Sourcebooks Casablanca / May 7, 2013 / $12.99 print, $4.79 digital
Heir to the Bellefonte earldom, Nick Haddonfield has made a promise to his dying father that he’ll marry before the Season’s over. When Nick meets Lady Leah Lindsey, he realizes he’s found not only a damsel lady in need of rescuing, but also a perfect countess of convenience. Then he spoils everything by falling in love with his wife…the one woman he can never, ever have.
Nicholas by Grace Burrowes is the second in her “Lonely Lords” series. Readers might already be somewhat familiar with Leah Lindsey’s difficult situation, as a few events in Leah’s romance with Nick Haddonfield appeared in volume one as a subplot. As a reminder, after having suffered a scandal when young, Leah’s father attempts to marry her off to the highest bidder. Nick, meanwhile, is being pressured to marry because his father, the current earl, is declining in health and wishes to secure the succession.
As you might guess from the title, Nick has the more active role in the story; he’s portrayed as Leah’s Knight in Shining Armor. The Lindsey patriarch is not a nice man, and a good portion of the story is devoted to Nick’s attempts to extract Leah from her father’s clutches.
“I am an unmarried female. I cannot make contracts, cannot buy land, cannot hire or fire my own employees, cannot own a business unless left to me by my family. I have no saleable skills save governessing, and any family that hired me would be subject to the earl’s displeasure.”
…“He watches my pin money,” Leah went on, “so I cannot save but a few pennies on rare occasion. He keeps the jewelry given me by my mother or brothers locked away, so I cannot pawn it. My old dresses are taken from my wardrobe, and the same with my shoes, boots, and so forth.”
“You are a prisoner,” Reston concluded, temper evident in his tone.
“I am a daughter,” Leah retorted, “who has earned her father’s disfavor.”
…“I was wicked,” she said. “I caused quite a scandal once upon a time.”
“All of my dearest friends have at least one scandal to their names.” As did he, though he’d endure death by torture before he’d let Society catch a hint of it.
Nick’s role in their relationship is that of kindhearted rescuer. It’s very easy to picture him armored, carrying a lance, and riding to Leah’s rescue. Part of this is his physical presence, but an even larger part is how his moral character is portrayed. He is shown again and again to care about the well-being of others.
A man of Nick’s proportions did not fit easily into life in many ways, not the least of which was the physical. His horse, Buttercup, was a golden behemoth, her gender overlooked in favor of her ability to carry such a large rider with ease. Nick’s beds were built to his measurements, and when he was forced to spend a night between residences, he often chose to sleep on the ground rather than in beds made for much smaller people. He ate prodigious quantities of food, and could drink more spirits than most mere mortals could safely consume. All of his appetites, in fact, were in proportion to his size. But so too, were his conveyances, and thus he frequently took up his friends and acquaintances when they were in need of transportation.
For Leah’s sake and his own, Nick must overcome his own reluctance to marry and to father children. His reluctance is an extension of his heroic nature: he feels overly responsible for almost everything, from “killing” his mother with his large size at birth to later events. Nick thus gets himself into trouble with Leah as he tries to balance his desire for intimacy with his fear of failing his family and his future spouse. He is reduced to almost ridiculous mental convolutions to justify this. Leah points the contradictions to him, and must help him to achieve the necessary balance. All of this is complicated further by their physical desire for each other.
Nick and Leah’s relationship is at times frustrating, but for those readers who revel in emotional turmoil, their path to love will be rewarding.
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