Apr 24 2013 5:00pm

First Look: Amara Royce’s Never Too Late (May 2, 2013)

Never Too Late by Amara RoyceAmara Royce
Never Too Late
Kensington / May 2, 2013 / $4.99 digital

Expect the unexpected, especially in a room filled with books…

Honoria Duchamp is well aware that men often consider widows easy prey for the role of mistress. What else could explain the attentions of handsome Lord Devin, and his visits to her bookshop? The much younger Viscount has even shown interest in the printing press with which she creates pamphlets on London’s basest injustices. Yet his chief interest appears to be in her…

Coerced to investigate Nora’s controversial pamphlets, Devin expected to find a bookish matron. Instead, he is taken with Nora’s womanly beauty, sharp intellect, and quick wit. Soon, what begins as an unwelcome task becomes a pleasure, and Devin’s job becomes more dangerous—for them both. For Nora has no idea of the vicious element she’s crossed. Now Devin will risk his reputation to protect her—and much more to win her love…

Before reading Amara Royce’s Never Too Late, I’d never encountered a Victorian romance with an older heroine and a much younger hero. Just because historical “cougar” stories are unique, however, I didn’t anticipate enjoying the main characters’ relationship. In my estimation, women mature so much more quickly than men that I expected to have a hard time believing a 40-year-old widow and bookseller would have much in common with a 26-year-old viscount. And at first, I didn’t buy it.

At the beginning, the middle-aged heroine Honoria “Nora” Duchamp describes the silver strands in her hair and the baggy skin on her hands and her arthritic joints. She sounded much worse off than the average forty-year-old today, and back in the 1800s, I figured she must have been considered ancient. The customers in her bookshop don’t make her sound very appealing either. One worried mother used Honoria as a cautionary tale for her teenage daughter on the brink of entering the marriage market. She said: “Did you see that woman, Margaret? Did you? Take a closer look at her and at this cramped, suffocating little shop. This is the best you can hope for if you don’t marry well. Do you think that shriveled-up mouse of a woman wanted this menial life?” Another customer, trying to be kind in the most patronizing way imaginable, said, “Now, dear, keep in mind you have a lovely face, regardless of your age. Don’t lose hope!”

Because Nora didn’t project sexuality or self-confidence, it was initially hard to believe that the handsome Lord Alexander “Alex” Devin would be physically attracted to her. The more time the mismatched couple spent together, however, the more their connection seemed plausible. For example, the first time they met, Alex saved Nora from an unfortunate fall off of a ladder in her store, and he got a face full of boobs. Apparently, he liked having them in his face.

Upon entering, he hadn’t expected to do more than scan the shop and get a general impression of its owner. Unobtrusive, subtle, distant. Instead, he’d become abruptly and intimately acquainted with her ample bosom before he even formally knew her name. Bloody hell, he’d thought as her body careened at him. He could still recall the faint scent of lilies that wafted from her. He could still feel the delicate weight of her in his arms. And on his skin.

Because Alex could appreciate Nora’s womanly charms and rounded form, her age seemed less important. And Honoria was, of course, attracted to Lord Devin in return—his strong arms and chest, his warmth on her skin. She “tingled” from the memory of his touch.

Alex and Nora’s connection goes beyond the mere physical, however. They also seem to be on the same level intellectually. They talk about books and what they enjoy reading. Honoria is a smart lady, very well educated, and a descendent of nobility. And she has opinions. Lots of them. Perhaps too many of them. But Lord Devin appreciates her brains and maturity.

He recalled her open conversation with him. Her composure impressed him. No shy, tittering ingénue. No haughty, challenging debutante. No fawning. She’d been irked by his impertinent questions, certainly, but she showed no doubt or self-consciousness. No pretense. No excuses.

As Alex said, Nora connects with him as his equal. Even though she’s a woman in Victorian England, a widow, with less money and from a lower station than Alex, she doesn’t act subservient toward him. She doesn’t let him push her around. She knows what she wants, and she stands up for herself. And he respects her for that. In one scene, he attempts to seduce her, and she puts him in his place.

“Lord Devin, no apology?”

What the devil? Apologies were not part of his vocabulary. “For what?”

“Why, for taking liberties, sir. You wouldn’t treat a woman of your station so cavalierly.” She didn’t look offended but simply expectant.

“My dear, I am sorry if you feel offended by my actions. I can assure you they shall not be repeated if they are considered unwanted. But that was far from cavalier. And I would not have you delude yourself into thinking it was a casual salute. I meant it, and I would do it again if you were willing.”

“I am not your dear, Lord Devin. That is a disingenuous apology, and what you describe will never happen. Nothing you could offer would convince me to stoop to whoredom.”

Alex might be young, but he isn’t immature. His father died when he was eighteen, and he had to become a man and shoulder the responsibility of caring for his family. Like Nora, he believes in honor above all else. He stays home and manages his land and wealth because he is the first son. She stays in her bookshop because it was her father’s legacy and because it is her livelihood. Neither one of them have very many options or much personal freedom. They’re “cogs in the machine,” bound by their role in society. And yet, they find each other anyway and break all the rules because of love.

Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Amara Royce's Never Too Late (out May 2):

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Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.

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Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I have this on pre-order--I really like the premise (naturally--said the late 40s woman).
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