Lady Sophia Sydney hasn't lived the life of an aristocratic lady since childhood. After her parents died, she and her brother, John, were mostly left to their own devices, often getting into trouble. After a particularly bad scrape, a distant relation offered to take Sophia in, but John refused to accompany her. Instead he went off to London, fell in with a bad crowd, and eventually ended up in prison where he died. Sophia blames the man who put John in prison for causing the death of the last person she's ever cared about, and the only thing that's kept her going is a burning thirst for revenge. She wants to make the magistrate pay by gaining access to his office and their records to find information that will discredit both him and his Bow Street Runners. For good measure, she also plans to seduce him, get him to fall in love with her, and then break his heart. To that end, she applies for a job as his secretary, and is rather surprised when he agrees to hire her. But she didn't count on him being nothing like what she was expecting. He confounds her at every turn with his kindness, compassion, and the loyalty he engenders in the men who work for him. Soon Sophia finds that it's her own heart that may be on the line.
Sir Ross Cannon comes from a wealthy family, but he chose to go into public service. He's the head magistrate of the Bow Street office and runs it efficiently, doing the work of several men on his own. He's known as a fair man who has a particular compassion for women and children. When Sophia applies for the job as his secretary, he's reluctant to hire a woman for the position because of all the rough characters who frequent Bow Street on a daily basis. But her beauty and seductive charms send all thoughts of propriety out of his head. Far more than a pretty face, though, Sophia proves herself to be very capable in her job, not only as his assistant, but also in managing his household. Just having her near soon becomes a temptation that's nearly impossible to resist. Years ago, Ross was devastated by the loss of his first wife in childbirth, and although he knows that he'll eventually have to marry again, he's been looking for just the right person. He may have finally found that woman in Sophia, but when he finds out the truth of why she sought employment with him, can he forgive her deception? And perhaps more importantly, can she let go of the past to forgive him?
Lady Sophia's Lover is the second book in Lisa Kleypas' Bow Street Runners series, and like its predecessor, which I re-read last month, this marks the second time I've read it. However, the time I first read it, I wasn't yet writing reviews, so now I get the pleasure of reviewing it for the first time. In this book, we get the story of a heroine who sets out looking for vengeance against the hero for the role she believes he played in her brother's death and ends up unexpectedly finding the love of her life instead. Once again, I was reminded of all the reasons why I love this series so much. It boasts three, hot, sexy, scrumptious heroes, all of whom are easy to fall in love with, and three, kind and gentle, but strong heroines, all of whom are easy to like and want to be friends with if they were real. I think I ended up liking Lady Sophia's Lover ever so slightly more than the first book, Someone to Watch Over Me. I may have liked Vivien, the heroine of that book a teensy bit better than Sophia, only because her sweetness, guilelessness and absolute trust in her hero, Grant, was a bit more relatable to me. However, I liked Ross, the hero of this book a teensy bit more than Grant... well... because he's almost too awesome for words. The overall story of Lady Sophia's Lover focused a little more strongly on the actual romance, which is always a plus, not to mention the love scenes were absolutely scorchingly sensual and borderline erotic, which was wonderful, too. So in the end, I couldn't help ranking this one just a little higher than the last book, and I raised my GoodReads rating (which was originally provided long after I'd read it using my faulty memory :-)) from 4.5 to the full 5 stars.
Sophia is basically all alone in the world. Although born a lady, her parents died when she and her brother were young and there were no other relatives to take them in. They grew up running the streets of the local village, pretty much being hellions, until a distant relation took Sophia in but treated her more like a servant. Sophia's brother wouldn't accompany her, so he continued with his wild ways, heading for London and falling in with some rough characters, which led to him eventually going to prison for pickpocketing, where he died. Sophia was seduced by a silver-tongued devil who took her innocence and left her ruined, causing her relative to throw her out. With nothing left to keep her going except her need for vengeance against the magistrate who gave her brother the harsh sentence that led to his demise, Sophia applies for the job of Ross's Bow Street secretary with the intention of using her position to try to dig up dirt on the Runners and on Ross, the magistrate she loathes, that would discredit them in the eyes of the public. She also hopes to seduce Ross and get him to fall in love with her, so she can break his heart by walking away and show him how much it hurts. Unfortunately all her plans begin to unravel when she starts to realize that Ross isn't the man she thought he was. In fact, he keeps surprising her at every turn by doing the exact opposite of what she expects.
Sophia is a strong heroine, who has been through a lot but still holds her head high. She is by rights a lady, but she long ago made peace with her lot in life and is very capable in her job, not only as secretary, but also taking charge of Ross' private residence, too. I like that she is a reasonable person, who gradually abandons her vendetta as she falls in love with Ross. She also shows the right balance between someone who is no longer virginal, but who isn't vastly experienced in the bedroom either, while welcoming Ross' almost overwhelming passion. She's a woman who can be very kind and forgiving. Her only slight downfall is that I wish she'd been able to trust Ross more, but when I took into account her background and all that had happened to her, I suppose trust wouldn't be an easy thing for someone in her position. For that reason, I think I appreciated her more the second time around, because I was able to see more of the depth in her character that I perhaps missed the first time, and I liked what I saw.
Though not an aristocrat, Ross is a wealthy man who is good at balancing the two worlds in which he lives, one where he rubs elbows with the aristocracy, and the other where he deals with the criminal element of London and the surrounding areas. He does the work of several men, always pushing himself to be the best he can be. I believe some of his workaholic nature can be attributed to the devastating loss of his first wife, whom he loved dearly, and their baby, both of whom died in childbirth. I think a part of him has been trying to drown out that pain, while also trying to work off some of the unspent energy that is a result of him being the "monk of Bow Street." Rakes and rogues are a dime a dozen in romance, so I absolutely adored Ross for choosing to be celibate for so long. He simply doesn't wish to sully the beauty of the love he shared with his first wife by going to a prostitute, not to mention, in his position, he knows how hard it is for many of the "working women," and doesn't want to add to that problem. Ross is like a chivalrous knight of old, always looking out for those weaker then he is, and always holding himself to a high standard. He's highly respected by the men who work for him, and he's able to exert absolute command over them without being a tyrant. He was also suitably appalled by the idea that he might have given too harsh a sentence to Sophia's brother when he learns the truth. To his family and the men at Bow Street, he's very reserved and perhaps even a bit stodgy. No one would ever believe that underneath that outward restraint is an incredibly passionate man who's an amazing lover. That means that no one really knows just what a wonderful man he is except for the one woman upon whom he showers all that passion and affection, which I think is adorable. Ross is also a very kind, understanding and forgiving man, who never passes judgment on Sophia for her past or for her shortcomings. Ross is a prince among men and has definitely earned a spot on my favorite heroes list.
Lady Sophia's Lover also has a few supporting characters worth noting. First, Grant (Someone to Watch Over Me) plays an important role, as he learns his job as assistant magistrate and becomes the man to whom Ross considers handing over the reins of Bow Street. He's also a loyal friend to Ross. Jacob Linley, the dreamboat doctor put in a couple of appearances. He becomes the hero of the novella Against the Odds, which is considered the final story in the Gambler's of Cravens series. Last but most definitely not least, is the infamous Nick Gentry, who is basically Ross's sworn enemy. Kind of like Ross, Nick has a foot in two different worlds, although one of his worlds is quite illegal. On the upside, he's set himself up as a thief-taker, who is revered by many of the lower classes of London for getting dangerous criminals off the streets. However, he has many underworld ties and is caught up in some criminal activities as well. Nick also has some big secrets that we learn during the course of the story. I can't quite recall what I thought of Nick the first time I read this book. He comes off as a mixture of both charming and arrogant. Once his secrets start to emerge, I felt some sympathy for him and couldn't help rooting for him, but at the same time, he isn't particularly repentant about the bad things he's done, at least not yet. I do recall, though, that he ended up capturing my heart as the hero of the final book of the series, Worth Any Price, which I can't wait to re-read.
Lady Sophia's Lover ended up being an incredible re-read and a great wrap-up to my April reading. It's chock full of the deeply romantic interactions I crave in romance. Sophia is a heroine I could admire for her ability to forgive and abandon her own selfish agenda in favor of true love and also for the way in which she is able to read Ross and offer him the support he needs. Ross is a beautiful hero inside and out, a genuinely honorable man. He's also a dream lover, who can be very creative with his love-making. The love scenes are fulled with lots and lots of steam, so be forewarned to have a cool drink, a fan, and/or a willing a partner on hand for those.;-) I loved every minute I spent reading this book, and without hesitation, would definitely read it again and again in the future. I can't recommend it and the entire series highly enough to lovers of steamy historical romance.
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