On page seven of Julie Anne Long’s The Perils of Pleasure, published in 2008, is this:
For ’tis said an Eversea and a Redmond are destined to break each other’s hearts once per generation. And Lyon Redmond, the eldest of the Redmond children, disappeared some years ago. The Redmonds believe ’tis because Olivia Eversea—she’d be the eldest daughter of the Eversea family—broke his heart.
Thus began the legend of Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea. Since then, over the course of ten Pennyroyal Green books, Ms. Long has doled out bits and pieces of their story. (Was there a reader who finished I Kissed an Earl and who didn’t long with every fiber of her romance reading being to know what Lyon would do next?)
The Legend of Lyon Redmond begins with Lyon reading a scrawled upon piece of foolscap with the words “She’s getting married on the second Sunday in May.” For Lyon, “there had only ever been one “she.”
Lyon reads this missive in the first week of February. The story of what he does—and what Olivia does—comprises half of The Legend of Lyon Redmond. In the other half, Ms. Long gives us Lyon’s and Olivia’s past and, gods, is it a joy to read.
It isn’t much of a spoiler to share that Lyon and Olivia first met five years ago at the Sussex Christmas Eve Assembly. Lyon is there, tolerating the teasing of his younger brothers Miles and Jonathan, when he sees a girl with a face like a heart and, well, that’s pretty much it for him. Their eyes meet, she smiles, and “He understood, all at once, the word “joy,” and why it was so small, just three letters. It was as simple and profound as a sudden flame in the dark.” They dance, and, from the moment he takes her in his arms, Olivia is his.
At the quiet heart of the sparks around them, was a strange peaceful certainty. This person was meant for me.
They begin to meet, once a week, for a couple of hours, in secret, by a tree near a home Olivia brings a charity basket to. There they talk. Because even though the air between them becomes so erotically charged that Lyon now understands “why the Romans didn’t feed the lions before they set them upon the Christians. Hunger made one furious and untenable,” he knows that even a stolen kiss would be a declaration. And before he’ll ask Olivia for her hand, he wants first to get his father’s, Isaiah Redmond’s, permission.
As readers of the series know, Isaiah is not a man who blesses the unions his strong willed sons choose. He banished Miles when Miles fell for the unsuitable Cynthia Brightley. He threatened to disown his youngest son Jonathan. Isaiah’s plans for Lyon do not include a marriage to an Eversea. Isaiah’s intransigence puts Olivia’s and Lyon’s young love to the test and, as a result, Lyon leaves England never to return.
Until he gets the aforementioned letter.
I’m not going to share even a whit of what happens after that. I’ll say just that the novel works beautifully on so many levels. Ms. Long has left her readers with many questions over the course of this series. Did Jacob Eversea knowingly invest in slave ships? Is Colin Eversea the result of an illicit love affair between Isaiah Redmond and Isolde Eversea? Why did Olivia agree to marry Landsowne? How did Lyon become Le Chat? This book answers all of these with ingenuity and care.
Though I’ve not loved every book in the series, I’ve treasured the story of the Everseas and the Redmonds. I’ve reread all of the books at least once and several, I’ve read time and time again. Pennyroyal Green is a world both wondrous and ordinary, peopled with men and women whose lives have entranced me.
I worried The Legend of Lyon Redmond wouldn’t satisfy me. I was wrong. It’s moving, sensual, witty, compelling, startling and a hell of a tale. Lyon’s and Olivia’s love is the stuff of legends and Ms. Long has written them the story they, and we readers, deserve.
Buy it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo
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On my TBR!
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