5 Amazing Stars *****
Edward Clark (not his real name) would have preferred to stay dead and away from England. After being banished by his father, and betrayed by his younger brother, he decided he wanted no part of his inheritance or his family. His brother is about to be granted Edward’s rightful title of Viscount, and Edward plans to let it happen. As soon as he takes care of some business, he plans to leave the country again. In the years he’s been away, Edward has become a forger, a liar, and a thief, yet some remaining spark of goodness within him insists that he come back to help a friend in danger. Patrick Shaughnessy was the son of the stablemaster at Edward’s childhood home, and was Edward’s best friend. Patrick’s younger brother, Stephen, followed them around like a shadow. These are the only two people who mean anything at all to Edward, and so he has returned.
Frederica (“Free”) Marshall is owner and editor of the Women’s Free Press, a newspaper dedicated to furthering women’s rights. Stephen Shaughnessy works for the paper, writing a wickedly amusing “Man’s” column. The paper has come under attack, and Edward has discovered that Stephen is being used as a tool to discredit it, and this plot will also ruin his own scholastic career. Determined to thwart the plot and protect Stephen, Edward approaches Free directly. He makes her aware of the plan, and how he intends to stop it. Free, of course, doesn’t trust him completely, so she adds a devious twist of her own to the plan. It turns out that Edward was correct, and they manage to save the day, at least, for now.
Edward learns of other plans to destroy the newspaper. The question is, why? While women’s rights and suffragettes were unpopular with many male nobles in 1877, why does someone want to take such drastic action against Free’s newspaper? It appears that the villain has a much more personal reason to want revenge on Free, and he also has a very close connection to Edward.
Despite himself, Edward finds the walls he built around his heart crumbling a little more with every encounter he has with Free. She, in turn, finds herself falling for him. Edward begins to tell her more of his story, never glossing over the criminal things he’s done, emphasizing to her that he’s truly a bad person. Free sees the good in him, and part of him actually begins to hope he might have a future with her. Then a new plot is hatched, one so nefarious and ugly, that Edward believes the only chance to save Free is to marry her. It would require his giving up the life he’s now living, and reclaiming his title. While he has shared a lot with Free, he hasn’t yet told her who he really is.
I adore this book and these two characters. Free is strong and smart and resilient, yet not hard, as many activists are portrayed to be. She originally never thought of marrying, but considered it when she fell in love. She accepts Edward’s past, and sees who he is now. I’m also a sucker for a wounded hero, and Edward suffered greatly due to his family’s treatment of him. He also loves the person Free is, and has no desire to change her, or to stop her from what she’s called to do.
Courtney Milan has written yet another masterpiece – an interesting, intelligent story of our history, redemption, and most importantly, a wonderful love story. Huzzah!
Reviewed by Bonnie for Buried Under Romance