I've read every book that Grace Burrowes has published, and I thought her most recent (before this one) was her best yet. (That would be [b:Once Upon a Tartan|15713729|Once Upon a Tartan (MacGregor Trilogy, #2)|Grace Burrowes|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1378013111s/15713729.jpg|21382136].) So I'm truly disappointed to say that [b:Gabriel: Lord of Regrets|17456364|Gabriel Lord of Regrets (Lonely Lords, #5)|Grace Burrowes|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1372465209s/17456364.jpg|24347960] is just an unmitigated mess. There is a convoluted backstory, a supposed murder plot, lots of sex, secrets. Oh, my God, secrets! Everybody is keeping secrets from everybody else. I note that several other reviewers have loved the book and given it a five-star rating, but I cannot.
Much of the backstory is found in [b:Beckman: Lord of Sins|16099911|Beckman Lord of Sins (Lonely Lords, #4)|Grace Burrowes|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1369964679s/16099911.jpg|24992387]. Gabriel North is the brooding, mysterious steward for the absent owner of Three Springs estate, where Sara Hunt is the housekeeper and Polly Hunt is the cook. Sara's young daughter Allie also lives there. Although Sara is the heroine of that book, there is a budding secondary romance between Polly and North. At the end of the book, North leaves his post, and Polly goes off to London to begin what promises to be a rewarding career as a portrait artist.
It turns out that Gabriel North is actually Gabriel Felicitos Baptiste Wendover, the presumed-dead Marquess of Hesketh. Two years earlier he had traveled to Spain to retrieve his brother Aaron, who had been wounded in the Peninsular War. While there, Gabriel was attacked by brigands and seriously wounded. Then, the convent hospital where he was recuperating was torched, and Gabriel allowed his family to believe that he had died in the fire. After their father died, Aaron took over the title, married Gabriel’s fiancée, Lady Marjorie, and set about running the estate, clashing frequently with his steward, distant cousin George Wendover.
Three Springs is just twenty or so miles from Hesketh, so Gabriel was able to keep tabs on his brother, whom he suspected of trying to have him murdered. It suited Gabriel’s purposes to live incognito
, but eventually he became alarmed when he heard of Aaron’s frequent duels, Lady Marjorie’s extravagant spending, and mismanagement of the estate. At the opening of this book, Gabriel appears at Hesketh, but Aaron does not seem as shocked as the others. Is that perhaps because Aaron knew that the attempts on Gabriel’s life had failed? Will those attempts continue now that Gabriel has surfaced?
In a coincidence that happens only in fiction, Polly Hunt also is at Hesketh, having been hired to do portraits of Aaron and Lady Marjorie. Thus, Gabriel has the perfect opportunity to continue wooing Polly right under his own roof, but he worries that she could be harmed by whomever is trying to kill him. Polly loves Gabriel, but she resists his wooing, knowing she could never marry him because she has a Deep, Dark Secret from her past. Actually, Polly doesn’t wholly resist, as she and Gabriel take to spending their nights in the same bed. I actually found the sex scenes here kind of squicky. As with most of Burrowes’ books, the couple does not actually engage in intercourse at first; rather they go in for what used to be called “heavy petting.” During these sessions, we learn that Polly is blessed with the ability to have orgasms at the slightest touch. Lots of them. Well, lucky Polly, but I would have been happy with much less detail about their couplings and near-couplings.
While Polly goes about her painting, she learns that Aaron and Lady Marjorie, who have been married for two years, have never consummated their marriage. In fact, they barely even speak. That’s because theirs was a forced marriage. After Gabriel was declared dead, Lady Marjorie’s mother, Lady Hartle, was determined that her daughter would be the marchioness and demanded that Aaron fulfill the marriage contract that existed between the parents. So Aaron grudgingly married Lady Marjorie. Now that Gabriel is alive and ready to claim the title back, Lady Hartle threatens to bring legal action to force an annulment so that Lady Marjorie can marry Gabriel. Neither Gabriel nor Lady Marjorie wants to do this, but as far as Lady Hartle is concerned her daughter will be the marchioness or she’ll know the reason why. At this point, I was ready to throw the book out the window (figuratively, as I’m reading on a Kindle), for all this nonsense is addressed as A Serious Problem. Solicitors are consulted, which gives the author a chance to bring in the estimable Worth Ketterington, who has appeared in earlier books and who will apparently get his own story some day.
There is more – oh so much more – to come as this ridiculous tale winds on. Aaron and Lady Marjorie secretly desire one another, so Gabriel and Polly encourage them to act upon their passions. Polly is seriously considering a proposal from her sister’s late husband’s brother, Tremaine St. Michael. She’s also suffering from missing her young niece Allie, who is really her daughter, fathered by sister Sara’s no-good late husband Reynard. (That’s the Deep Dark Secret, although we knew that from the previous book.) She also misses her sister, now happily married to Beckman Haddonfield and expecting an interesting event.
Ultimately, every single character in the book winds up drinking tea at Hesketh in the middle of a snowstorm and all is revealed. Oh, and the murder plot? Fuggitaboutit. Burrowes should avoid even attempting to write a mystery. With any other author, I would have quit half way through. But because the Lonely Lords series has been so good thus far, I kept reading.
My advice: skip this Lonely Lord and read [b:Darius: Lord of Pleasures|15838403|Darius Lord of Pleasures (Lonely Lords, #1)|Grace Burrowes|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1372464242s/15838403.jpg|21577845], the best of the series so far.