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I loved this second addition to the Pennington Family series! Jo was a beloved character in the first book, so I was really looking forward to reading her story next. Hers is a bit different from your typical romance, in that she is in her late 30s and lives a fairly independent life. This made the story very interesting to me, as I got to see another side to life in the early 19th century that you don't typically get insight into. It was definitely a magical story, filled with tragedy and lost love and fated reunions, but it was also an educational story of how life was far from a fairy tale and that the wealthy had many dark secrets to hide.
Jo Pennington was an orphan, born from a mother assumed to be a prostitute, and saved by a kindly family with influence enough to give her a good life, if not a life free from gossip. Many believe the worst of her though, and her peers regularly ridicule her. Ten days before her wedding to Lieutenant Wynne Melfort, she receives a letter from him breaking off their engagement, and her life is forever changed. Sixteen years go by, and she has made a life for herself helping destitute women and their children. She still wonders who her parents were though, and she still thinks of her long-lost love. One day she receives yet another letter - this time from a doctor claiming that one of his patients has been drawing sketch after sketch of a woman who looks eerily similar to herself. Thus she is drawn towards the answer to a painful mystery in her life, and with it comes a reunion with the man who broke her heart so many years ago.
Jo was by far the winning character in this dramatic story! She was such a strong character and a heroine that any woman of today could look up to for inspiration when everything in your life seems to go wrong. She had to overcome so many things - finding out she was adopted, having no birth parents to speak of, enduring the vicious tongues of those around her, being abandoned by her fiance - that it's amazing she was so stable when she came back in contact with Wynne Melfort. Personally, I would not have been so calm, and he would have gotten much more of a tongue-lashing from me than he received from Jo. Wynne is a hero that I both loved and hated at the same time. While I liked the person he had become by the end of the book, I was really irritated with how he treated Jo when they were engaged. He literally left her to fend for herself, and it was infuriating for me as a reader. When the dueling scene between him and her brother arrives early on, I was quite satisfied with the outcome. He witnessed how the ton treated Jo, tried to protect her, and when he couldn't protect her to his satisfaction, he decided she would be better off humiliated and abandoned. Makes total sense. The fact that he mans up towards the end of the book with regards to Jo and his son was a testament to his character growth. Unfortunately, not enough time had passed between the time I read the first chapter and the last for me to completely get over my anger. Oh well.
I love this author's writing and highly recommend it to readers of historical romance! The stories are always multi-dimensional, with thrilling mysteries and fascinating insights into history, and I am never, ever bored. I can't wait to read her next book.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**