If Ever I Should Love You
By Cathy Maxwell
Publisher: Avon Books
Reviewed by PJ
Unexpectedly inheriting an old and respected title is all well and good unless, of course, the title inherited comes with a pile of debts and no funds. Such is the case for former Captain Roman Gilchrist, now the Earl of Rochdale. It's becoming increasingly clear that there is only one way to pay the debts, restore the estate, and support his family. As distasteful as it is to him, Roman must marry money. When his attorney presents him with the names of society's Spinster Heiresses, "three young women, all marriageable, very attractive, and wealthy beyond your dreams," Roman is startled to realize he already knows one of them. Several years earlier, while serving in India, Roman met and was captivated by Miss Leonie Charnock but their association did not end well. When Roman, an honorable man, acted to save Leonie's reputation his actions cost him any hope of advancement in his career as well as the regard of his peers while Leonie, with her parents, flitted off to London with no stain whatsoever upon her reputation. Leonie and her money were going to save the earldom. She owed him.
Leonie Charnock is a woman who is haunted by the events of her past and has found her own way of dealing with them. She's worked hard to come to terms with her actions and their consequences but, with one dance, they all come rushing back. She knows well what Roman did for her but, as a young woman at the time, she didn't realize the extent of the price he paid. Leonie knows she owes him but has no desire to be anyone's wife. On the other hand, if she can convince him to agree to a marriage in name only, living in separate places, he can have the money he needs and she can finally have the independence she craves. When it becomes clear that's not going to be the case, Leonie reacts in a way that creates a chasm between them that may never be breached.
In this first book of her new Spinster Heiresses series, Cathy Maxwell takes a familiar romance convention and turns it on its head. Readers are used to seeing tormented heroes who turn to gambling, sex, or drink to quell their demons. Rarely, is it the heroine who wages this battle while the hero is the proper, responsible half of the relationship. Leonie and Roman have several obstacles to overcome if they have any hope of a happy ending, many of their own creation. Yes, Leonie's addiction plays a large role in their relationship but so too does Roman's reaction to it and to her. There are times in the book when neither of them is very likeable but if you've ever self-medicated or lived with someone who has you know there are always peaks and valleys to navigate. Kudos to Maxwell for not giving them any easy answers. This makes Leonie and Roman more realistic, their actions more believable, and the evolution of their relationship more satisfying.
If you're looking for something a little different, with real-life issues, flawed yet resilient characters, deep emotion, and a hard-won happy ending, give this one a try.
Do you enjoy romances that are a bit out of the ordinary?
Are you fond of settings other than London ballrooms?
Do you have a favorite Cathy Maxwell novel?
One randomly chosen person leaving a comment before 11:00 PM, January 6 (Eastern), will receive a print copy of If Ever I Should Love You. (U.S. / Canadian addresses only)