Anytime you give me a historical romance with a current or former soldier as the hero, I'm going to jump at it. I'm a sucker for that type of hero, one who has seen a lot of dark things and now must integrate back into society. In this case, not only had he seen things, but he had lost so much as well. There is a lot of PTSD in this book, and Barbara Devlin does an excellent job educating her readers about what life was like for sufferers of PTSD in the early 19th century. It hasn't been that long since modern medicine stopped doing inhumane things to try to "cure" mentally ill people, so I wasn't as shocked as one might expect, but I was still horrified by what was done to the hero. If mental illness, and the historic treatment of it, is a trigger for you, you will definitely want to pass on this book. It's not for the faint of heart.
Lady Arabella Gibbs was betrothed, before he died while fighting Napoleon's army, and now she is faced with marrying his brother, as part of a marriage agreement between their families. Not wishing to ever get married, Arabella isn't fond of the passing of her hand around to whoever is alive, and she attempts to take her future in hand. She meets her new betrothed, only to find that there's something about him that speaks to her in ways no man ever has. British Army Major Anthony Bartlett is a marquess, in line to be a duke, and he desperately wishes he were not. Having lost an arm following the Battle of Waterloo, along with his fellow soldiers and his beloved horse, and suffering from bouts of hallucination, he is in no shape to continue the family line through marriage. He is resolved to fight against his father's plans for him, until he meets Arabella. Both thinking that the other doesn't want marriage, they devise a plan to end their engagement, but as they are forced together more and more, they wish to be separated less and less. Soon Anthony's friends are pushing them closer, and marriage doesn't seem like such a bad idea anymore. But there is a darkness behind their newfound happiness, and powers are at work to ensure that Anthony is committed and Arabella is confined, once a baby is conceived. Will their happiness last, against all odds?
Arabella and Anthony were an excellent pairing - I loved how patient Arabella was with Anthony, even going so far as to research what ailed him so that she could help him heal. I really enjoyed her character development as the story progressed. Anthony was an odd character to me at first, saying some rather unappealing things to Arabella when they first meet, that turned me off. I was worried how his character would grow from that, when I realized that it was just the way of the times. Barbara Devlin does not hold back in showing exactly how society operated then, and so you see it for better and for worse. Anthony's friends clearly hold little regard for women in general, and Anthony, while he loves and respects Arabella, also seems to hold a less progressive opinion of women than I'd like to read. However, Arabella does gradually get him to see her strength, and I adore how she stands up for herself and him. She doesn't let anyone walk over her, and she ends up being the hero of the story, saving the day more than once. It's nice to see that despite societal constraints, women still had the willpower to get things done. My hope is that this series will continue with strong women who put their stubborn-headed men in their place.
I enjoyed the Mad Matchmakers as a group, and I'm interested to see how the next bachelor finds his happiness. I'm guessing it will be Beaulieu and Patience, which should make for an entertaining read.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**