reason is such a common trope in historical romance, I ignored it.
Adrian on the other hand is this novel’s Achilles heel. All of his actions are selfish, petty, and frankly, stupid. His grandfather and father killed themselves when their degenerative eye disorder reached the stage of blindness and he seems to think this is a great solution to the problem. He prides himself on being “noble” enough not to propagate and therefore, not to pass this affliction on to his heirs. Hence, his complete avoidance of his wife. He is, however, happy to share all this information with the mistress he has known for less than a week. I could understand his concern to an extent. He did not want his abilities as Earl questioned and with an heir like Rupbert in the wings, who could blame him? But I questioned that he would be able to hide out in London for three years, going out drinking and carding at dives, with no one ever catching on to the fact that he was the Earl of Folbroke. I also wondered why a man who knew he had a devoted wife and many equally loyal friends would not enlist their aid. I know sometimes it can be easier to talk to strangers but this seemed to take that point to excess.
As man and mistress Adrian and Emily had a shockingly good relationship. They were more about the talking than the sex and truly connected on so many levels. Emily brought out the best in Adrian and in a few short days had turned him from a man who wished to throw away his life into a man who wished to succeed in it. I enjoyed their conversations and felt a real connection between them. I was intrigued by how they dealt with Adrian’s blindness. Their courtship was very well handled.
I coudln’t get over the ridiculous reasons for their initial separation, though. Every time Adrian brought it up, I wanted to throw the book against the wall. You could tell that while he mouthed platitudes about how he was doing everything to save his wife bother, he was driven completely by self-pity and wounded pride. His attitude: How could someone as perfect as him have this flaw? Given what he must have seen men suffer through in the war, this just didn’t ring true. So while I enjoyed the book and really enjoyed many of the interactions between the hero and heroine, I had to grade down a bit for that particular annoying plot point. Other than that, this is a quick and enjoyable Regency read.