Series: Scoundrels of St James #5
Published by Avon Impulse on January 7, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
William Graves is the last of Feagan's scoundrels. A onetime grave robber turned royal physician, he has devoted his life to saving others—because he knows there is no way to save himself. Especially not around a lady like Winnie. Though undeserving of her touch, he cannot resist. His passion cannot be tamed … even in the face of certain danger.
Winnie, the Duchess of Avendale, never knew peace until her brutal husband died. With William she's discovered burning desire—and the healing power of love. But now, confronted by the past she thought she'd left behind, Winnie must face her fears … or risk losing the one man who can fulfill all her dreams.
Sir William Graves, once abandoned as a boy by his gravedigger father and raised in Faegan’s gang, is physician to her Majesty Queen Victoria. He is in love with Lady Winnie, Duchess of Avendale, and will do anything in his power to protect her. Including staging the death of her nasty, abusive husband — now three years gone — after he beat Winnie very close to death. In those years, they have developed a deep friendship and each holds a secret love for the other. On the night of Winnie’s wildly successful fundraiser ball for the new hospital, she confesses to William that she has begun smelling her dead husband’s scent and is misplacing things only to find them again in odd places. She’s afraid she is going crazy. But William knows she is not crazy and begins to suspect that the evil Duke of Avendale has found his way back to England’s shores and is tormenting his wife in a sick game of revenge.
Winnie is a strong, impressive woman. She suffered years of brutal domestic violence from her husband and in the years since his death has recovered and blossomed into a confident woman. She still has moments of vulnerability which make you want to weep for all that she has been through, but her inner strength keeps both her and her son moving forward towards a lighter, happier life without the spectre of her husband looming over them.
William is honorable and loyal to Winnie. There are many reasons why he cannot marry her, yet he remains faithful in his silent devotion and protects her as best he can from the evil machinations of her husband. Even to the point of risking the hangman’s noose! All so Winnie may sleep peacefully once more.
Together, William and Winnie provide the love, support, and loyalty they both need. This novella is the sweet conclusion to a romance that has been building throughout the series (though you don’t need to read the other books to enjoy this one).
Despite its novella length, this is a well-rounded and well-written story. The plot is compelling and comes to a satisfying end without feeling rushed (a tad anti-climactic, but not rushed). The main characters are fleshed out with background stories, current presence, and hopes for the future. Even the cast of secondary characters play an important role in the plot’s progress. The central suspense/mystery kept me on the edge of my seat and Ms. Heath even manages to tackle a weighty topic like domestic violence and its effect on victims without coming across as preachy or used as a flippant plot device. Brava!!