As always, Sophie Barnes has written a story that draws me in and doesn't let go until I have reached the conclusion! And even then, I still think about the story for days and weeks later. The previous book in this series is on my favorites list for 2021, and this book was close to being added as well. The heroine was relatable, the story unique, and the slow burn between the two main characters had me on the edge of my seat. While the steam is relatively mild in this story, the pining and sexual tension between these two make up for it. What I also loved in this story in particular was the obvious research that the author had done with regard to medicine and surgeries available to people who suffered from cataracts in the 19th century. The descriptions at times made me a bit queasy, but my inner curiosity made this read really enjoyable from a scientific point-of-view.
Lady Louise was born with cataracts in her eyes, and she has lived in fear ever since of going completely blind. While medicine has advanced to allow her to see partially after a particularly painful procedure, she has noticed in recent years that the results don't last as long. When she loses sight in her right eye at the age of 16, she tells no one in hopes that her left eye would hold up enough to avoid another procedure, but alas, it doesn't last. Fast forward to present day and she loses sight in her left eye suddenly at a ball, and who should come to her rescue but the pariah of society, Marcus Berkly, son of a murderer and widely regarded as one of the best eye surgeons in England. Marcus is drawn to Louise but knows nothing can come of the attraction, and he certainly can't help her eyesight without her parents' consent. However, Louise is not so easily deterred and goes to him for help, keeping secret her true age and telling him she is of age to consent on her own. Forced in close proximity so he can watch over her following the surgery, they fall in love, but when Louise's secret comes to light, their happiness crumbles. Soon Louise is forced to make difficult choices, and Marcus must decide how much he is willing to risk for love.
I really loved both characters for their strength and general goodness. They weren't without flaws, but overall it was easy to see how they could both fall in love with each other. Marcus has dedicated his life to medicine and saving life, the exact opposite of what his father did in killing another man. While he grew up in society as the son of an earl, he was instantly cast aside once his father's sin became known, and he has had to overcome losing his home and his friends in the process. That would drive anyone to be bitter and cold, but instead Marcus became kind and generous, certainly a much better person that he was before, which he acknowledged in the story. Louise is a bit of an outcast as well but for different reasons, mainly her eyesight and that she is generally thought of as a cripple. Despite her large dowry, she hasn't been approached for marriage yet, though she is convinced she loves a peer. However, as she spends more time in Marcus' company, she begins to recognize what love truly feels like and she feels it for Marcus. When the secret came out, the drama was heart-wrenching but necessary. I completely understood the various reactions, and it was great that it was written with a dual POV so the reader could see how Marcus and Louise handled the blow in their own way. There was a bit of conflict towards the end, and despite it all, everything was tied up neatly with a bow in the end. Since this is the last book in the series, I'm not surprised, and I appreciated that nothing was left unanswered.
I look forward to reading more books by Sophie Barnes! She never fails to create a story that brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**