A genius with a terrible loss…
Gifted pianist Valentine Windham, youngest son of the Duke of Moreland, has little interest in his father’s obsession to see his sons married, and instead pours passion into his music. But when Val loses his music, he flees to the country, alone and tormented by what has been robbed from him.
A widow with a heartbreaking secret…
Grieving Ellen Markham has hidden herself away, looking for safety in solitude. Her curious new neighbor offers a kindred lonely soul whose desperation is matched only by his desire, but Ellen’s devastating secret could be the one thing that destroys them both.
Together they’ll find there’s no rescue from the past, but sometimes losing everything can help you find what you need most.
This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
I really liked Val from the previous books. He was always chipper and humorous, but behind that facade, and hiding behind his beloved piano, he is grieving for his two older brothers, one lost to consumption and the other to war. Plus his relationship with his father is a bit stodgy as Val feels invisible to his father, he feels like he is nothing similar to his older brothers, so he pours his heart and soul into his music, that is until his hand plagues him with what seems to be rheumatism brought on by childhood injuries and playing for long hours non stop. For his hand to recover, he must give up playing, which is unimaginable for him as he loves his piano unconditionally to a point that ‘she’, the piano, is referred to as his mistress.
She smiled at him, and Val felt his heart trip on the next few beats. Good God, she was lovely. Just sitting here outside the Rooster, cradling her mug in her hands. A little dusty, a little tired, but in her warm, earthy dark-eyed way, she was beautiful.
“Ellen?” Val knelt to peer up at her where she sat. “Shall I leave?” He put a hand on her knee then slid it up to her hip, holding her gaze as he did. She laid her fingers over the back of his debilitated left hand. They’d been heading for this moment for weeks, but now that it was upon her, she looked not just surprised but stunned. “I’ll leave,” Val said, settling back onto his heels and resting his cheek against her thigh. “If you ask it of me, I’ll get up and see about your locks, share a cup of cider and an apple tart, ask you your plans for the week, and understand.” “Understand?” He brought his other hand around her waist and held on, knee-walking in close to hug her middle on a sigh.
During a card game, Val wins one of the Roxbury’s downtrodden estates and that leads him to encounter Ellen, our heroine. They have met before, a year ago when Val stole a heart stopping kiss which was forgotten. You can tell Ellen is quite taken with Val and is happy to see him again. She enjoys his company immensely after living on her own for the past five years since her husband passed – he was the previous Baron of Roxbury. As Val and his friends fix up the estate, he and Ellen get cozy together, forming a dalliance of sorts. She basks in the unknown feelings and emoticons that Val stirs in her as things never felt like this with her late husband as they do with Val.
“Ellen.” Val’s smile disappeared. “I won’t hurt you.” Her gaze dipped to his groin then back up to his face, and he prayed he hadn’t lied. She’d been without a man for five damned years, and Val was… he was well endowed, and he knew this for a fact. Tagging along with Nick on this or that debauch, having four older brothers, spending a couple years at public school then several more at university… Val had seen enough to know his equipment was in proportion to the rest of him. “I won’t hurt you,” he said again, holding her gaze. “Because our first rule is you tell me if you don’t like something. Promise?” She nodded once, but her gaze drifted back to his groin. “If you can’t find your voice, then pinch me,” Val went on. “Pinch me hard, understand?” “Pinch you,” Ellen repeated. “Hard.” “Hard enough to bruise,” Val clarified. “And my arse doesn’t count, because when I’m in a certain mood, I like that.” “Dear heavens.” He smiled at her blush.
“I love you,” Val began, wondering where in the nine circles of hell that had come from. He sat forward, elbows on his knees, and scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m sorry; that came out… wrong. Still…” He glanced at her over his shoulder. “It’s the truth.” Ellen’s fingers settled on his nape, massaging in the small, soothing circles Val had come to expect when her hands were on him. “If you love me,” she said after a long, fraught silence, “you’ll tell me the truth.” Val tried to see that response as positive—she hadn’t stomped off, railed at him, or tossed his words back in his face. Yet. But neither had she reciprocated. “My name is Valentine Windham,” he said slowly, “but you’ve asked about my family, and in that regard—and that regard only—I have not been entirely forthcoming.” “Come forth now,” she commanded softly, her hand going still. “My father is the Duke of Moreland. That’s all. I’m a commoner, my title only a courtesy, and I’m not even technically the spare anymore, a situation that should improve further, because my brother Gayle is deeply enamored of his wife.” “Improve?” Ellen’s voice was soft, preoccupied. “I don’t want the title, Ellen.” Val sat up, needing to see her eyes. “I don’t ever want it, not for me, not for my son or grandson. I make pianos, and it’s a good income. I can provide well for you, if you’ll let me.” “As your mistress?” “Bloody, blazing… no!” Val rose and paced across the porch, turning to face her when he could go no farther. “As my wife, as my beloved, dearest wife.” A few heartbeats of silence went by, and with each one, Val felt the ringing of a death knell over his hopes. “I would be your mistress. I care for you, too, but I cannot be your wife.” Val frowned at that. It wasn’t what he’d been expecting. A conditional rejection, that’s what it was. She’d give him time, he supposed, to get over his feelings and move along with his life. “Why not marry me?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest. She crossed her arms too. “What else haven’t you told me?” “Fair enough.” Val came back to sit beside her and searched his mind. “I play the piano. I don’t just mess about with it for polite entertainment. Playing the piano used to be who I was.” “You were a musician?” Val snorted. “I was a coward, but yes, I was a musician, a virtuoso of the keyboard. Then my hand”—he held up his perfectly unremarkable left hand—“rebelled against all the wear and tear, or came a cropper somehow. I could not play anymore, not without either damaging it beyond all repair or risking a laudanum addiction, maybe both.” “So you came out here?” Ellen guessed. “You took on the monumental task of setting to rights what I had put wrong on this estate and thought that would be… what?” “A way to feel useful or maybe just a way to get tired enough each day that I didn’t miss the music so much, and then…” “Then?” She took his hand in hers, but Val wasn’t reassured. His mistress, indeed. “Then I became enamored of my neighbor. She beguiled me—she’s lovely and dear and patient. She’s a virtuoso of the flower garden. She cared about my hand and about me without once hearing me play the piano, and this intrigued me.” “You intrigued me,” Ellen admitted, pressing the back of his hand to her cheek. “You still do.” “My Ellen loves to make beauty, as do I.” Val turned and used his free hand to trace the line of Ellen’s jaw. “She is as independent as I am and values her privacy, as I do.” “You are merely lonely, Val.”
Val comes to a pint to where he wants to marry Ellen, but she refuses him, not wanting to drag her troubles into his life. What I’ve noticed with these Windham brothers is, while they might be a handsome and charming lot, they have the damnest time getting their lady loves to accept their proposals. But in the end, their feelings for them wears the heroines down till they give them the answer they seek.
“This is a friendly forty winks, Mrs. FitzEngle.” He snagged her wrist. “Join me.” She regarded him where he lay. “Ellen.” The teasing tone in Val’s voice faded. “I will not ravish you in broad daylight unless you ask it of me, though I would hold you.” She nodded uncertainly and gingerly lowered herself beside him, flat on her back. “You’re out of practice,” Val observed, rolling to his side. “We must correct this state of affairs if we’re to get our winks.” Before she could protest, he arranged her so she was on her side as well, his body curved around hers, her head resting on his bicep, his arm tucking her back against him. “The benefit of this position,” his said, speaking very close to her ear, “is that I cannot behold your lovely face if you want to confide secrets, you see? I am close enough to hear you whisper, but you have a little privacy, as well. So confide away, and I’ll just cuddle up and perhaps even drift off.” “You would drift off while I’m confiding?” “I would allow you the fiction. It’s one of the rules of gentlemanly conduct owed on summer days to napping companions.” His arm was loosely draped over her middle so he could sense the tension in her. “I can hear your thoughts turning like a mill wheel. Let your mind rest too, Ellen.” “I am unused to this friendly napping.” “You and your baron never stole off for an afternoon nap?” Val asked, his fingers tracing the length of her arm. “Never kidnapped each other for a picnic on a pretty day?” “We did not.” Ellen sighed as his fingers stroked over her arm again. “He occasionally took tea with me, though, and we often visited at the end of the day.” But, Val concluded with some satisfaction, they did not visit in bed or on blankets or with their clothes off. Ellen had much to learn about napping. His right hand drifted up to her shoulder, where he experimentally squeezed at the muscles joining her neck to her back. “Blazes,” he whispered, “you are strong. Relax, Ellen.” His right hand was more than competent to knead at her tense muscles, and when he heard her sigh and felt her relax, he realized he’d found the way to stop her mill wheel from spinning so relentlessly. “Close your eyes, Ellen,” he instructed softly. “Close your eyes and rest.” In minutes, her breathing evened out, her body went slack, and sleep claimed her. Gathering her a little more closely, he planted a kiss on her nape and closed his eyes. His hand wasn’t throbbing anymore, his belly was full, and he was stealing a few private moments with a pretty lady on a pretty day.
While I did enjoy this book, it took me a couple days longer to finish than the previous two. I liked it very much, but maybe a smidgen less than Westhaven and St Just’s books. I don’t think it was Val as I stated that I’ve liked him from the very first book, nor do I think it was Ellen, as she was alright, but not my favorite heroine, I just don’t know what made me knock my rating to four stars. All I know is, for me, it could of been slightly more better, maybe a more exciting plot or something? Who knows, all I know is, I didn’t regret reading it and I’m having a splendid time getting to know each Windham sibling.