Review – On Bended Knee by Celeste Bradley

About the Book:

From New York Times bestselling author Celeste Bradley comes the 6th installment of The Wicked Worthingtons Series.

At last! The story of healing the war-torn heart of Lysander Worthington!

Lysander Worthington has existed in a dark place since he came back from the war. His heart seems like a locked chamber, hidden even from his beloved family. Life seems like a constant battlefield. When Lysander encounters an enraged farm animal in a remote Yorkshire village, his battle instincts take over!

Isolated doctor’s widow, Gemma Oakes, has a habit of taking in the bent and the broken. When a handsome stranger rides into her village and proceeds to destroy their festival, Gemma believes she can help this beautiful, damaged man cleanse his heart of war.

Lysander’s darkness appeals to Gemma’s nurturing spirit, while his beautiful body mesmerizes her senses. Lysander has kept his secret for so many years, but Gemma’s inner strength and open heart tempt him to speak at last. Among the beloved, misfit inhabitants (not all human!) of Yew Manor, can Lysander and Gemma trust enough to understand broken hearts can mend, and shattered souls love again?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                On Bended Knee (The Wicked Worthington Series Book 6)

My Review:

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Lysander Worthington has been home from the war for six years, but the torment still continues inside him.  He was wounded, but erroneously listed as dead, which caused his already fragile mother, Iris, to weaken even further.  Lysander can’t shake the nightmares, the violent episodes, or the darkness within him.  Everything has lost its appeal, and even speech is almost beyond him.  His bewildered family showers him with love, but doesn’t know how to help him.  When Iris becomes seriously ill, and it appears she may not recover, Lysander is sent to fetch his brother Pollux, home.  Grateful for a specific task, Lysander takes to the road, only to have a minor injury to his horse, then a somewhat unique encounter at a small town fair in Yorkshire.  It involves a prize ram named Goose-Gogs, and winds up with the fair being trashed and Lysander being injured.

Gemma Oakes suffered a sprain to her hand at the fair, but could have been hurt badly if not for Lysander throwing her out of the way.  Gemma is the widow of a doctor, and orders the unconscious Lysander be taken to her manor where she can care for him.  Gemma worked closely with her now deceased husband, absorbing all the knowledge from him that she could, even accompanying him to battlegrounds to treat injured soldiers.  No other doctor has come to this part of the world to take her husband’s place, so she does the best she can to care for her neighbors.

Before the disastrous incident at the fair, Lysander noticed Gemma, and felt the first stirring of interest that he’s felt in forever.  Now he wakes up in her home, to find her caring for him, and his fascination continues.  Gemma is honest enough to admit that she feels a stirring of attraction, but attributes it to the fact the Lysander is exceptionally big and handsome, and that she misses the intimate contact between a man and a woman, nothing more.  She invites Lysander to stay while he and his horse recover, and puts him to work around the rundown manor, which he’s happy to do.

Because Gemma has seen battle and injured soldiers firsthand, she recognizes that Lysander is suffering a severe case of what we now call PTSD.  Unlike everyone else, she has the knack of knowing how to talk to him without pressuring him, and he feels a kinship because he knows that she’s also seen some of the things he has.  The beautiful, quiet countryside, the clean air, and Gemma’s soothing company do more good for Lysander than anything else has in the last six years.  By no means does he revert to the person he used to be, but, little by little, some light creeps into his darkness.

Lysander is experienced enough to realize that his desire is not one sided, especially when he catches Gemma gazing longingly at him.  He begins to feel a yearning to live again, to fight to become a man who’s worthy of Gemma, one who could live at her side in this beautiful country.  Just when it seems that there is hope for a future, tragedy strikes, sending a heartbroken Lysander back home, while Gemma tries to be strong and carry on alone.

Lysander’s symptoms and despair are so accurately and vividly depicted, that I could genuinely feel his pain and heartbreak.  The change in him from the carefree, confident, and flirtatious young man he was before he went to war is so drastic, that he calls his former self dead, and says he’s a different person now.  Even with this pain and darkness in him, he still has a core kindness and protectiveness within.  He has an affinity for animals, who seem to be drawn to him, even Gemma’s notorious “Bad Pony.”  Gemma is a perfect match for Lysander because of her understanding, but she has demons of her own to deal with.  Their physical chemistry together is so combustible, that even the scene where they’re just looking at each other sent my temperature up several degrees.

I have been a fan of the previous Worthington Family novels, and I love ON BENDED KNEE so, so much.  For me a successful story has great characters and plot, but an outstanding story touches my emotions, and I was definitely emotionally invested in this beautiful, passionate, heartwrenching, intense book.  It does help to have read the previous books in order to get a feel for the wonderfully dysfunctional Worthington family, but it’s not required, as Celeste Bradley provides the information you need to know here.  There were many smileworthy moments to go along with the tearful ones in ON BENDED KNEE, and the conclusion was so satisfying on many levels.  I have to rate it as one of my favorite books, as well as favorite heroes that I’ve read this year, and I highly recommend it to all romance fans, but especially those loving a wounded hero who finds healing.     ~Rose

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