The two latest books from Anna Bradley are about the Sutherland sisters, Eleanor and Charlotte, and are closely related. I read the books back to back, and am including both reviews in this post.
Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor: There have been six suitors so far, all vying for the attention—and generous dowry—of the beautiful, elusive Eleanor Sutherland. What does this woman really want? Who has what it takes to melt the heart of the so-called Lady Ice? These are the questions Camden West keeps asking himself. But rather than wait for answers, Cam takes matters into his own hands . . . for he has a secret weapon.
Cam knows that Ellie’s sister, Charlotte, harbors a scandalous secret—one that could bring ruin to the Sutherland name. If Ellie marries him, Cam promises to keep mum. But is she willing to sacrifice her own happiness for her sister’s reputation?
To Ellie’s surprise, it becomes clear that Cam doesn’t need her money, nor is he interested in her status. Soon, what begins as a sham engagement transforms into something deeper, and more passionate, than Ellie could have imagined. Is it possible that all Cam truly wanted was her? And is that reason enough to say yes—or is handsome Cam hiding something else? Even for a lady in love, only the truth will do . . .
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Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor (The Sutherlands)
Eleanor Sutherland is known to the gentlemen of the ton as “Lady Frost,” as she discourages suitors and has rejected six marriage proposals. What everyone doesn’t realize is that Eleanor is determined to marry only for love. She watched her own mother become invisible to her cruel and uncaring father over the years, and will remain a spinster before she endures the same fate. She’s now in her third season, and has turned away Camden West’s attempt at courtship, although he hasn’t yet actually proposed. But Cam is determined that Eleanor will be his wife – he’s not after her dowry or her social connections – he’s out for revenge. Years ago, Eleanor’s father (who is now deceased)did a great wrong to Cam’s family, and in Cam’s mind, retribution is due. He’s also convinced that marriage to Eleanor is the only way to set things to right.
Cam misjudges Eleanor right from the start, believing society’s view of her as being cold and uncaring. He assumes a convenient marriage will not harm a woman without feelings. When his straight forward attempt at courtship fails, he devises a plan of blackmail, which could ruin Eleanor’s younger sister, Charlotte. Eleanor is appalled, and refuses his proposal, but agrees to a fake courtship to appease Cam until she figures a way out of this situation.
Cam, to me, was justifiably angry for the wrong done to his family, but his need for revenge took an irrational path. He was wearing blinders as to how he was victimizing innocent people for sins they didn’t commit. During the courtship, he begins to see the real Eleanor and her reasons for refusing marriage, and he becomes more determined than ever to have her for his wife, but now for personal reasons. Eleanor is smart and strong, and is dismayed to find herself becoming attracted to the man who would blackmail her. LADY ELEANOR’S SEVENTH SUITOR is a satisfying enemy-to-lovers story, with the changes in this couple’s feelings happening in a believable manner. The happy ever after was hard won, and their resulting love and passion made for a very enjoyable read.
Lady Charlotte’s First Love: From spirited young woman to reckless widow, the beautiful Marchioness of Hadley remains a force to be reckoned with. But beneath her antics lies a broken heart . . .
Since her husband’s tragic death, Lady Charlotte Hadley has embarked on a path of careless behavior and dangerous hijinks from which no one can divert her . . . until suddenly, her first—and only—true love reenters her world. Their fiery romance was so scandalous Charlotte had no choice but to marry another, more suitable man. Surely now they are both free to pick up where they left off . . .
Julian West has returned to London a hero after making a name for himself in battle at Waterloo. Every woman is vying for his attention—except the one who stole his heart. No matter, Julian has other obligations. But when Charlotte’s sister, Eleanor, charges him with protecting the widow from ruin, what ensues is another kind of battle—one that leads a chase from London’s bars and brothels to the finest country estate as Julian and Charlotte untangle a host of secrets, regrets, and misunderstandings. For could it be that the love they’ve forced themselves to forget is exactly what they need to remember? . .
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Lady Charlotte’s First Love (The Sutherlands)
We met our heroine, Charlotte Sutherland, in LADY ELEANOR’S SEVENTH SUITOR, where she was part of a revenge plot by Camden West and his cousin, Julian West. Julian’s task was to compromise Charlotte, which he did, but with disastrous consequences. Charlotte fell immediately and genuinely in love with Julian, and to his surprise, he fell in love also. When Charlotte learns that her seduction was part of a scheme, she is devastated, and refuses all further contact with Julian. In what is no doubt an act of desperation, Charlotte immediately marries Lord Hadley, and a heartbroken Julian goes off to war.
In the intervening year, the lives of Charlotte and Julian have changed drastically. Julian fought in the battle of Waterloo, and has returned to be hailed as a hero. Yet, he’s a different man – he suffers guilt and nightmares, and he’s not the charming, carefree man he was. As for Charlotte, her husband tragically died after only four months of marriage. Rather than remain in mourning, Charlotte has returned to town with a vengeance. She keeps company with three other “wicked” widows and Lord Devon, who has a reputation as a debauched rake and a possible murderer. Their escapades get more daring and scandalous every day, and Charlotte is teetering on the edge of social ruin.
Charlotte’s sister, Eleanor, and her now-husband, Cam, beg Julian to try to bring Charlotte to heel, before she takes an irrevocable step. The last thing Julian wants is to see the woman who broke his heart, but he agrees, and begins to dog her steps, rescuing her from outlandish situations. Charlotte doesn’t want to be rescued, and doesn’t want to see Julian, but he won’t stay away.
It’s clear that there is definitely more to Charlotte’s story. Her actions are caused by a desperation that is tearing her apart. While she is battling the demons from her past and her brief marriage, Julian is suffering from PTSD and fighting his own ghosts. His new personality can be cruel, while Charlotte’s flightiness and disregard for seemingly everything but excitement is painful and hard to read. While I could sympathize with both of them, I was torn between wanting to shake them and hug them. I had a hard time liking the people this couple had become.
We do get occasional glimpses of the people Charlotte and Julian used to be. When the details of Charlotte’s marriage are revealed, her actions become understandable. It seems impossible that this couple could ever find a way back to each other, through the pain and betrayals and the obstacles now in their path. Yet, they do, and the journey is very rough. This is not a light or easy read, but it is emotional and powerful and impacted me greatly. LADY CHARLOTTE’S FIRST LOVE is an intense read, one that I won’t forget, and one that I recommend for the reader who wants a compelling story that will totally envelop you.