Lindsay Markham has been best friends with Anais Darnby since they were both children. By the time he was sixteen, he knew she was the only woman for him, but the fear of losing their friendship if she didn't return his affections kept him silent for fourteen long years. While away at Cambridge, he took up smoking opium as a way to dull the ache of not having Anais in the way he wanted, as well as to drown the pain of a father who never appreciated him for the man he was. He always viewed the opium as a means to escape his troubles in a way that was different than his own father's vices of alcohol and womanizing, not as something he needed. Now, at the age of thirty, he has finally worked up the courage to tell Anais how he feels, and Lindsay is elated to find that she welcomes his passion. Everything is going perfectly until he indulges in a bit of opium to relax at a Valentine's masquerade where he was supposed to meet Anais. With his senses already somewhat dulled, he became easy prey for the machinations of another woman who was supposed to be a friend to them both. She drugged him into a stupor so that he believed her to be Anais. When his real lover walks in on them in a passionate embrace, she turns her back on him, leaving him destroyed and at the mercy of his opium mistress.
Anais has loved Lindsay for as long as she can remember, but as a plump, plain Jane spinster, she never dared to hope he could return her affection. When he finally expressed his feelings and made passionate love to her, it was a magical night she would never forget. That's why when she found him in a very compromising position with her friend, she was deeply hurt and felt deceived. Ten long months passed, during which she led her family to believe she was in France and thought Lindsay had left the country as well. Now that he has returned, she is a woman with deep, dark secrets, yet her passion for him hasn't dimmed one bit. He obviously still loves her too, but if he knew what she's done, he would never forgive her. Although she tries to deny her love for him, her body still burns for his touch. No man has ever made her feel the way Lindsay does, but how can she compete with his opium addiction and trust that she alone is enough for him to stop? Even if he can remain sober, how can he ever forgive her for the terrible mistakes she's made when she cannot forgive herself?
Addicted is one of those romance novels that is far more than a mere romance. It is one of the most extraordinarily beautiful love stories I've ever had the privilege of reading. Charlotte Featherstone took two imperfect people, one of whom is deeply broken, put them in a seemingly impossible situation in which both of them did things that unintentionally hurt the other, and then brought them full-circle to finally find the HEA they so richly deserved. This author shattered my heart and brought tears to my eyes several times throughout the story, and more than once, I doubted that she was going to be able to turn certain elements around to make me OK with them. I never should have worried though. In the end, I closed the book fully satisfied and wishing it didn't have to end so soon. Despite this book being nearly 450 pages long, it never felt like it was. I was thoroughly engrossed every minute I was reading it and had a hard time putting it down. Overall, Addicted was a fabulous read that I can't recommend highly enough.
Fans of chest-beating alphas won't find one here. Lindsay is a sweet, albeit brooding, beta hero whose emotions run deep and intense. I'd swear the man has the heart of a poet, because he utters some of the most swoon-worthy, sweet, hot and sexy lines I've ever read from a romance hero. His love, desire and passion for Anais is clearly evident from the moment they are first seen together, and it never relents despite all that transpires between them. I love the way he always called Anais his "angel." It was a sweet and unusual endearment that was a beautiful expression of his love for her. During their ten month separation, Lindsay's love for Anais doesn't change one bit, and I like that he found it impossible to sleep with other women during that time even though he thought that she had turned her back on him. When they're finally reunited, I had to give Lindsay mad props for his sheer persistence. He knew in his heart that Anais still loved him, and he wouldn't bow out gracefully even though she kept trying to tell him it was over. That's not to say he wasn't ever selfish though, but I thought those moments showed him to be a flawed and vulnerable character. He did eventually recognize his mistakes and make amends, which also showed what a good person he was inside and why Anais fell for him in the first place.
The other thing that makes Lindsay so unique is the fact that he's an opium addict, which makes him only the second drug-addicted hero I've ever read. He started smoking opium while at university, using it as a way to dull the ache in his heart for the one woman he loved more than life itself but feared he would never have. It was also a way to escape his troubled past with a father who had vices of his own and had never truly appreciated Lindsay for the man he was. Like most addicts, he doesn't think he really has a problem and that he can stop at any time. In the beginning of the story, that might have been true. Anais and his love for her kept Lindsay from allowing his addiction to overtake him, because he never wanted her to see him like that. However, when she seemingly turns her back on him, it destroys him. The anguish he felt in that moment was deeply palpable, leaving him in so much emotional pain he couldn't help fully giving himself over to the addiction anymore. In spite of his vice though, Lindsay was a talented businessman who took over the management of the family estates at a young age and does quite well with his money, unlike his father who was profligate. Lindsay is also a kind man who believes in helping those less fortunate than himself and has put proposals before Parliament to do just that. He never acts like he's better than the common man because of his wealth and title. In fact, he believes men like his valet deserve an opportunity to better themselves. He is a very caring man whom others find it easy to open up to. His interaction with Anais's sister, Ann, helps the reader to see why Anais became the best of friends with him and had remained friends for many years.
Anais is a sweet woman with a deeply passionate side. All that passion is reserved for Lindsay, but she hardly dared to hope that her best friend could love her in the same way she has loved him for years. She's always considered herself the least attractive of her sisters, the plain, plump one, who her mother always treated poorly and dressed in the most simple, unembellished gowns. I have to give the author props for writing a plump heroine who is actually described as rounded and voluptuous, but of course, Lindsay loves all her soft curves and thinks she's absolutely beautiful. When he finally shows Anais his feelings, her heart soars, which is why his seeming betrayal hurt her so terribly. I wish she could have trusted him more and given him a chance to explain his actions, but I fully understand why she didn't. Her self-esteem issues got in the way, but without her doubts, we wouldn't have gotten to see the amazing love story that transpired between them. Once they reunite, I was happy to see that Anais had come to terms with the scene she witnessed at the ball which sent her running in the first place. She realized it wasn't really Lindsay's fault, had forgiven him, and still obviously loved him. However, she is a woman with many deep-seated fears: fear that she will become like her own unfeeling, uncaring mother; fear that she might become like Lindsay's mother, who has had to overlook her husband's indiscretions and addiction for years; but most of all, fear of her own dark secret being revealed, one that she knows would probably destroy what was left of Lindsay's love for her. I think Anais would have gladly throw herself back into his arms and embraced a relationship with him if not for the fact that she couldn't forgive herself for her own mistakes. That's why she repeatedly kept telling him it was over with her mouth, while her body always made a liar of her. I liked Anais's staunch defense of those who were being ridiculed. She has a very strong sense of right and wrong, which was probably why she had a hard time allowing herself to accept her love for Lindsay. Once she finally gets to that place of complete forgiveness and the realization that there will never be another man for her but him, the love she shows him is extraordinary. She puts her determination to good use, standing by his side through the hell he must face in order to fully come back to her from the throes of his addiction.
Lindsay and Anais are one of the most perfect, made-for-each-other couples I've ever read in a romance. Their relationship began as childhood friends which I thought gave it a very sweet quality. Afraid that she wouldn't return his feelings and their friendship would be ruined, Lindsay waited fourteen long years to express himself to her. When he finally worked up the courage to tell her, I could sense all the pent up longing coming to fulfillment. Their first love scene was very passionate and sensual, a perfect and genuine expression of their love for one another. It was so obvious they belonged together, and I couldn't have asked for a more beautifully rendered scene. Then, they were cruelly tricked and betrayed by someone they thought was a friend and torn apart for almost a year. At that point, my heart nearly ripped in two. Once reunited, their love, passion and desire for one another is still unmistakable, but their individual indiscretions continue to keep them at arms length. Still, they can't help themselves when they are alone together, which led to some more truly beautiful love scenes, but it wasn't until they come to a place where they can allow each other to see every part of themselves, even the dark, ugly parts, that they truly become one. Lindsay and Anais's love for one another was breathtaking and emotionally intense. There was never a doubt in my mind from the first page to the last that they belonged together and loved one another as deeply as two people possibly can.
I liked Lindsay's relationship with his valet, Vallery. He seems to trust the man with everything, and in return, Vallery is a very devoted servant who is more like a friend. He sees in Lindsay what Lindsay can't see in himself, and tries to persuade him to realize the truth of his addiction, while watching over and nursing him when he gives in to its pull. Lindsay and Anais had two other childhood friends who are still a big part of their lives, Matthew, Lord Wallingford, and Garrett, Lord Broughton. Matthew is a thoroughly debauched and unrepentant rake who, on the surface, appears to think women are good for only one thing, yet I have a feeling there's a lot more to his character than meets the eye. He's a steadfast friend to Lindsay, acting as his traveling companion and ally. He also seems to harbor a friendly affection for Anais too. I couldn't help feeling like he was silently rooting for them to finally be together. Matthew has a definite soft spot for his mentally challenged sister, and for a man who has never been in love and doesn't seem to believe in it, he's very wise about relationships. I can't seem to shake the feeling that he envies what Lindsay and Anais have and secretly wants that for himself. I can't wait to see if he finds it in the next book, Sinful. Garrett ends up being a steadfast friend to Anais during her separation from Lindsay, which is something Lindsay doesn't fully understand or respect for a long time. It could be because Lindsay sensed Garrett had feelings for Anais, though how deep those feelings went was admittedly somewhat unclear. I initially had some reservations about his character, fearing that he was going to become the third wheel in one of those awful love triangles where a likable person gets left out in the cold, but like everything else, I was happy with how this turned out. Garrett was a good man, and I wouldn't mind reading his story too. It doesn't appear that Charlotte Featherstone has written one for him yet though, and since her website has disappeared, I can't see if she has any plans to.
In Addicted, Ms. Featherstone's exceptional talent for painting lush word pictures that are a feast for the senses is quite evident. Her words invoke such beautiful imagery, it's like a movie playing out in my mind's eye. She wrote a few scenes from Lindsay's POV while he was in a drugged state, which were amazingly well-done. The whole dreamlike quality of it and the confusion he sometimes felt was palpable. I think my favorite part though was the deep sensuality shared between Lindsay and Anais which was breathtaking in its intensity. In addition to being beautifully written, the love scenes, of which there were quite a few, were all strategically placed for maximum impact on character, relationship, or plot development, which is the best kind of love scene. They were so gorgeously rendered that I hesitate to even call the book erotic as it's been labeled, because the sexual content isn't there simply to titillate but as a beautiful expression of this couple's undying love for one another. It never felt sordid or gratuitous, just loving and passionate and sensual. There's a part of me that doesn't feel like I'm doing this wonderful book justice with my review. All I can say is that Addicted is one of those rare romances that is an absolute gem in the genre. If you're a romance fan, and you haven't read Addicted yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I honestly don't see how anyone could be disappointed with this magnificent love story.
Note: This book is labeled as erotic romance, and while there are several love scenes, all of which are explicit, they're about so much than just body parts and titillation. Also, nothing that I would consider to be particularly kinky or offensive occurs within them except for one brief moment of anal play.
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