The Premise: The groundwork for this book has been laid in the first four volumes of the series. After the Duke of Beaumont, one of the most influential politicians in England, passes out while making a speech in the House of Lords, he realizes that he must sire an heir before his heart gives out–which could be any day. His estranged wife, Jemma, returns from Paris, where she has been living since she caught him tupping his mistress on his desk nearly a decade earlier. Still furious with her husband, Jemma refuses to participate in amorous congress at first and establishes herself in London society via flamboyant parties (naked ladies, ice sculptures) and highly publicized chess matches with both her husband and Villiers.
It’s been almost a year since Jemma returned from Paris and she is finally ready to begin the process of creating an heir with her husband Elijah, the Duke of Beaumont. To Jemma’s horror, however, she discovers that Elijah had not been truly forthright with her about his heart condition. He is dying. (Luckily, sex steadies Elijah’s erratic, weakening heart.) The Beaumonts rekindle their relationship in the face of the duke’s imminent demise while they search frantically for a cure. (Cover image from www.avonromance.com.)
Bonus Factors: chess, Roman baths, second chances, politics, tearful sex, tragedy, Drama-with-a-capital-D, medicine that’s as likely to kill you as heal you
My Reaction: This book is almost the Lurlene McDaniel (love + terminal illness = ALL THE TEARS) of Georgian romance novels. Because it is a romance novel, though, you know you are signing up for a happily ever after. If you had told me that I would love this book based on the premise alone (which, without context, sounds kind of like a melodramatic sobfest). I think I enjoyed it so much because there’s so much buildup in the first four books. Jemma and Elijah go from being totally at odds to understanding why the other person did what they did to reaching a truce–only to realize that they’re pretty much out of time because they wasted the ten years they could have had together. All of that tension building and building makes the payoff so, so worth it when they get their second chance. Which isn’t to say it can’t be read as a standalone; it works on its own, especially for fans of this premise. If you’re interested in the rest of the series, though, definitely read them in order for the full experience.
Rating: 3/4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance)