TWO DIFFERENT CLASSES, ONE COMMON DESIRE... Lady Bernadette Marie Burton may be the richest widow in England, but like her dreams of finding true passion, her reputation is deteriorating. Cruel gossip, loneliness and hoards of opportunistic suitors have her believing Society couldn't be more vile...or dangerous. So when an attacker threatens her life, she finds safety in the most unseemly of places: the arms of a mysterious, Irish-American gang leader. His fortune stolen, young Matthew Milton is done playing the respectable gentleman. In the slums of New York, only ruffians thrive. But from the moment he arrives in London and encounters the voluptuous Lady Bernadette, he can't help but wonder about the finer pleasures he's missing. Or just how much he's willing to risk-not only to bed her, but to prove his worth....
Matthew Milton was raised in New York as part of the Merchant class as his father owned a well known newspaper. They did fairly well for themselves until their accountant spent all of their hard earned money and they were left destitute. They ended up in Five Points (which Wikipedia describes as “a disease-ridden crime-infested slum”) living in a tenement. The same day they arrive Matthew finds himself fighting for his life and from that moment on decides that he needs to help the people of Five Points. Now it’s 8 years later and Matthew is the gang leader of the Forty Thieves. He and his friend Coleman train the men to fight and they protect the innocent of Five Points against those who would make it worse than it already is. Matthew also teaches the men to read in hopes that they will be able to make a better life for themselves.
Bernadette is the daughter of a British aristocrat who is now living in New York. Her father had married her off at age 18 to a man she hardly knew but was 43 years her senior. He was very kind but it was a passionless union that ended with the man’s death after 12 years of marriage. Bernadette moved to first New Orleans and then New York so that she could live unencumbered by rules and her father looking over her shoulder. She loves her freedom and plans on never marrying again.
Bernadette was asked by a friend to turn a foul-mouthed Fiver Pointer into a Lady so that she can marry a Duke and be accepted into British society. She takes this job on and eventually delivers the woman (Georgia from book 1) to London where, strangely enough, she meets Matthew. Matthew is in England escaping from a crowd of men who want to kill him. Matthew saves Bernadette from a previous lover who is taking his anger out on her with his riding crop. Matthew and Bernadette are immediately attracted to one another and make plans to meet again. For Matthew he knows immediately that this woman is “The One.” He has no doubt in his mind that Bernadette will be his. While they meet again and they do have a wonderful time together Bernadette isn’t anywhere near ready, if ever, to make a commitment. Matthew takes Bernadette’s honor in hand and ends up stealing from her previous lover (the one who was beating her) and ends up in jail. Bernadette saves him from the hangman but she wants nothing to do with him from then on. Unfortunately they are now linked and Matthew fears for Bernadette as he has many enemies that might use her against him.
Matthew returns to New York but is completely unhappy. A horrible incident involving Bernadette and Matthew throws the pair back together and Bernadette finally concedes that she wants Matthew for herself. She offers Matthew a loan to try to get his father’s paper back into print. Matthew accepts but tells her that while he tries to get back on his feet and repay the loan they cannot see each other at all and can only communicate via correspondence. While she doesn’t care for the arrangement Bernadette understands and complies – she just doesn’t know if when they meet again Matthew will still be interested in her.
This is # 2 in the Rumor series and another good book. The whole premise of the story with Matthew being not only from one of the lowest classes but also a thief and Bernadette being an aristo was definitely a story worth reading about. I loved the descriptions of Five Points and could almost feel the grit and grime of that part of Manhattan.
Matthew was really an honorable man even though he did steal. I know that sounds funny but in his head he was doing the right thing - almost like a Robin Hood. It really took a good tongue lashing from Bernadette to get him to realize that even though he thought he was doing the right thing it was most definitely wrong. I admired Bernadette for standing up to him and not letting him just blow it off. She was a strong woman and as the story went on I truly could see how good they would be together.
Now I did have some niggles with the story. The first and biggest niggle was the fact that while this was a love story and there was romance in the book, Bernadette and Matthew were apart for most of the book. A good portion of the last quarter of the story was great as they were almost inseparable but the first three quarters made me a little nuts. They were thinking about each other but not together and it’s hard for me to thoroughly enjoy a romance novel when the hero and heroine aren’t together. Maybe that’s just me, IDK.
My other issue - while the overall story was really good it really focused on Matthew’s struggle in Five Points. Him pulling himself up by his bootstraps and making a better life for himself and those of his Forty Thieves that followed him felt first and foremost. While this was lovely and I was so happy he could change his life for the better, it felt almost like an interference in the love story. I guess this all connects with my first niggle. I know it all tied together and had to do with Matthew’s pride in that he wouldn’t take charity from Bernadette nor be a “kept” man living off of her money but again, it just kept the main characters apart. Toward the end of the book as I said, the couple is almost inseparable. They court and become closer but even that was a bit truncated for my liking.
Overall a good story with almost a princess and the pauper feel to it. I’ll definitely be reading book three in this series and seeing where Matthew’s friend Coleman ends up.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5