The Sins of Lord Lockwood
NB: Today, we have a guest review from Reader Claudia on the latest release by Meredith Duran. Here’s Claudia’s bio:
At sixteen, I found my older cousin’s stash of Barbara Cartlands and other assorted Harlequin-type romance housed in an old sewing cabinet and life was never the same! I took a long break from romance but rediscovered it about four years ago. I love history, so I mostly read historical romance. I really like when it’s not all about lords and ladies, when the author makes an effort to get the historical background to be more than wallpaper, and when the characters are not complete 21st century transplants. At the same time, I also like my heroes and heroines to be what I consider “progressive,” and challenge the mores of their societies.
Favorite authors include Meredith Duran, Mary Balogh, Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden, Courtney Milan, and Rose Lerner. I work in communications and I’m a mother of two tweenagers.
I am obviously a glutton for punishment because I was positively giddy when my request for an ARC was granted, and I pretty much inhaled this book in two seatings.
I meant to re-read The Duke of Shadows and A Lady’s Code of Misconduct prior to starting it, but of course I have no willpower whatsoever when it comes to a new Meredith Duran book. While I do think this book is best enjoyed after reading these other two, it stands well on its own. It’s a loose trilogy, I’d say.
The overarching theme is estranged spouses. The hero and heroine are slow to recognize that their practical arrangement goes in fact much deeper. Then they are separated due to tragic events and to assuming the worst about each other.
The book is one delightful look at how they find their way back to one another after nearly four years of heartache.
William (Liam) Devaliant, the fifth earl of Lockwood, and Anna Wallace, a Scottish countess and heiress in her own right, are immediately, powerfully attracted to each other and quickly agree on a marriage of convenience — he to set debts left by his father, she to lead a fully independent life and to be able to help her tenants.
They do recognize love is also involved; out of fear of each other’s reactions and overwhelmed by their emotions, however, there are no declarations.
(I can see some readers calling it insta-love, but that wasn’t an issue for me. It is true, though, that not knowing each other very well and hiding their feelings made it all the easier for Anna to presume abandonment and for Liam to hide the truth from her for a while.)
The prologue shows Lockwood being beaten to a pulp on a ship en route to New South Wales. Nobody believes he’s a earl, and he has no idea what has just befallen him. Just days before he was the happiest of men, newly wed to Anna.
A few chapters are set in 1857, when Anna and Liam first meet. Most of the book is a mix of 1857 chapters and 1861 chapters. The scene immediately prior to their wedding is sadly foreboding, and I wanted to scream, “Bad luck, bad luck, don’t look at her!!”
The 1861 events are concomitant with the London events of The Duke of Shadows and after the events in A Lady’s Code in Misconduct, which is set in 1860 (early on, Lockwood, Crispin Burke, and Julian meet; there’s a mention to Crispin’s wife and Julian and Emma are obviously still working out their differences. Toward the end of the book, Emma and Julian are shown happily married, and it was a delight to see them again!)
When Anna finds out by chance that Lockwood is in London, three years after his disappearance and eight months after being back to England, she’s mad at him for not letting her know and still very hurt by his leaving her. However, she wants to remain married (for practical reasons, she tells herself) so she moves into his townhouse.
It doesn’t take long for Anna to realize what is truly going on (and why her husband’s servants are more like a ragtag army.) There’s some self-hating and survivor’s guilt from Liam’s part and he still keeps Anna at arm’s length even after their apparent reconciliation. An incident triggers his fears that he’s slowly going mad and he again distances himself from her.
Anna has so many funny one-liners! She recognizes that she’s the rare woman in the 1850s/60s, able to have a measure of independence and to speak her mind. She is keenly interested in science and is super blunt. (Sidebar to say that I loved reading about a Scottish lady for a change, rather than about my nth highlander laird).
I suspect Meredith Duran found at least part of her inspiration for Anna in Scottish scientist Mary Somerville, who, among her many other roles, tutored Ada Lovelace. The name Ada surfaces later in the story as well.
A few times I wished Anna to be a little less sharp-tongued but, on the whole, hurray for a prickly and deeply practical heroine! She spent her childhood being pawned off to relatives, which goes a long way in explaining why she never looked too deeply into Liam’s disappearance and just assumed he had absconded with her money. Once she knows what’s what, though, she fights for their future together.
I think habitual readers of romance such as myself will be able to like and recognize Liam quicker: He is the consummate “charmer with hidden depths.” After the kidnapping and imprisonment, he emerges as an utterly capable leader of men, but he’s deeply scarred by his experiences and ashamed of what he has become.
On the surface he remains a warm person with a kind word for the artists he supports but underneath it all he’s plotting his revenge and drowning in bitterness. He shies away from Anna upon their reuniting, thinking himself too damaged by the physical and psychological torture he endured. He avoids her touch, lest she finds out what happened to his body.
Julian plays a big part in the final confrontation with the villain and resolution, and the epilogue is deeply, insanely romantic and satisfying without being all “look at us, we have a gaggle of kids and we are so happy” (well, they don’t, and they are.)
If I had one minor, minor bone to pick with this book, it would be that the historical background was really just that, background. Unlike The Duke of Shadows, with the Raj and the horrors of the Sepoy Mutiny as its rich backdrop, or A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, which showed some of the political machinations of the 1860s, we get very little history in this one. None of the characters act or speak as 21st-century transplants, though, which I appreciated tremendously.
All in all, a clear winner for me.
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