- Hardcover: 383 pages
- Publisher: Mills & Boon - AU; Large Print edition (21 October 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0263081842
- ISBN-13: 978-0263081848
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.3 x 20.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 431 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
The Determined Lord Hadleigh Hardcover – Large Print, 21 Oct 2019
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About the Author
When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. But it still takes her ages to fall asleep.
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The heroine is Penny, Lady Penhurst, or the former Lady Penhurst, I should say, because at the very beginning of this book her husband is attainted for treason, his titles and properties stripped away, and then killed off - I think the death actually happened in a previous book so it’s technically not a spoiler. Penny is definitely not grieving for her traitor husband, quite the opposite, because he was violent and abusive towards her. Anyone with triggers for domestic abuse may want to give this one a miss, because Penny’s not the only one who’s suffered.
Hadleigh feels sorry for Penny after she loses everything because of her husband’s treachery, and in typical high-handed male fashion, he takes it on himself to resolve her problems without consulting her at all. When she finds out who her mysterious benefactor is, there’s a confrontation where Hadleigh basically double-talks Penny out of being angry. Temporarily. Once she’s figured him out, she does a wonderful job of cutting him off at the knees and telling him exactly what she thinks of well-meaning men who do what they think is right without actually asking the women concerned what they want or need.
It’s a recurring theme in the book, because Hadleigh has deeply-ingrained instincts due to a tragic family history, and Penny’s very existence pushes pretty much all of his buttons. It’s very nearly painful to him not to be able to help her, but to his credit, he listens when she tells him he’s going about things wrong. He still gets things wrong, but he tries, and she gives him credit for that even while obviously feeling frustrated that he can’t conquer his instincts entirely.
I have to admit that I did find Penny somewhat frustrating. Who among us with money troubles hasn’t wished for a benefactor who asked nothing in return for their benevolence? With a small child to take care of and no source of income, Penny needed to accept that you can’t eat pride and maybe actually say thank you for wanting to help, at the very least. We saw Hadleigh get broken down to his core when Penny finally made him confront his deep-seated internal issues, but Penny’s moment at rock-bottom happened well before the events of the book, during her miserable marriage, so we didn’t actually get to see it, which I think is why the narrative felt a little unbalanced to me at times. I appreciated that she refused to allow anyone to see her as a victim, but she did come off very prickly because of it and a little hard for the reader to like at times.
I haven’t read all of this series, but it wasn’t a problem picking up the narrative. While other characters appear, the action is beautifully centred on Penny and Hadleigh, with lots of emotional tension and character growth rather than dramatic action as most of the rest of the series has featured. Because of this, though, it did feel a little bit deep and heavy-going at times, and I’m going to go with a final rating of four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources.
One of the things that struck me once we jumped over to Penny’s point of view was how stubborn she was being when people were just trying to make it easier for her to get back on her feet. They weren’t trying to control her life, just give her time and options. So I really didn’t understand why she refused all help and cracked it at those that did try to offer her help.
One of the things I loved was that both Tristan and Penny could talk things through rather logically and see the other persons point of view. After they’ve calmed down from their own stubborn stance. They even helped each other get over some pretty bad memories which were holding them back from their futures.
I mean, if you’re going to be with anyone you want to be with someone who can help you through those tough times don’t you?
There were a few moments where I found myself disconnecting from the writing and having to re-read the sentence a few times for it to make sense. It wasn’t too often, but it felt like maybe some punctuation or something was missing. I couldn’t really nail down what it was, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what the author meant.
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Lord Hadleigh is the prosecutor and Penny was his best witness. He worries about her safety and has a Bow Street Runner keeping an eye on her. Hadleigh tries to help by paying her rent for several months and has recovered her pawned jewelry. She is angry with him and decides to find work away from London.
Hadleigh offers Lord Fennimore, commander of the King’s Elite, his spacious estate in Essex to protect their witnesses while the trial against the smugglers continues. It would also let him hire Penny to be the housekeeper and have Freddie with her. Penny agrees to be his housekeeper during the trial and preparation. Jessamine and Flint will live at the house while they prepare for the trial. Penny can help Jess as she also had to testify at a trial. She also helps Hadleigh on how to approach the wives of the men on trial.
There is so much going on in this wonderful book and I will not spoil the other things that come to life during the stay at his estate. I highly recommend this book. Virginia Heath has become an automatic buy for me.
After much thought as to why not, I made a list of my reasoning...an action which figures prominently in the book, so I figured why not steal it?
1. The heroine, Penny. She is more static, shrill plot device than realized character. At 88% on my Kindle she could take or leave the hero, Tristan. Her tenuous grasp of reality made me roll my eyes throughout, and her mean girl treatment of her friends and Tristan made me want to smack some manners into her. She’s pretty much the worst.
2. The hero, Tristan. While a smidge better fleshed out than Penny, he ultimately was ground down into a submissive emo boy with mommy issues. That might be okay for Marvel comic book movie characters, but isn’t a good look for a 30-year old HR hero. The plot made him a loser regardless of any action he took, however, which was a shame, as he would be a really decent guy in 2019; in 1820 he would have had a glowing halo and Byronic poetry written about him.
3. Things that aren’t sexy: Snot. The smell of Brussels sprouts. Spousal abuse. Okay, enough S alliteration. But yeah, the latter is a hard thing around which to frame a romance, and predominantly accounts for Penny’s and Tristan’s story beginning at my Kindle’s 70% mark, it making romance a non-issue for Penny at the aforementioned 88% mark, and for the bulk of their wooing to happen off-page between the ending and the epilogue, which occurs 10 years in the future. If there was wooing? Still don’t buy it happening between these two characters. Ever.
4. The series needed a rousing finish to its overarching spy story. Tristan deserved a final exciting courtroom scene, where he and his fellow spies (and their ladies) prove victorious over the baddies. This? Didn’t happen. Instead, once again Penny had to suck the life out of things by making it all about her - she used the trial as a platform TO ADVERTISE HER BUSINESS - and Tristan had to lose a little more of himself to keep her in his life (in a horribly modern scenario that throws the reader out of those bad for women olden days...which, since she compromises nothing, aren’t so bad? whatever), and then the book ends abruptly. WHATEVER. She’s the worst.
...This is the first review where I have actually removed a star, because writing it makes me realize how awful one of the main characters really is. Ugh.
By tweaking the plot in one small way - placing the death of Penny’s abusive, treasonous husband in the near past in the prologue, and beginning the story proper with her as an already independent woman with her own shop - this could have been a great romance between two unique HR characters (a woman, formerly a disgraced lady, in trade, and a lord who also works - the horror! - as a lawyer).
I sincerely hope Virginia Heath’s next book is nothing like this one, and more like her fun, sexy Warriners.
We begin with Penny, the wife of Lord Penhurst unexpectedly called to the witness stand by the defense. Upon cross examination by the prosecution (aka Lord Hadleigh), Penny finds her courage and her voice and takes a gamble that her truthful testimony will be the proverbial nail in the coffin to finding her horrid, abusive, criminal of a husband guilty of high treason. In doing so, Penny will pay for her disloyalty to Penhurst by being judged unfairly and not being welcomed within society’s ranks. As a result of the trial, Penhurst is found guilty and sentenced to hang. Her husbands title and lands are transferred back to the Crown. Penny and her infant son Freddie are now homeless and penniless.
Lord Hadleigh feels somewhat responsible for Penny’s plight not to mention horrible about it, he wants to help her, after all, it was her detailed testimony that helped put Penhurst away.
Thus begins a beautifully weaved story of two people, one trying to right a wrong from his childhood and failing miserably. The other, determined to learn to be independent, raise her son and earn her own money without anyone’s help.
This is a wonderful, thought provoking, facing your past-look to your future, learning to trust, finding your way book, and of course it wouldn’t be a right if it didn’t have a HEA.
I don’t want to give too much away, but you really will love this book, the epilogue is fabulous!