One Summer of Surrender
Through the first two books of her Seasons series Jess Michaels has been building towards the reconciliation of the Earl of Stenfax and his first love, Lady Elise. Their romance was one of deep emotion that was ripped apart by what was seen as the ultimate betrayal and neither character was the same for it. In One Summer of Surrender the Earl and his lady are reunited in a most unusual way and find that their love for each other has never died.
Their story begins with a flashback to the night when the life Lucien Danford had pictured for himself came to a cruel end. Months before, his childhood sweetheart Elise had accepted his offer of marriage and their future together was assured. So he is devastated when he receives a letter from Elise breaking off their engagement so she can accept a more lucrative offer from the Duke of Kirkford. Unable to cope with this painful betrayal of his love, Lucien drinks a little too much and considers ending his life until his brother and a close friend literally talk him down from a ledge. Knowing that his passion for one woman was the cause of his breakdown, Lucien decides in that moment that he will guard his emotions and be as dispassionate as possible when considering another woman.
In the present, Lucien has unintentionally surrounded himself with very happy couples and it’s become a strain on his emotional walls. Those closest to Lucien believe that all he needs is an outlet for his sexual frustration and suggest he find a mistress for the duration of the season. Lucien believes this to be a fool’s errand as he’s never found that escape in the arms of any woman but Elise; however he goes to a known madam to have her match him with a woman looking for a protector. The interview with the madam seems unusual as she asks him rather pointed questions about his intentions and the kind of woman he wants. When she says she has just the woman for him, nothing prepares Lucien for what is revealed in the upstairs room: the widowed Duchess of Kirkford herself, Lady Elise.
Elise never thought she’d have the chance to be close to Lucien again, let alone be trapped in the same room as him in a bordello. Her position in society is precarious at best as her late husband died in a scandalous duel and his heir has made it clear he won’t support her financially unless she submits to his sexual advances. Left with nothing but an unwanted title, Elise is hoping to find a discreet gentleman to offer her some protection against the new Duke of Kirkford in exchange for an entirely physical relationship. Elise never expected that the madam she hoped would arrange the match would pair her up with the only man she ever loved. Their reunion flares all of Elise’s pent up sexual needs and she surrenders quickly to Lucien’s own lust-filled advances; however once they have slaked their physical desire all of the anger and pain in Lucien’s heart pushes him away from Elise. She knows she deserves his disdain but there is still a part of her heart that will always belong to him.
One Summer of Surrender is the payoff for readers who have come to care for Lucien Danford through the previous two books and have heard bits and pieces about the heartache he went through with Elise. We never knew exactly what caused their split but we have seen how Lucien kept himself detached and aloof from everyone except his brother. There were small hints that he had once been freer with his emotions but had suffered deeply when Elise broke off their engagement. Only knowing his side of the situation made it difficult to accept Elise as his heroine until her own tragic circumstances are revealed. Ms. Michaels takes her time in explaining to Lucien and the reader the true extent of Elise’s sacrifices and the despair she felt in leaving Lucien three years earlier. We feel her heartbreak each time he comes to her for sexual release but refuses to forgive her for the past or throws his anger in her face. By the end of the book I found myself hurting for her just as much as I did for Lucien at the very beginning.
One of the most important developments for both characters is reclaiming their sexual desires and fulfilment while working through their relationship. Lucien’s denial of his passions had the unintended side effect that his relations with women were completely impersonal to the point that he couldn’t see the need anymore. Elise was in a similar situation of removing herself emotionally from sex with her husband so there was no enjoyment for her at all. Seeing each other for the first time in the bordello snaps their resolve almost violently and lust seems to overwhelm them until they act on that mutual attraction. Ms. Michaels has a rare talent for creating vividly erotic scenes that still have a foundation in forwarding the emotional development of the characters. The storyline is almost backwards, with Lucien and Elise having sex right away and getting all of the sexual tension off the table while they each begin chipping away at the walls they’ve placed around their hearts.
The overly fast pace of One Summer of Surrender is perhaps its major flaw. As a result, the reconciliation between Elise and Lucien sometimes feels forced because the author needs to get the characters into the correct headspace for emotional epiphanies. Lovers reunited storylines are one of my favorite romantic devices so I missed getting to savor all of the joy and pain both characters experienced on their road back to love. That said, the book closes with a somewhat subdued happy ending for its main characters which I thought was perfect given their past history. I look forward to reading about their continuing relationship in the next novel and I recommend all of the Seasons series to fans of historical romance,